Behind the Song: Leonore Overture, ‘Farewell Amanda’, ‘One Night’

BTS101

This article is adapted from three short posts made at divergent points in time over on my Tumblr page, which is located at culturedallroundman.tumblr.com. The page summarises and links towards what I publish here, and offers photographs and images, some of my favourite music, quotations, and occasional short pieces of writing in the manner of the following song profiles. I thought these shorts were worth summoning and enshrining here: preferable to their being lost in the archives of Tumblr, and I will continue to intermittently collect here related series of Tumblr posts.

What follows considers Ludwig van Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, from Beethoven’s only opera; the Cole Porter song ‘Farewell Amanda’, written for the film Adam’s Rib; and ‘One Night’, adapted and popularised by Elvis Presley. I sourced some of the details in the ‘One Night’ short from Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis’s #1 Hits, by Ace Collins.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Leonore Overture No. 1, Op. 138

Last year at the beginning of February, while my partner and I were living in Amsterdam, we attended the Concertgebouw to hear three pieces performed by the young German conductor David Afkham and The Hague’s Residentie Orkest: Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 1, Op. 138; his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, with Austrian pianist Till Fellner; and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120.

The Leonore Overture No. 1 is the last of Beethoven’s compositions by opus number, one of three pieces published and given an opus number posthumously.

Despite the title of the piece, it was in fact the third overture composed by Beethoven for his only opera, Fidelio, Op. 72, which premiered in 1805.

Beethoven ultimately went through three overtures for his opera before settling on a fourth. The first, known as the Leonore Overture No. 2, Op. 72a, was performed at the premiere, when the opera consisted of three acts. By the spring of 1806 Beethoven had pared down the opera to two acts, with a bold and dramatic overture, the Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b. The Leonore Overture No. 1 was a more restrained version, planned for a performance which was never undertaken in 1808. When Beethoven came to work on his opera again, for performance in 1814, he revised the overture once more, and it is this final version which stands as a part of the Fidelio still performed today.

‘Farewell Amanda’, performed by David Wayne in the 1949 film Adam’s Rib

‘Farewell, Amanda’ was written by Cole Porter for the 1949 Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn film Adam’s Rib. The song is performed in the film by David Wayne, who – despite excellent comic performances by Tracy and Hepburn – steals several scenes playing the couple’s persistently desirous across-the-hall neighbour.

In the film, Wayne’s character, Kip, is a songwriter. He composes the song in an endeavour to win the affections of Amanda (Hepburn). Later, as Adam (Tracy) massages his wife in a gesture of reconciliation after a series of quarrels, ‘Farewell, Amanda’ plays over the radio, in a version by Frank Sinatra: Kip’s song has become a hit, to Adam’s palpable disdain.

Adam’s Rib, directed by George Cukor, was released in November of 1949. Sinatra had recorded his version of the song in four takes in early August. Alas, his recording was subsequently lost and has not been recovered. All that remains is the brief fragment from the film.

Elvis Presley – ‘One Night’ (‘68 Comeback Special, First Sit-Down Show)

‘One Night’ was originally penned by Dave Bartholomew, a New Orleans-based bandleader and composer best known for his fruitful partnership with Fats Domino, and Earl King, a blues musician in his own right who co-wrote with Bartholomew under the pseudonym ‘Pearl’.

Titled ‘One Night (Of Sin)’, in 1956 the song was a minor hit on the rhythm and blues chart for Smiley Lewis. The original contained couplets of lament, its verses opening with the lyrics ‘One night of sin / Is what I’m now paying for’, and ‘Don’t call my name / It makes me feel so ashamed’.

An admirer of Lewis, Elvis first recorded a version of ‘One Night (Of Sin)’ on 18 January, 1957, during sessions at Paramount Pictures for the Loving You soundtrack. RCA proved reluctant to use the recording, owing to concern over the song’s suggestive lyrics. Thus after shooting for Loving You began on 21 January, Elvis spent some of his free time on the set reworking the song.

Bartholomew and King’s couplets were replaced by words of hope and promise: ’One night with you / Is what I’m now praying for’, and ‘Just call my name / I’ll be right by your side’. On 23 February, at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles, Elvis recorded ‘One Night’ with his new lyrics.

However the song was shelved once again; theLoving You soundtrack and film were released at the beginning of July; and it wasn’t until 21 October, 1958 – after the release of King Creole, and with Elvis now in the army and RCA hungry for material – that ‘One Night’ saw the light of day. It rose to number four on the Billboard singles chart in the United States, going on to reach number one in the United Kingdom.