Thomas Z. Shepard, the veteran show-album producer, is blissfully counting his blessings:
1) The Vanessa Williams-Howard McGillin Kiss of the Spider Woman he did for Mercury is currently contending for the Grammy.
2) His latest, Victor/Victoria--a likely candidate for next year's Grammy--is the top-selling show album in recent years.
3) A four-year-old recording he thought lost in litigation will go into release at the end of the month.
The new record is a Placido Domingo-starred Man of La Mancha. The Dale Wasserman-Mitch Leigh-Joe Darion show is being released by Sony Classical during the last week in February and should be in all stores by early March. Shepard never thought he'd see the day. The reason for the delay, he says, was "some dispute between writers with regard to the appropriate credit and distribution of royalties." But accord has finally been reached, the particulars of which Shepard has not been made privy to--except to say that, whatever the agreement was, it necessitated "no change in the master tape."
Shepard recorded this La Mancha about four years ago when he recorded a new Kismet, and the game plan was to send the two albums out together. (Apropos of nothing, Richard Kiley was in the original Broadway versions of both.) Then this conflict arose with the show's creators, and Kismet went out solo.
Creating a semi-"stock company" for himself, Shepard cast four of the singers on both albums: Julia Migenes (Aldonza/Lalume) Samuel Ramey (Innkeeper/Haaj), Jerry Hadley (Padre/Caliph) and Mandy Patinkin (Sancho Panza/Marriage Broker).
Paul Gemignani conducted the score. Other singers featured: Robert White as the barber, Rosalind Elias as thehousekeeper and Carolann Page as Antonia. Two of Domingo's sons--Placido Jr. and Alvaro--are among the muleteers.
"This is a role where Domingo's Spanish accent really works FOR the role," says Shepard. "He has a long death scene, and it really tears your heart out."
True to a tradition he started with the Sweeney Todd cast recording, Shepard has added chunks of dialogue scenes to the musical mix. "I think CDs have allowed us to go in this direction," he says. "We now have about 78 minutes to fill. Before CDs, we only had about 50 minutes at the most. I think scenes give the show's flavor, and we now the latitude that allows that."