Region plans several celebrations of Leonard Bertstein’s work
SARATOGASPRINGS, N.Y. » If you didn’t realize this year was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein – you will by the end of summer.
This is the year of Lennie. His symphonies will be performed, his scores for ballets will be danced and his Broadway musicals and operas will grace stages repeatedly. Even the favorite classical pieces that he conducted will be honored in his memory.
Indeed, the impact of one of America’s most gifted classical musicians is both great and enduring. Bernstein (Aug. 25, 1918- Oct. 14, 1990) was the first Ameri- can conductor- composer born and educated in the United States to achieve worldwide fame.
He was not only a passionate conductor who led the New York Philharmonic (1957-1969), Bernstein was also a composer who was at home on Broadway. He composed the music for several hit shows. The most enduring was “West Side Story,” but “On the Town,” and “Wonderful Town” were also successful. “Candide” has an almost cult-like following.
Most of his Broadway and ballet successes were collaborations with choreographer Jerome Robbins, who also has a centennial birthday this year. “Fancy Free” is, arguably, the most enduring of their work in ballet.
Though Bernstein’s talent was prodigious, his personality was equally brilliant. He was an artist born for the television age. At the podium his enthusiasm and energy almost eclipsed the music surrounding him. He was handsome, eloquent and a born teacher. These traits made him a natural for television. He was the host lecturer on the CBS series “Young People’s Concerts” in 1957, which made him a media star.
This diversity gives almost every musical arts organization a claim to honor Bernstein’s talent. For example, Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. is offering “West Side Story” August 3- September 1, Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown also offers the musical in repertory July 7-24 and at Tangelwood Music Festival in Lenox, Mass. The Boston Pops will perform the score while the 1961 film is shown on a giant screen.
Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s two resident companies have celebrations planned. The New York City Ballet is featuring “Robbins and Bernstein at 100” for their gala on June 21. Performances at 5:30 and 8 p.m.
The Philadelphia Orchestra will offer “All Bernstein Celebrating 100 Years” on August 10.
Beside 13 fully mounted productions of “West Side Story,” Glimmerglass Op- era will offer Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti” August 7-24 (in rep) for 3 performances.
Tanglewood has titled the 2018 season, “A Bernstein Centennial Summer.” Bernstein was closely associated with Tanglewood throughout his career and, in fact, conducted his final concert at Lenox on August 19,1990. That concert will be memorialized this season.
But it is August 25, the anniversary of Bernstein’s death, that Tanglewood pulls out all the stops. The concert will have five maestros leading the Boston Symphony with a number of guest artists like Audra McDonald performing Bernstein’s most beloved compositions.
Also presented at Tanglewood will be his operas “Trouble in Tahiti” (July 12) and “A Quiet Place”(August 9). His Broadway shows “On the Town” (July 7) and “Candide” (August 22-23) will likewise be offered, and “Fancy Free” will be staged by the Boston Ballet (August 18). Throughout the season, more than a dozen concerts featuring work composed by Bernstein or influenced by his interpretations will be available.
The summer of 2018 is more than a tribute to a talented man. It is a retrospective of an American genius who shaped and influenced musical tastes throughout the 20th century. There is not much you will want to miss.