Securing its reputation as the definitive production of Leonard Bernstein’s massive musical Mass, Ravinia’s July 20 command encore presentation, with 200 artists on stage, will be taped for a national television special to air in 2020. The television production team is led by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning executive producer Samuel J. Paul (Live from the Met, The Kennedy Center Presents, American Style), producer Bernhard Fleischer, and director Michael Beyer. Broadcast details will be forthcoming.Read More
“On the Waterfront” received 12 Academy Award nominations, including one for its score; it won eight Oscars, including best picture, director, screenplay, cinematography, and of course, actor. Bernstein lost to Hollywood veteran Dimitri Tiomkin for “The High and the Mighty” — a plane-in-peril drama with a popular soundtrack (John Wayne, as the movie’s hero, whistles the title theme throughout the film). With its tortured history, however, “On the Waterfront” was a surprising Oscar winner, and remains a polarizing film in some quarters to this day.Read More
At the end of the concert, I raced up the aisle to get a better look at the maestro, but as I got near the stage, Bernstein came back out to lead an encore, so I sat down on the ground and had my first up-close experience of an orchestra as Bernstein pulled out all the stops for a heart-pumping rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Sousa, not Stravinsky, would be my true baptism by live symphonic music.Read More
The floodtide of events with which Ravinia celebrated Bernstein’s 100th birthday in 2018 was only the beginning. The grand celebration continues for a second festival summer with nearly a dozen Bernstein-themed programs curated by the American conductor Marin Alsop, Bernstein’s final (and only female) protégé and one of the world’s most prominent champions of his music.Read More
Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, who will be the soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony at Ravinia on Sunday, August 19, “discovered” her exceptional voice when, in her senior year, she auditioned for the high school choir near her home in Lakewood, WA. When the choir director heard her, Bridges was immediately urged to begin studying professionally.
“My family enjoyed music, all kinds,” Bridges explained during a telephone interview with Ravinia Magazine in late June. “My Dad has a beautiful voice, and he sang with the Sons of Thunder choir at the Allen A.M.E. Church in Tacoma. I began taking piano lessons when I was 5, but no one [in the family] was a professional.” The new adventure of voice lessons became a revelation. “I just loved singing so much,” she said. Even though Bridges was captain of her high school basketball team and had college sports scholarships on the horizon, she audaciously auditioned at top American conservatories and music schools.
There was a stunning moment in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein” gala this season. Kate Baldwin, on a brief hiatus from her Tony Award–nominated run in Broadway’s revival of Hello Dolly!, took the stage and delivered an ineffably moving rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s Vietnam-era protest song “So Pretty.” This affecting piece, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, was first heard in 1968 at the Broadway for Peace fundraiser co-hosted by Bernstein and Paul Newman. It was performed then by Barbra Streisand with the composer himself at the piano. The song tells of a land far away with golden temples and pretty people with shining hair—who we are told “must die for peace.” The text concludes with “But they’re so pretty, so pretty. / I don’t understand.”
“I thought, what I want for the Ravinia audience, if we can pull it off, is somebody who’s going to see the full picture of Bernstein, had a personal relationship with him and can conduct the stuff like crazy. I want somebody who I enjoy talking to. There’s selfishness to it, I guess. I’ve just always found her to be extraordinary,” says Kauffman, who was an artistic administrator with the New York Philharmonic when Alsop made her guest-conducting debut there in December 1999 as part of an Aaron Copland festival.
In addition to holding a succession of conducting posts, including her current roles as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, Alsop has followed Bernstein’s beat as an articulate spokeswoman and innovative advocate for classical music. She has also been a leading champion of his music; a boxed set of her complete Bernstein recordings on the Naxos label was released earlier this year. As a testament to her multifaceted accomplishments, she is the only conductor to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”—an honor she received in 2005.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of its original Broadway staging, Leonard Bernstein’s omni-theatrical masterpiece West Side Story came to life at Ravinia in a version devised especially for the occasion by the North Carolina School of the Arts. The school’s chancellor, John Maucieri, was an assistant to Bernstein for 18 years, and he was on hand as