Some Enchanted Evening – 1949

“Some Enchanted Evening” is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. It is “the single biggest popular hit to come out of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show.” It is a three-verse solo for the leading male character, Emile, in which he describes seeing a stranger, knowing that you will see her again, and dreaming of her laughter. He sings that when you find your “true love”, you must “fly to her side, / And make her your own”.

The song appears in the first act of the musical. It is sung as a solo by the show’s male lead, Emile de Becque, a middle-aged French expatriate who has become a plantation owner on a South Pacific island during World War II. Emile falls in love with Ensign Nellie Forbush, an optimistic and naive young American navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas. The two have known each other for only a few weeks, and each worries that the other may not return his or her love. Emile expresses his romantic feelings for Nellie, recalling how they met at an officers’ club dance and instantly were attracted to each other. He asks her to marry him. In the song, he describes a man seeing a stranger and instantly knowing he will see her again, hearing her laughter and dreaming of it. He says that when you find your “true love”, you must “fly to her side, / And make her your own”; otherwise, all your life you will “dream all alone”. The song is then reprised several times during the show by Nellie and/or Emile as their relationship experiences setbacks and reconciliations.

In the original Broadway production, “Some Enchanted Evening” was sung by former Metropolitan Opera bass Ezio Pinza. Pinza won the Tony Award for Best Actor in 1950 for this role, and the song made him a favorite with audiences and listeners who normally did not attend or listen to opera. In the 2001 London revival of the show, Philip Quast won an Olivier Award for Best Actor for his role as Emile, and seven years later Paulo Szot won a Tony for his portrayal in the 2008 New York revival.

In the film version of South Pacific, the first and second scenes of the play are switched around. Because of the switch, Emile enters later in the film, and “Some Enchanted Evening” is not heard until nearly 45 minutes into the film, while in the original stage version it is heard about 15 minutes after Act I begins In the film, the song is sung by another Metropolitan Opera bass, Giorgio Tozzi, who dubbed the singing for actor Rossano Brazzi. Tozzi’s version finished at No. 28 on the 2004 American Film Institute list and television special, AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs, selecting the top 100 songs in American cinema

Selected recorded versions

Perry Como’s version was a #1 hit in 1949, and Frank Sinatra recorded the song several times.

Ezio Pinza (recorded April 18, 1949, Original Broadway cast recording of South Pacific)
Perry Como (1949)
Frank Sinatra (1949), (1963), (1967)
Bing Crosby (1949)
Al Jolson (1949)
Jo Stafford – Autumn in New York (1950)
Eddie Calvert (1951)
Giorgio Tozzi (1958 for the film soundtrack, 1967 for the Lincoln Center revival cast recording with Florence Henderson)
Andy Williams (from the 1958 album, Andy Williams Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Carl Mann (1960)
Jay and the Americans (1965)
Jane Olivor, on her debut album, First Night (1976)
José Carreras (1986) for a studio cast recording of South Pacific with Kiri Te Kanawa, Mandy Patinkin and Sarah Vaughan
Willie Nelson included it on his 1988 album, What a Wonderful World
Barbra Streisand (from her 1993 album Back to Broadway)
The Temptations (1995, For Lovers Only)
Bryn Terfel – Something Wonderful: Bryn Terfel Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein (1996)
Philip Quast for the 2002 London revival cast recording of South Pacific
Art Garfunkel (from his 2007 album Some Enchanted Evening)
Paulo Szot – South Pacific (The New Broadway Cast) (2008)
Harry Connick, Jr. (from his 2009 album Your Songs)
Alfie Boe, on his 2010 album, Bring Him Home
Jackie Evancho, on her 2012 album, Songs from the Silver Screen
Il Divo, on their 2013 album, A Musical Affair
Bob Dylan, on his 2015 album Shadows in the Night