Sunday, December 29, 2013

SALUTE TO VIENNA! Welcomes New Year at Disney Hall

Los Angeles, California
Rodney Punt

After the Rose Parade and Bowl, Vienna’s New Year’s Concert is a televised staple for many on the first day of every year. While Angelinos have the option to attend the actual parade and football game, the concert is strictly a flat-screen experience with its live action a couple of continents and an ocean away.
Enter Salute to Vienna!
The spectacular re-creation of Vienna’s world famous Neujahrskonzert returns to the Walt Disney Concert Hall for a tenth appearance on Sunday, January 5 at 2:30 pm. The light-hearted, energetic show is a great way to introduce the irresistibly charming music of the old Austro-Hungarian empire to the entire family.
The music this year includes the best of the Strauss family waltzes, marches and polkas. Excerpts from Strauss's Die Fledermaus and Lehár’s The Merry Widow promise to be the Schlagsahne on the party cake.

Conductor András Deák from Budapest will ensure idiomatic accents from a large orchestra. Two Viennese singers, soprano Alexandra Reinprecht and tenor Martin Piskorski, will enchant with musical stories of romance and perhaps even a touch of mitteleuropäische intrigue as dancers in ravishing costumes animate the stage to round out the fun.
Salute to Vienna is an enchanting way to celebrate the New Year and work off what may still be hanging you over from a few evenings before.
WHAT: Salute to Vienna!
WHERE: Walt Disney Concert Hall -- 111 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, Ca 90012

WHEN: Sunday, January 5 at 2:30 pm 

TICKET PRICES: $42.00 - $126.00

PURCHASE TICKETS: (800) 745 3000 Or at


Photo used by permission of Attila Glatz Concert Productions

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brian Asawa Premieres Erickson’s Four Arab Love Songs

By Rodney Punt

As one of the world’s preeminent countertenors, Brian Asawa has been a fixture on the opera circuit for two-decades. The Los Angeles native’s career had jump-started as the first countertenor to become the Grand Prize Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1991. Other top honors ensued. His professional life launched at the Santa Fe Opera in 1993 and the singer has seldom looked back, or had time to. He has conquered North American stages in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Toronto, Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Center, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and enjoyed equal success in the international houses of Sydney, Cologne, Brussels, Lyon, Amsterdam, Bavaria and London’s Covent Garden.

Between these dizzying peregrinations, Asawa has called the Bay Area home. This month, for a combination of family and professional reasons, he has relocated to his native city. This first recital after his permanent return was in the pleasant sanctuary setting of the West Los Angeles United Methodist Church last Sunday afternoon. Located in the tidy if modestly appointed Sawtelle district of West L.A., its members are by tradition Japanese Americans, as is Asawa himself. The church’s exterior grounds have gently evocative memorials sprinkled about in the style of Japanese gardens. The recital itself was a fundraiser for a congregation that includes the singer’s mother and family.

And a very fine program it was. It launched with a trio of selections each by Alessandro Scarlatti, G.F. Handel, and Franz Schubert, and rounded out later with sacred and secular holiday songs from around the world. Between these, a new work by San Francisco based composer Kurt Erickson, Four Arab Love Songs, inspired Asawa’s and pianist Mark Salters’ most moving, also most novel, performances. Its world premiere tour had begun in Long Beach on October 26 and will conclude early next year with recitals in San Francisco and Washington State. This was its second performance.

Erickson’s songs form a mini-cycle of medieval Arab poems from Spain’s Andalusia region dating from 900 to 1100 AD. Their poets -- with lapidary names like Ibn Hazm, Al-Asad Ibrahim Ibn Billitah from Toledo, Yusf Ibn Harun Al-Remedi from Cordoba, and Bakr Al-Tartushi from Eastern Andalusia -- are near-lost identities from Islam’s Golden Age. (Erickson told me in a later telephone conversation that he discovered the obscure texts in a used-book store.)

In their confessional humanism and indulgent humor, these epigrammatic songs reveal an Arabic sensibility far removed from the religion-drenched dogmas of today’s Middle East and North Africa. Their sinewy vocal lines, ably conveyed by Asawa, have clever onomatopoeic counterparts in the piano’s atmospherics, fully exploited in the interplay between Salters and his singer: exaggerated strutting motifs in “The Rooster”, an erotic-neurotic soundscape, at turns barbaric or quixotic, in “Split My Heart”, buzz-cut rhythms for the shaved-head exploitations of “Slave Boy”, and an obsessive one-note repetition of the word ‘you’ in “Absence.” The devices captured the spirit of the poems and established a lineage of emotional tone-painting that Erickson has inherited from the songs of Franz Schubert.

Music lovers are generally more familiar with Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro’s keyboard specialist son, than his opera-composing father. Baroque opera revivals have brought Alessandro’s name back into public view, and, on the basis of the three arias that opened the recital, with good reason. Asawa took the audience on a lyric journey from the promise of the sun’s gilded rays at morning to love’s suffering and later the mortal blows of a lover’s glance. His assured, pleasing trills were shown to good advantage in “Son tutta duolo” and his rich lower register in “Se tu della mia morte.”

If there is one composer to whom today's countertenors are most indebted, it is George Frideric Handel, whose Italian opera career in London was eclipsed during his lifetime by his later output of English language oratorios. Today's revival of the Baroque master's operas are the core of the countertenor repertoire. On this occasion, Asawa featured selections from both genres. Handel's familiar ‘Where e’re you walk” can, in lesser singers, become cliché; here Asawa beautifully reimagined it as a fresh and spontaneous outpouring. "Sparite, o penseiri" found him equivocating between two lovers. Likewise, he brought out, in a bumptious rendition, the temporizing humor of “La tigre arde di sedeno," the text comparing hot love to a tiger’s anger or, if losing that lover, to a turtledove’s sorrow.

Salters and Asawa at WLA United Methodist Church
Schubert’s own uncanny ability to conjure subtle moods was explored in the next set. In “Liebesbotschaft,” the first of his Schwanengesang (Swan songs), the distance between Salters’ fast-rippling piano piano and Asawa’s dense poetry may have compromised precision in their joint execution. “Im Abendrot” made up for it with its paean of glowing sunset gratitude to the deity, notable for Asawa’s impressive breath control, allowing his voice to easily caress the song’s exquisite, long-breathed serenity. Goethe’s “Rastlose Liebe”, in an oppositional mood, conveyed the breathless energy of young and restless love.

Nodding to the holiday season, a set of four works -- the French traditional “Il est né, le divin enfant,” Britten’s “A New Year Carol,” Vaughn Williams’ “Wither’s Rocking Hymn” and Hugo Wolf ‘s Ach des Knaben Augen” -- focused on the birth of the Christ child. Concluding the afternoon was lighter fare: the secular “Drummer Boy” and “A Christmas Song” followed by Adolphe Adam’s “Oh Holy Night.”

The varied program had showcased Asawa’s youthfully bright voice, fine technique and impressive range. Asawa doesn’t just stand and sing; he instills each of his selections with a veteran stage actor’s ability to convey a song’s emotional climate and unique character. His versatile piano collaborator, Mark Salters (opera co-director and vocal coach at nearby Cal State Fullerton), maintained a close empathy while revealing his own fluid virtuosity. The church’s acoustic was full and mostly free of distracting reverberation.

As lovely as the Christmas themed dénouement was, it was the millennium-old poetry from Islam’s Golden Age that haunted this listener and, in a significant way, captured the urgency of the universal human condition. In our troubled age, the songs of those Arabic poets of so many years ago chimed with this holiday season’s renewing hope for human compassion, tolerance and inclusiveness.


What:   A Solo Christmas Recital
Who:    Brian Asawa, Countertenor -- Mark Salters, Piano
Where: West Los Angeles United Methodist Church
When:  Sunday, December 8, 2013, 2 pm

Top photo of Brian Asawa by Marco Borggreve is used by permission of the artist.
Bottom photo by Rodney Punt is used by his permission. Punt can be contacted at: [email protected]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pueri Cantores San Gabriel - Christmas at the Cathedral

By Douglas Neslund

It is said that Christmas is for children, so a Christmas season without hearing the angels sing would be a sad one, indeed. For the several hundred people, mostly in family groupings, the event at hand took place Sunday afternoon in the welcoming space of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley, conducted by Patrick Flahive, with attending accompanists Sal Soria, organist/pianist and Marcia Dickstein, harpist, performed seasonal music that would challenge any choir. Two highlights: John Rutter’s “Dancing Day” and, in celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary, his Missa Brevis in D, Opus 63 for treble voices and organ.

In and around these musical pillars was an ambitious program of carols, Gregorian chant, Spirituals, and instrumental interludes by Mr. Soria and Ms. Dickstein.  The "Puer natus in Bethlehem" plainchant was exceptionally well done. The choir is organized in logical fashion, according to age and ability. The youngest groups of children, represented by four each from the Seraphims and Cherubims, sang with accuracy in every department of the vocal arts, displaying admirable discipline throughout. All program offerings were sung from memory, and with fine vocal qualities.

The advanced group is the Queen of Angels choir of 21 youngsters and young adults. The choir names reflect their association with the Roman Catholic faith, even though members are not required to be adherents.

Britten’s “Missa Brevis in D” is truly a “brief mass” of the ordinary minus the Credo. The Sanctus movement is in fact a 12-tone scale, meant to mimic the ringing of bells, and the concluding Agnus Dei is much more difficult than would seem to be the case at first glance. The organ accompaniment is not spared difficulty, either.

Rutter’s “Dancing Day” is comprised of seven movements (two of them instrumental) largely focused on Latin and English texts, and offering two of the children, Natalie Rodriguez and Jacob De Los Reyes, a solo turn each.

Pueri Cantores is an international organization with members throughout the world numbering ca. 40,000 children and youth. Mr. Flahive created Pueri Cantores San Gabriel 19 years ago with his wife, Lauren, as Co-Founder, and has been active in the international organization. The choir’s CD of Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols,” surely a popular item this year, may be obtained at the following web page: - as well as instructions on where to hear the choir, and how to audition.

Pueri Cantores San Gabriel
To make the choir available to families located in the Pasadena area, weekly rehearsals will begin on Mondays soon at St. Philip the Apostle Church.

Art work by Howard Anderson, used with his permission

LA's Deborah Rutter to become Kennedy Center president

By Rodney Punt

Los Angeles is proud of native daughter Deborah Rutter, who, it has just been announced, caps a spectacular career in arts administration with her appointment as President of the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area, Rutter studied piano and violin. She earned a master's degree in business administration from USC. Her early career had local stints at both the LA Chamber Orchestra and the LA Phil. After highly successful decade-long managements of both the Seattle Symphony and most recently the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rutter will now be the third person (and the first woman) to helm the Kennedy Center's operations. 

Apropos, Rutter's father is LA's renowned arts patron, Marshall Rutter, founding board member and former chairman of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, who has been instrumental, with President and CEO Terry Knowles, Music Director and Conductor Grant Gershon, and a host of fine vocalists, in building that organization into the premiere full-time chorale in the nation.

A delighted City of Los Angeles salutes all the Rutters. Bravo !!


Further information in the Washington Post. 
Photo of Deborah Rutter is by Todd Rosenberg
Rodney Punt can be reached at [email protected]

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas at the Los Angeles Master Chorale

By Douglas Neslund

With the mighty Bach B-Minor Mass coming in January, one notices not a single measure on this evening’s menu from the Baroque period. Yet the music at hand is hardly of palette clearing value, but solid courses of late Romantic and mid-20th century holiday season genré. On this occasion, the Los Angeles Master Chorale was in top form heading into a couple of weeks where even the most committed choristers might be forgiven if they might sound a bit tired.

Maestro Grant Gershon opened the evening with four of Nine Carols for Male Voices by Ralph Vaughn-Williams. Hearing the men sing alone is undeniably thrilling, especially the Mummers’ Carol, and extra special with this group of talented, intelligent and committed singers.

While the stage was being reset to accommodate a chamber group of woodwinds and piano 4-hand, Maestro Gershon introduced Ottorino Respighi’s Lauda per la Nativita del Signore, featuring an outstanding solo trio of Master Chorale members Hayden Eberhart in the “role” of L’Angelo, Daniel Cheney as Pastore, and Janelle DeStefano as Maria. As naïve as the text may be, Respighi’s orchestration and choral writing is exceptionally fresh-sounding and agreeable. Ms. Eberhart’s angelic voice was particularly well appointed for her role, as she effortlessly floated stratospheric tones with pure and impressive result. Ms. DeStefano was a properly chaste and gentle Mary, but it was likely Mr. Cheney who stole the show, not so much for his role playing, but for the fact he was returning to us having survived a nearly lethal encounter with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma over much of the summer and fall. His voice has acquired a deeper layer of soul to add to his usual brilliant high range. While role of shepherd asked him to represent those so humble they didn’t wish to sully the Infant Jesus by touch, Mr. Cheney imparted that, and much more. Many in the audience shouted bravos at the solo trio as they enjoyed multiple bows.

The women of the Master Chorale got their turn after intermission with another welcome salute to the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten via his “A Ceremony of Carols” written during a hazardous voyage across the U-Boot infested Atlantic. Written in three-parts for treble voices, one is most familiar through many recordings by various boys’ choirs in America and England. The initial performance was given by an English women’s choir, and for reasons not entirely clear, the initial recording conducted by Britten himself used the Copenhagen Boys Choir, instead of one of the excellent English collegiate or chapel choirs.

When it was Kings College Choir’s opportunity to record the work, Choirmaster David Willcocks approached the composer and among other performance-related questions, asked how Britten would prefer the ancient English texts to be sung. Britten said that choirs should sing it so that audiences could understand as much of it as possible. The reviewer worked with Sir David during choral workshops for more than ten years, employing his own choir as exemplars. Sir David related this information directly.

And yet, the occasional choir will attempt to find a way to sing the work “in the language of the time.” The primary problem with that attempt is, simply, nobody alive today knows how the language was pronounced in olden times. A best guess is the result, for better or for worse.

Lesley Leighton
Associate Master Chorale Conductor Lesley Leighton opted to choose the old English approximation that often distorts an understanding of the wonderful poetry. But in whatever language, the women sang gloriously, with articulation seldom heard in the roulades of “Wolcum Yole!” and the long descending lines of “In Freezing Winter Night” that challenge any choir’s breath control. Soprano Claire Fedoruk and mezzo soprano Drea Pressley both suffered momentary technical lapses in their “Spring Carol” duet. Ms. Leighton continues to conduct with a style more appropriate for a chorus of thousands, as though attempting to impress. “Ceremony” doesn’t require lots of arm waving. Harpist JoAnn Turovsky was well appreciated after her deliberate, introspective “Interlude” solo.

Stephen Paulus’s “Christmas Dances” comes assembled in four sections: Break Forth, Methinks I hear the Heavins <sic> Resound, The Nativity of Our Lord, and On the Nativity of Our Savior. The music varies widely while employing a rich variety of forces. Mr. Paulus suffered a major stroke during the summer past, and is still comatose.

Encores included a very witty John Rutter version of “Deck the Halls” followed by a schmaltzy “White Christmas” (yes, the Master Chorale can sing schmaltz!) and concluding with Maestro Gershon abdicating the podium to stand amidst his singers while warbling “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”

Photos courtesy of David Johnston and from Wikipedia sources

West Side Story, San Francisco to Tanglewood

By Erica Miner

The day Leonard Bernstein died, a sense of gut-wrenching loss pervaded the musical world. Anyone who had watched and listened to his extraordinary music making could not help but be affected by his passion and reverence for music. Those of us lucky enough to have known and worked with him and availed ourselves of his wisdom, still hold deep affection and respect for him, along with a feeling that we have been blessed many times over.

According to journalist Peter Gutmann (, “No musician in the history of America touched so many people so deeply and in so many ways… Hailed as a hero, Bernstein was able to popularize the classics in a way that no previous musician had ever done. An entire generation of Americans was drawn to great music through his television shows… Whatever he did was with his whole heart. Anyone who attended a Bernstein concert left feeling profound wonder not only of music, but also of life itself.”

Many others have documented the greatness of Bernstein through hundreds, if not thousands, of quotes. Celebrated Russian writer Boris Pasternak, upon greeting “Lenny” after a 1959 Moscow concert, said: “You have taken us up to heaven, now we must return to earth. I’ve never felt so close to the aesthetic truth. When I hear you I know why you were born.” Gutmann’s quote from a jaded music veteran embodies Bernstein’s contagious attitude toward music: “When he gets up on the podium, he makes me remember why I wanted to become a musician.”

Bernstein himself said: “Life without music is unthinkable. Music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace… I can do things in the performance of music that if I did on an ordinary street would land me in jail. I can get rid of all kinds of tensions and hostilities. By the time I come to the end of Beethoven's Fifth, I'm a new man.”

At the end of any Bernstein performance, whether listening or performing, we all felt renewed.

I count myself among those fortunate souls whose lives Lenny touched personally. Mesmerized and captivated by his Saturday morning Young People’s Concerts, I found myself less than two decades later gazing worshipfully at him from the front of the first violin section of the Tanglewood Music Center (then called the Berkshire Music Center) Orchestra, able to capture his every gesture, mannerism and raise of the eyebrow like lightning in the bottle of my mind. Studying and performing Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony with Lenny was an unforgettable experience; being married to one of Lenny’s conducting students allowed me extra personal time with our great maestro, hanging out in his conducting classes, chatting with him after rehearsals, and even being invited on rides around the Tanglewood grounds in his huge boat of a car. A few years later, as a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, I was ecstatic to again have the privilege and delight of working with Leonard Bernstein.

From the moment Jerome Robbins burst into Lenny’s tiny studio apartment in the Carnegie Hall building in 1943 with the idea for a ballet about three sailors on leave in New York City, Robbins became a major force in Lenny’s life. But in 1949 when Robbins proposed a contemporized version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the trajectory of Lenny’s career changed irrevocably. Even now, almost fifty-six years after West Side Story debuted on Broadway, hardly a day goes by without a performance of this beloved work taking place somewhere in the world, in professional, school, or amateur versions. This past summer I attended two astonishing productions of this masterpiece: a live concert version of the entire Broadway symphonic score, with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Concert Hall; and another at Tanglewood with David Newman and the Boston Symphony Orchestra accompanying a screening of the 1961 film. Each version was very different, and each was uniquely satisfying to witness.

Maestro Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are the first musical entity to have received permission from all four West Side Story rights holders (the estates of Bernstein, Robbins, Laurents and Sondheim) to perform the complete music to the work in a live concert setting with live singers. This groundbreaking world premiere consisted of all the music from the original Broadway show, in an orchestration identical to the one used by the Broadway pit orchestra during the work’s debut in 1957. As evident from the photo, this orchestration does not include violas. [All SFSO photos courtesy of Jessica Vosk]

 As legend has it, Bernstein was not enamored of the quality of the violists at the Winter Garden Theatre, but Musicians’ Union rules required him to employ the whole compliment of players. Bernstein got around the rule simply by leaving out the violas from the orchestration and doubling the inner voices with violins and cellos. He had not only a brilliant mind but also a clever one!

I was fortunate to attend Opening Night and parts of four other sold-out performances of the San Francisco run. Thus I was able to study the brilliant Bernstein score, an absolute thrill to hear live, in amazing detail, and to acquaint myself with the gifted young cast, several of whom I met personally. These youthful singers impressed me with their formidable talent, exuberant energy, and infectious enthusiasm, and more than once their performances brought tears to my eyes.

In the cast, Cheyenne Jackson, who has become known for his work in Broadway’s Xanadu and TV’s Glee and 30 Rock, gave a dramatically captivating and musically satisfying rendering of the leading role of Tony. His Maria, Alexandra Silber, complemented his exuberance with vocal loveliness and a dramatically touching performance. Their two voices blended perfectly. Jessica Vosk (Anita) steamed up the stage with her fiery, dynamite sensuality, outstanding voice and impressive ability to project every word. (It was refreshing to hear the original “As long as he’s hot” lyrics restored from the film version.) Kevin Vortmann’s gorgeous baritone gave a human element to the role of Jets leader Riff, and Kelly Markgraf’s Bernardo blazed with intensity. As “A Girl” performing the goose-bump producing “Somewhere,” Julia Bullock used her Juilliard-trained operatic voice to striking advantage. The opening Jets chorus rocked the house, electrifying the audience and setting the tone for a series of performances that increased in intensity over the run.

As Bernstein’s most prominent protégé, Maestro Tilson Thomas’s affinity for his mentor’s music was in clear evidence at any given moment, from serious to swinging, emphasizing contrasts in mood and paying special attention to the wide spectrum of percussion instruments that Bernstein included in his carefully wrought score. Adding to the excitement of Opening Night, Rita Moreno was in attendance to cheer on the cast, especially her “Anita” counterpart, Jessica Vosk. Having sprained her ankle that day, Moreno tooled around in a wheelchair, but that did not cramp her style; she was as ebullient as ever, and her presence was a true inspiration to the young singers.

 These thrilling San Francisco Symphony performances were recorded live for a CD release in 2014. I plan on being among the first in line to purchase one.

On July 13, conductor David Newman and the Boston Symphony Orchestra gave the first-ever live Tanglewood performance of the complete Bernstein film score and screening of West Side Story to a capacity audience at the Shed. Bernstein’s ties to Tanglewood are profound. Since his student days in Serge Koussevitzky’s first conducting class at the Music Center in 1940, Lenny remained a constant presence, inspiring students and audiences alike with his love of music and commitment to teaching future generations to honor the noblest of arts.

The film, shown on multiple big screens in the Shed and on the lawn, was screened with innovative formatting, courtesy of MGM Studios, which digitally restored in High Definition the original United Artists print, revealing details that had been lost over the decades. Curious as to how the vocals and dialogue could be played through the Tanglewood sound system, while the live Boston Symphony replaced the original orchestra soundtrack, I learned that this was done with a new source-separation technology, developed by high-tech firms Chace Audio in Burbank and Paris-based Audionamix. The software isolates the vocal tracks while digitally extracting the original orchestra track, thus allowing for the film to be accompanied by the full compliment of BSO players. The result was a luxurious melding of top-notch film making with the extraordinary sound of a first-rate orchestra.

In addition to the above challenges, the original musical materials for the film score had been lost. The fantastic team at the Leonard Bernstein Office in New York, which included senior vice president Paul Epstein, senior music editor Garth Edwin Sunderland, and associate producer Eleonor Sandresky, looked high and low for the film music. After an exhaustive search, they finally discovered the original score in the private collections of Johnny Green, the film’s conductor, at Columbia University; and of the film’s original director, Robert Wise, at the University of Southern California. Working tirelessly to capture Bernstein’s original intent for the film music, a whole new score was created from those materials, restoring and adapting the 465-page orchestration for live performance, including the entire end-credit music. A new engraving of the score included extra percussion, saxophones, guitar and mandolin, as well as “screech” trumpets, whose “rock the house” wailing whipped the audience into frenzy.

Classically trained veteran Hollywood conductor and composer Newman, who conducted the premiere of this version in 2011 with the New York Philharmonic for the fiftieth anniversary of the film’s debut, assessed the work as the score progressed.

Newman’s appreciation of the unique mélange of musical theater, classical symphonic and operatic composition, pop, Latin and other elements, showed in his interpretation of the Bernstein score. His job was complicated: synchronizing the live orchestra with the film necessitated wearing headphones playing a click track, plus the use of a small monitor near the podium with a moving color-coded light bar to indicate the film’s starts and stops and cues, while simultaneously conducting a one hundred-piece orchestra. No small feat, but Newman carried it off with expertise and aplomb, giving the music a chance to shine. 

Bernstein’s youngest daughter, Nina Bernstein Simmons, who attended the performance, felt the resulting score was much as her father would have intended, and that the new live-orchestra version of his work would have thrilled him. Her introduction to the capacity audience just after the intermission, along with four of the original Jets and Sharks from the film, provided an extra element of excitement in an already exhilarating evening. For those who missed this remarkable event, the performance will be repeated in February of 2014, at Symphony Hall in Boston.

After five-plus decades West Side Story continues to thrill audiences with its captivating interpretation of a classic story. Its profound emotional impact has only deepened over the years. The two versions of the piece that I witnessed left me breathless, each in its own distinctive way. As I became increasingly familiar with the details of this dazzling work, dramatized so effectively with young performers of yesterday and today, I developed a heightened awareness of the scope of Bernstein’s genius.

With the sounds of Lenny’s timeless music still resounding in my ears, I not only came away from the experience with a renewed appreciation of his brilliant score, but also with a new bottom line to Shakespeare’s immortal story:

If you want to avoid trouble, don’t give your daughter a bedroom with a balcony.