From the collection, Leonard Bernstein conducts Rhapsody in Blue for concentration camp survivors at a displaced persons camp in Feldafing, Germany around 1948, the orchestra of former concentration camp inmates.
Harry Bialor, 82, a retired Brooklyn businessman who survived World War II with a sister by hiding on a Polish farm but who lost his parents, two brothers and a second sister, learned about the photographs of Leonard Bernstein from an article he had read and, since he had been at Feldafing as a teenager, wanted to see if his face appeared in some pictures.
“Conduct?” he said of Bernstein’s concert. “He played! He was at the piano playing! And it was hot. No air-conditioning. Bernstein said, ‘We’ll sweat together in Yiddish.’ He played marvelously on a lousy piano.”
There is a stunning moment in “Maestro” as Hershey Felder, playing Leonard Bernstein’s alter ego on stage, and the conductor-composer himself, on a large screen in an old film clip, join in a seamless piano duet from Richard Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.”
This tour de force at the Geffen Playhouse characterizes the fusion between the personas of actor-singer-writer Felder, very much alive and lively at 42, and Bernstein, who died almost 20 years ago at 72.
This October marks twenty years since Leonard Bernstein's death and on the occassion, Taormina's Teatro Antico hosts a dance gala devoted to his memory. Tomorrow night, an international roster of ballerinas from ABT, NYCB,and Hamburg Ballet will dance to the choreography of Jerome Robbins and John Neumeier. The first half of the gala is dedicated to Lenny's Broadway works (West Side Story, Candide, and On the Town), and after the pause is Jerome Robbins/Lenny's ballet, Fancy Free. Enrico Castiglione conducts Lenny's greatest hits while principals model costumes by Giorgio Armani and Broadway collaborator Oliver Smith.
Washington -- Composer Leonard Bernstein receives a
dedicatory medal from Mrs. Rose Kennedy at a cast party following the official
opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington,
D.C. with a performance of Bernstein’s 'Mass.' (1971)
Big kudoronies to investigative reporter Alex Ross who dug up Lenny's huge FBI file, where we learn some new crazy things: it's unsurprising that J. Edgar Hoover, that nasty old drag queen, clearly envious of all the fun Lenny was gaily having, became obsessed with the conductor's "unAmerican" activities (while of course, over the 1940s and 1950s and beyond, the mafia made billions and the KKK terrorized blacks, both organizations mostly undisturbed by J-Ed's G-Men). Bernstein after all, as a gay Jewish lefty, was the perfect target for Hoover's hatred.
Still, what's in the papers discovered by Ross and published by The New Yorker, is almost Orwellian in its madness:
In 1958, one informant stated: “I know that Bernstein is a
card-carrying Communist but I have no proof of it but I can tell by the
way he talks.” Such missives seemed to multiply after Bernstein became
the music director of the New York Philharmonic, in 1958.
Oh, and believe it or not, the Director himself personally wrote to a Wisconsin nun who had asked the Bureau to investigate Bernstein due to his Communism, and sent her some literature.
Lenny’s daughter Jamie Bernstein MC'd the event, which included a concert sampling from four of his musicals; Candide, On the Town, Wonderful Town and West Side Story. Michael Barrett conducted 50 members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with soprano Michelle Areyzaga, mezzosoprano Elizabeth Shammash, tenor Jeffrey Picon, and baritone Hugh Russell.
As we reported earlier, 2008 is the official "Year of The Lenny", and New York’s musical institutions are jumping on the Bernstein Bandwagon. Last night’s gala also included a special tribute by the iconic Tony Bennett -- tho his alter-ego, Anthony Benedetto, stayed home. The IPO is off next to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Palm Beach for the more Lenny Gala madness.
Our bf4e&e David Patrick Columbia's New York Social Diary is hosting a nice video pastiche from the event, which can be found here. (Access point on this page if it does not load...just scroll down past Liz Smith's 84th birthday party @ the Russian Tea Room, & past the PEN Authors’ Evening.)
§ Photo copyright by Pierre Voslinsky; Courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office, via Milkenarchive.org
Jan. 10, 11, 12, 15: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach,
conductor, will present a Bernstein Festival pairing Tchaikovsky's
“Romeo and Juliet” with dance selections from “West Side Story,” 8
p.m., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, 260 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, tickets vary; (215) 893-1999.
Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony will kick the NY Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel to the curb this Fall -- showing NYers how it's done with a little bit of West Coast flava -- by opening Carnegie Hall's 2008-09 season on September 24, 2008 in a Lenny Bernstein love-fest titled, "Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds". Lending star presence will be Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, and The Hampy-Hamp Thomas Hampson.
The NY Philharmonic has devoted its upcoming season to the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of Lenny's b-day, and the 50th anniversary of his appointment as Music Director. The Lenny festival will present 30 events (from the opening of the season until December 13, 2008) such as symposia, exhibitions, and film screenings, with many concerts narrated by his daughter, Jamie.
Highlights ahoy, like a November concert with Gustavo Dudamel & the Israel Philharmonic performing Lenny's Halil and Jubilee Games. We might have to rearrange our US vacations for some of these events.
The usual killjoys will all go, "blah blah he's not as good as Lenny blah blah just a kid blah small repertoire blah untested blah Salonen's scholarship is much deeper blah blah blah", and yes for all his mad skillZ his Don Giovanni at la Scala wasn't the best DG we've ever heard (but then this is an insane metric for any conductor, which opera or symphony piece conducted by Lenny that was not also written by him is the best performance in existence of that piece? We say maybe none, and nobody's a greater fan of Lenny's than Opera Chic who worships him the way Catholics worship their saints).
So if Dudamel is not "the future of classical music" -- a splendidly dumb title that would not have fitted even Lenny's monster strong shoulders -- he's totally one of the few people that have the passion and the fire and, yes, the love that can make this old art form cool and relevant again in a world that could easily do without it.
Oh, and and more often than not whenever he's conducting and we're
there, Dudi and OC -- he on the podium OC in some palco -- are the
youngest people in the house. Unless you want opera houses and symphony halls to shut down in two or three decades, when most of the current audience will be either dead of old age or getting there, then you'd better get ready for Dudi -- and maybe, just maybe, he'll show you his baton.
We revisited the Lennie love @ Hotel Sacher, and were pleased to remember Lennie as both "Dracula Lennie" in full black cape, and "Oktoberfest Lennie" in his red corduroy ensemble -- the dual awesomeness of the supercool conductor/composer/TV guy & one of our favorite hotels ev4r is just too tasty a thought to entertain.
Hallway of Sacher Hotel, Vienna
omg red corduroy. so lenny.
normal Lennie. "With my warm thanks for your tender care." --Lennie B. 196-?
The three big papers in Italy (Corriere, La Stampa, and La Repubblica) all reported a t0tally excited reception (10 minutes of applause –- but we’ll get to that later) for Robert Carsen's direction --> appropriation --> adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's Candide from the Wednesday, June 20 la prima at Teatro alla Scala. Don’t get us wrong. We liked many things about it: the witty tributes to cultural icons and shared historical legacy, the dying flicker of optimism and increasing commodification of American culture since the death of JFK, and the rise of the tacky and misguided nouveau riche. (yawnz0rs)
But by the end of the night, the audience is pushed into the role of a bemused parent battling the sudden onset of puberty of a confused and rebellious teenager. Carsen inelegantly slams his dogma and paints his social-commentary-couched-in-irreverent opinions in such broad strokes, that a few times OC found herself rolling her eyes to his modern citations ('does the audience like me yet?! I wont stop referencing our shared cultural history until I am liked.')
But Carsen’s production was equally brilliant compared to even the most tenuous parts: a brief allusion to Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, complete with a saxophone-wielding cross-dressing Jack Lemmon as Maximilian, uttering the famous (ed: Joe E. Brown's in the original movie) line, "well, nobody's perfect". While I lolled, not one of the Italians near me uttered a single sound. And of course, Glitter and Be Gay was set to the iconic Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, as Cunegonde is transformed into Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. What we also respected from Carsen was the elegant handling of the inherent anti-war message, which was thankfully not foisted heavily into the structure of Carsen's moral edits, and rather delievered with wit and grace.
The stage, as you all have seen/read by now, is set inside a giant television from the 1950s with rounded rectangle frames, reminiscent of a giant vintage metal lunchbox. The opening credits are certainly brilliant enough, all in English in whimsical font, as well as the appealing nostalgic pastiche of stock footage, all taken from idealized, pastel, and frothy clips of happy American 1950s families -- panning the camera over white picket fences and brand new ranch homes, spliced with footage of the JFK wedding, a NASA space launch, etc...all saturated in a warm orange glow of nostalgia. However, Voltaire giving the audience the middle finger to signify the opening of Act I is a little too, well, *rolls eyes*.
But in the age of MTV and lightning-fast edits, OC found the overall production riddled with a bad case of ADHD *omg brb something shiny*! It was impossible to focus on the overture with the media presentation buzzing and flashing behind (there was also a similar presentation after the first intermission). The problem with this entire production is that Bernstein’s music and creation takes complete backstage to Carsen's self-laudatory, egotistical omg shared inheritance omg direction. He's like Orson Welles on crack. Carsen uses Lenny’s Candide as a vehicle to perpetuate his convictions and his own brand of heavy-handed social commentary, and to present his own, updated version of Voltaire’s novel. The music was a mere afterthought, a batch of stringed notes for the background of Carsen's direction. This was all in great contrast to the 2004 Candide OC saw in NYC, a love-fest hommage to Bernstein...where at one point in scene, an album of Lenny's West Side Story was used as a prop in tribute to the great maestro, the audience bursting out in applause.
The La Scala orchestra was completely incapable of getting down that fundamental, unique ,brash Lenny sound. They washed it entirely in their patented La Scala Italianate (duh) treatment -- although very beautiful and evocative in its own right -- but not even close. But then again, no one was really listening to the music rite? so who cares!
The final word on the cut scenes? As the legend goes *cue grandpappy voice*, it all began back in December 2006 when Stéphane Lissner took his adolescent son (note: OC isn’t a parent, but I prolly wouldn’t recommend this opera for 13-year-olds) to the December 26th Paris production at the Théâtre du Châtelet, and decided that Carsen's vision of Candide was "not in line with the artistic production of La Scala". Many meetings behind closed doors in January 2007 between Lissner and Carsen were held, where eventually they agreed upon a “Milan-Safe” version, cutting roughly 15-minutes of staging from the Paris version, including two songs of Dr. Pangloss (but hinted-at in the newspaper for reasons wanting to conserve Lamert Wilson’s voice. um okay yaaaah).
In the famous scene with Berlusconi, Blair, Bush, Chirac, and Putin floating drunkenly among split oil tanks (at la prima, two of those tanks had a ‘wardrobe malfunction’, and remained distractedly and ominously on stage ten minutes through the Las Vegas scene) Putin thankfully doesn't vomit (making instead very audible hiccups), and Berlusconi is dressed in longer briefs (instead of a little Speedo seen in Paris). The neckties of the five world leaders have been left in the dressing room, but that was explained for the reasons of new, improved masks that didn’t need the neckties to conceal the creases in the material.
No molesting, pAEdophile priests or priest/church jokes…specifically the line, "Farebbero comodo alla nostra confraternita" (but instead Dr. Pangloss grossly molests Paquette through a few scenes.) Also cut was the entire scene of the cardinals arriving in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Lots of cracks at the Mormons, however remained, upon Candide’s arrival in Salt Lake City, UT. Not many Mormons in Italia!
Dr. Pangloss/Voltaire/Martin, played by the excellent Lambert Wilson, narrates in Italian language (instead of English) marring the production with an ersatz and disjointed feel (Lissner had said that such long stretches of English would bore and lose the interest of the general audience). Even the last few lines in the ending scene uttered by Candide and Voltaire are spoken in Italian.
Appearing in scene, although reportedly once agreed to be cut by Carsen, was Kim Criswell’s Old Lady, who said she was the daughter of a Polish pope ("Sono figlia di un papa polacco") because I remember being like, 'oh great, here comes the Pole joke.
But can we just address the screaming headlines that state the Candide la prima received bountiful applause? Well, yes, technically there was roughly 10 minutes of applause. People liked it, yes. But whoever coordinated the curtain calls split-up the massive, massive chorus into much smaller sets of about 15 members, each line of chorus singers taking an isolated, separate bow. Technically and literally, because the chorus (ed: and the mimes and the dancers) was split into small bodies among such a large group, it took a very long time. When the principals finally came together with Carsen, Axelrod, et al, after the entire chorus had taken their like, 8 minutes of curtain calls, there was only *one* ovation for them. The curtain went down once, and was raised one additional instance for a final, second ovation. THIS CASE HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY CLOSED.
Now to make this monster post even more GINORMOUS, here are some more screenshots from the December 2006 Paris production, broadcast last January by Arté on satellite, not from La Scala's production:
Above: Dr. Pangloss's history lesson
Above: The chorus and the earthquake
Above: auto-da-fé with hanging of Candide and Pangloss. Oh yeah: And the KKK.
And what about those adjustments that Robert Carsen worked-out with Stéphane Lissner to adapt his production for a Milan & Italy safe version? Tonight the caricature of Silvio Berlusconi was dressed in longer briefs, unlike at the Théâtre du Châtelet production where he flaunted speedos (see below). As we anticipated, he wore no tie. What you can see posted are vidcaps of the Arte' broadcast, last January, of the uncensored and uncut Paris production.
These Paris-Candide vidcaps show scenes that have been cut from la Scala's staging.
Opera Chic has been forbidden by la Scala's lawyers to publish Scala promotional material that is freely distributed to the media, so there will be no Candide at la Scala images here until tomorrow, when Italian law will allow us to reproduce, in fair use, pages of newspapers that have published those images.
In Milan, swiftly axed from the production (about 15 minutes, 2 musical numbers and a lot of anti-Catholic Church jokes) was Candide's arrival into Santa Fe, New Mexico. Below, find the Théâtre du Châtelet production of Carsen's staging of Candide, (thanks to ARTE airing it this past January) which included the scene.
Why is the Vatican still so powerful here, that the Scala GM Lissner axed all the anti-Catholic content but kept the anti-Berlusconi shtick, thus enraging the very Milan city government that yearly endows la Scala with a fat donation?
In a few words, because the Church and the Catholic organizations are so powerful here that, when the (nominally) center-left central government led by Romano Prodi tried to pass a very mellow law allowing some form of protections to civil unions, straight and gay unions alike, the Church had successfully lobbied Catholic politicians to sink the government in a Senate vote (the government usually has a small majority there, but they magically lost it on that issue) and they sent ONE MILLION people to a demonstration in Rome, the awesomely named "Family Day", in English, to flex some bada$$ Catholic muscle.
Needless to say, the civil unions plan has been shelved indefinitely.
The Catholic Church also won big two years ago, sinking a referendum that would have given more leeway to stem cell research and in vitro fertilization (abortion, on the other hand, is still legal here...it is not clear for how long, though). And a recent "offensive" art exhibit in Bologna has created a big fuss, with the (leftist) city government withholding support to the artist and actually apologizing to the Church.
To sum it up: Scala GM Stephane Lissner is more worried by the Vatican's possible wrath than by Silvio Berlusconi's certain discomfort at being mocked on la Scala's stage. Lissner may be right, but Opera Chic is not so sure -- He lost about 2 million euros of Milan government funding anyway. And we doubt the Vatican is going to send him a thank-you note, much less a check for 2 cool mils.
[Do not insert a "best of both possible worlds" joke here]
First it was the NYC elementary school that thought it would be cool to do a biographical sketch in the very cemetery where Lenny’s body resides. Then Carsen took out his beat-down stick and whacked with all his might to create something simultaneously kind of laudable, but incomprehensibly *not* Bernstein’s Candide.
Herpes jokes, a grabby-hands Pangloss, Cunégonde as a “shiksa b*tch”, the immigrants to the New World referred to as, “wops, kikes, spics, [insert additional offensive slang here], and the KKK dancing a hoe-down. It’s like, okay Carsen, WE GET IT. I mean, just how many times can you hear "West Failure" (for “Westfalia”) before it gets old?! Yeah, um: 3x.
Amazingly, through all the racial slurs and barbs, Carsen had at least enough sense to not drop the n-bomb…but then again, even if he did, I don’t think the audience would have cared, as there was indeed a warm reception for Carsen’s antics at La Scala tonight. Lots of cheers when Carsen (wearing one of the most hideous -- dark purple and white striped -- suits I’ve seen in my entire life) came onstage to take his curtain call. A smattering of boos, but really just a miniscule dollop compared to the wild cheering. For the American experience, Carsen leaves one with a complete dichotomy of both nostalgia and embarrassment. Embarrassment for the egregious metaphors and couched social criticisms via an extremely altered libretto. Or as the La Scala flyer states, “Liberamente adattato da Robert Carsen”, freely adapted. "Liberamente adattato" my a$$. That was straight-up misappropriation.
Carsen, your anti-establishment, anti-globalization, anti-TV shtick is hijacking Lenny’s musical/operetta/opera (I’m sooo not getting into this debate fyi tia) REPORTED REPORTED!! more tomorrow...
Opera Chic didn't particularly like that Candide on TV, the opera was broadcast by Arté last January, because really, how tired it is to argue that TV is bad for you and that America has lost her optimism since JFK was murdered? that's just bOring! and makes Opera Chic (who usually loves Carsen's work) goes zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz with sleep. A gifted director, he may not be a politcal artist.
The latest news are:
* the scene with Berlusconi, Bush, Blair, Chirac and Putin (three of whom are now either out of office or on their way out, one has a below-zero approval rating and the other has been accused of murder on CNN by a dying, poisoned Russian ex spy) in their underwear has remained more or less untouched, only their neckties are missing
* all the satire against the Catholic Church ("I'm the daughter of the Polish pope!", lots of jokes about pAEdophile priests) has been carefully and completely deleted
* the show, 15 mins shorter than the Paris production, is still kinda lame
But then, Candide had never been staged at la Scala before. And Opera Chic will always love Lenny.
So off we go, in a few hours. We'll report on possible stirrings in the audience. So stay tuned later.
Next weekend at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, a fundraiser is scheduled to raise $$$ for the restoration costs of a 1845 teenage girl’s crumbling monument that lays in ruins among the famous residents of the historic cemetery. //Also to be raised is the ghost of Leonard Bernstein.
Titled “The Stories Never End, The Love Never Dies,” it features a theatrical dramatization of some of the most famous celebrities that eternally rest between the Green-Wood Cemetery walls. In this "interactive theatre", the famous dead figures will be personified by the students at the Holy Name of Jesus School in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn (which borders the cemetery). Yeah, um, did I mention that it's going to take place IN the cemetery?
Among the show’s highlights: some kid is going to impersonate Maestro Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) who is buried at Battle Hill, the highest point in Brooklyn.
I just hope the wrath of Lenny’s ghost, resplendent in a cape, brings torrents of hail next weekend in Brooklyn.
But no more underwear: the heads of state will wear pants.
This, and other changes to the original staging, will be fine-tuned by Carsen and his co-director, Scala General Manager Stéphane Lissneras soon as Carsen comes back from Japan where Maestro Ozawa is conducting Carsen's staging of Tannhauser.
(pictured above, Lissner and Carsen hard at work on their Candide rewrites)
Bernstein describes the musical transformation from fury to faith beautifully: “All our great Judaistic personalities of the past, including Abraham…Moses and the prophets, all argued with G-d. You know how the more you love someone, the more you can get angry with them, and when you have a reconciliation, the…close[r] you two become than ever. Something like that happens in the course of this piece.”
Memo to future Scala directors of politically very sensitive material: whatever you do, translate all the dialogue from English into Italian, and be careful how you translate "Berlusconi Suxxx0r!", in Italian it's "Viva Berlusconi!". Then delete the politcally sensitive material, because in Italian it sounds even worse. Then pocket your massive fee. And you'll all be alrighty.
Pleez Hammer Lissner don't hurt'em! (in the photo below, Carsen and Lissner hard at work rewriting Candide in a Scala-safe version)
...Bernstein disappeared from view in the middle of a concert. "He jumped up into the air to punctuate a particularly forceful part of a symphony," says Mishori, "but he then vanished. He'd fallen off the podium. Two of the musicians helped him regain his feet and the rest of us carried on regardless.