Of the principals, only Ann Blyth is really right for her part: Howard Keel just doesn't have the charisma and style for an Alfred Drake part. (Drake, interviewed about why MGM kept passing him over for movies, said: "They had a guy they used for my parts. He wasn't very good." I think Keel was good, but not for this part, or even for Kiss Me Kate.) Vic Damone was a terrible idea, Dolores Gray is good but doesn't really have the right kind of voice for "Not Since Nineveh" -- it was written for Joan Diener, a performer who had both a belt and a high soprano voice, and Gray can't do the soprano parts of the song -- and casting non-singer Sebastian Cabot as the villain forced them to cut the wonderful quartet that precedes "And This Is My Beloved."
One thing the DVD release enables me to do, though, is to do a side-by-side comparison of some of the original Alexander Borodin music and the songs that Bob Wright and Chet Forrest created for Kismet. Wright and Forrest's specialty was making pop songs out of classical music, something they'd been doing since the '30s when they were at MGM. Instead of just taking the classical tune and putting lyrics to it, they would take the main theme from the original piece and then compose a new "B" section, re-do the ending, and turn the whole thing into an actual pop song with an A-A-B-A structure. This is what they did with all three of the big hits from Kismet, "Stranger in Paradise" (from the Polovtsian Dances in Borodin's Prince Igor), "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" (second movement of Borodin's second string quartet) and "And This Is My Beloved" (third movement of Borodin's truly awesome second string quartet). As you can see in the video below, each of the songs has new material that wasn't in Borodin's original pieces, and that's how the songs become true hit songs instead of just classical music with new words.
There were a few songs in Kismet that didn't follow this pattern; "Rahadlakum" is a completely original composition by Wright and Forrest, and two or three songs are taken directly from Borodin with no newly-composed music. The passage that precedes the "Gesticulate" number (that song, by the way, is based on Borodin's first symphony) is just Konchak's aria from Prince Igor with English lyrics.