Evita is a 1996 American musical historical drama film based on the 1976 concept album of the same name produced by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, which also inspired a 1978 musical. The film depicts the life of Eva Perón, detailing her beginnings, rise to fame, political career and death at the age of 33. Directed by Alan Parker, and written by Parker and Oliver Stone, Evita stars Madonna as Eva, Jonathan Pryce as Eva’s husband Juan Perón, and Antonio Banderas as Ché, an everyman who acts as the film’s narrator.
Following the release of the 1976 album, a film adaptation of the musical became mired in development hell for more than fifteen years, as the rights were passed on to several major studios, and various directors and actors considered. In 1993, producer Robert Stigwood sold the rights to Andrew G. Vajna, who agreed to finance the film through his production company Cinergi Pictures, with Buena Vista Pictures distributing the film through Hollywood Pictures.
After Stone stepped down from the project in 1994, Parker agreed to write and direct the film. Recording sessions for the songs and soundtrack took place at CTS Studios in London, England, roughly four months before filming. Parker worked with Rice and Lloyd Webber to compose the soundtrack, reworking the original songs by creating the music first and then the lyrics. They also wrote a new song, “You Must Love Me”, for the film. Principal photography commenced in February 1996 with a budget of $55 million, and concluded in May of that year. Filming took place on locations in Buenos Aires and Budapest, and on soundstages at Shepperton Studios. The film’s production in Argentina was met with controversy, as the cast and crew faced protests over fears that the project would tarnish Eva’s image.
Evita premiered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, on December 14, 1996. Hollywood Pictures gave the film a platform release, which involved releasing it in select cities before expanding distribution in the following weeks. The film had a limited release on December 25, 1996, before opening nationwide on January 10, 1997. It grossed over $141 million worldwide. The film received a mixed critical response; reviewers praised Madonna’s performance, the music, costume designs and cinematography, while criticism was aimed at the pacing and direction. Evita received many awards and nominations, including the Academy Award for Best Original Song (“You Must Love Me”), and three Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Original Song (“You Must Love Me”) and Best Actress – Comedy or Musical (Madonna).
Evita is the soundtrack album to the 1996 musical film of the same name, performed mostly by American singer Madonna. It was released by Warner Bros. Records on November 12, 1996. Directed by Alan Parker, the film was based on Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1978 musical Evita about First Lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, portrayed by Madonna. The soundtrack consists of reworked songs from its original 1976 concept album as well as a new song, “You Must Love Me”. Additional performers on the soundtrack include Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce and Jimmy Nail.
After securing the title role in Evita, Madonna underwent vocal training in order to enhance her singing abilities. The actors were tense during the recording sessions for Evita, since they were from a non-musical background. The musical style for Evita differed from Madonna’s previous works and she was not comfortable in recording her vocals inside the studio alongside the orchestra. After an emergency meeting with the principal personnel, it was decided she would record in a separate location. It took almost four months for the soundtrack to be finished. Rice and Lloyd Webber had employed the classical technique while creating the music, taking the central theme, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, and tweaking it to cater to a variety of settings. Through the songs, the soundtrack tells the story of Eva Perón’s beginnings, her rise to fame, political career and gradually her death.
Recording sessions began in September 1995, and took place at the CTS Studios in London, with Madonna and co-actors Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. Engineer David Reitzas performed the mixing of the track at Larrabee North Studios, utilizing their Solid State Logic 9000 J series consoles for the mix. For the first day’s sessions, music supervisor David Caddick suggested to record “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” with the 84 piece orchestra backing Madonna’s vocals. However, Lloyd Webber was critical of the recording arrangements done in the studio. The cast was also nervous. Flick noted that Banderas found the experience “scary” while Madonna was “petrified” when it came to recording the songs. “I had to sing ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber … I was a complete mess and was sobbing afterwards. I thought I had done a terrible job”, the singer recalled. Conductor John Mauceri remembered another challenge the production faced was adapting the stage numbers into a feature film; “On film, it’s different than being on stage because the person on the screen in front of you is never farther than someone on the pillow in bed next to you”. Parker declared the first day of recording as “Black Monday”, since it was “filled with trepidation and nerves … All of us came from very different worlds—from popular music, from movies, and from musical theater—and so we were very apprehensive”.
According to producer Nigel Wright, the lead actors would first sing the numbers backed by a band and orchestra, “then they would go off with Alan and David in a more intimate recording environment and perfect their vocals”. However, more trouble arose as Madonna was not comfortable with laying down a “guide vocal” simultaneously with an 84 piece orchestra inside the studio. Also, unlike her previous soundtrack releases, she had little to no control over the project; “I’m used to writing my own songs and I go into a studio, choose the musicians and say what sounds good or doesn’t … To work on 46 songs with everyone involved and not have a big say was a big adjustment”, she recalled.
An emergency meeting was held between Parker, Lloyd Webber and Madonna where it was decided that the singer would record her part at Whitfield Street, a contemporary studio, while the orchestration would take place somewhere else. She also had alternate days off from the recording to save and strengthen her voice. Recording the soundtrack was a slow process and took almost four months before it was completed. But Parker noticed at the end of recording that they did not have the new song in place. Recalling in his The Making of Evita essay:
Finally, while I was visiting Andrew at his country estate in Berkshire to play him the tracks we had recorded, he suddenly sat down at the piano and played the most beautiful melody, which he suggested could be our new song. Needless to say, I grabbed it. However, we still needed lyrics and Tim dutifully began to put words to the music. The vast majority of the original Evita score had been done this way: music first, lyrics afterwards. After many weeks of nail biting, Tim was finally cajoled into writing the lyrics that now accompany the music to “You Must Love Me”. (wikipedia)
Madonna staked much of her career on Evita, gambling that it would establish her as a proper movie star and a respected actress, as well as reviving her slumping musical career. Both the film and the soundtrack, while worthy efforts, fall just short of their goals, despite their numerous strong points. The double-disc soundtrack to Evita — which essentially is an audio document of the entire film, since there is no dialogue in the movie — is an exquisitely produced and expertly rendered version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock-inspired musical, yet it remains curiously unengaging.
Part of the reason is Madonna’s performance. While she gives a startlingly accomplished and nuanced performance — her voice actually sounds like it matures over the course of the album — it is impossible to listen to her without getting the impression that she is trying really hard to be credible, which makes it difficult to connect with her. It doesn’t help that her supporting cast of Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas are only fitfully successful; Banderas’ performance, in particular, suffers from being removed from the visuals. Even with the faults, Evita has its merits, including the written-for-film ballad “You Must Love Me,” and is worth investigating. It just isn’t the definitive work that it wishes to be. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
01. A Cinema in Buenos Aires, July 26, 1952 1.19
02. Requiem For Evita 4.16
03. Oh What A Circus (Antonio Banderas, Madonna) 5.45
04. On This Night Of A Thousand Stars (Jimmy Nail) 2.24
05. Eva And Magaldi / Eva Beware Of he City (Madonna, Jimmy Nail, Antonio Banderas, Julian Littman) 5.20
06. Buenos Aires (Madonna) 4.09
07. Another Suitcase In Another Hall (Madonna) 3:33
08. Goodnight And Thank You (Madonna, Antonio Banderas) 4.18
09. The Lady’s Got Potential (Antonio Banderas) 4.25
10. Charity Concert / The Art Of The Possible (Jimmy Nail, Jonathan Pryce, Antonio Banderas, Madonna) 2.33
11. I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You (Madonna, Jonathan Pryce) 4.19
12. Hello And Goodbye (Madonna, Andrea Corr, Jonathan Pryce) 1.47
13. Peron’s Latest Flame (Antonio Banderas, Madonna) 5.17
14. A New Argentina (Madonna, Jonathan Pryce, Antonio Banderas) 8.13
01. On The Balcony Of The Casa Rosada (Part 1) (Jonathan Pryce) 1.28
02. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Madonna) 5.31
03. On the Balcony Of The Casa Rosada (Part 2) (Madonna) 2.00
04. High Flying, Adored (Antonio Banderas, Madonna) 3.32
05. Rainbow High (Madonna) 2.27
06. And The Money Kept Rolling In (And Out) (Antonio Banderas) 3.53
07. Partido Feminista (Madonna) 1.40
08. She Is A Diamond (Jonathan Pryce) 1.40
09. Santa Evita 2.31
10.Waltz For Eva And Che (Madonna, Antonio Banderas) 4.12
11.Your Little Body’s Slowly Breaking Down (Madonna, Jonathan Pryce) 1.25
12. You Must Love Me (Madonna) 2.51
13. Eva’s Final Broadcast (Madonna) 3.05
14.Latin Chant 2.11
15. Lament (Madonna, Antonio Banderas) 5.14
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice