August 25, 1918 - October 14, 1990
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was educated at Boston Latin and Harvard University. He was a noted pianist, conductor and composer.
As a composer he wrote music for orchestra, chorus, ballet, chamber ensembles, band & wind ensembles as well as solo voice. Bernstein contributed substantially to the Broadway musical stage, the operatic stage as well as the cinema. His music encompasses sacred and secular, serious and humorous. But perhaps his Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic stand among his greatest achievements. These televised programs introduced an entire generation to the joys of classical music. Bernstein led a total of fifty-three Young People's Concerts over fourteen years, and covered a broad range of subjects. All of the programs were broadcast live, so there was no chance of editing out mistakes. Originally broadcast on Saturday mornings, the programs were considered so important that for three glorious years CBS presented them at 7:30 p.m. (prime time for television viewing). Eventually the programs were moved to Sunday afternoons. The concerts were translated into other languages and syndicated to forty countries.
Bernstein taught and performed at Tanglewood in Lenox Massachusetts virtually every summer for fifty years. His 70th birthday celebration took place at Tanglewood, where many of the world's greatest musicians assembled for an unprecedented tribute. When the Tanglewood grounds expanded several years ago, the new campus was named for him. And it was at Tanglewood, two months before his death in 1990, that Bernstein conducted his last concert. Bernstein always delighted in working with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood; but it was teaching that energized him most. Just as Koussevitzky had inspired him in the 1940s, for more than forty years, Bernstein inspired countless young conductors and musicians who studied and played under his tutelage.
We are pleased to present a smorgasbord of Leonard Bernstein. The first half of our program presents some of his sacred music and then some of his famous and not so famous secular pieces composed for the theatre stage. Our second half presents Trouble in Tahiti, a chamber opera satirizing America's 'comfortable' suburbia of the 1950's. It was premiered in Waltham, MA in June 12, 1952. This opera is a biting commentary on the emptiness of materialistic values and the false promise of suburban comforts. Inspired by jazz and American musical comedy the score was a path-breaking fusion of lyric art with popular entertainment, and a masterpiece about love shipwrecked in suburbia. Bernstein's notes in his score are explicit on how the production should be delivered. "Simplicity of execution should be the keynote throughout." All performers "should avoid stock gestures, especially of the operatic variety. The acting should come from within, through the music. The chief consideration is diction. Every word and idea must be projected clearly, especially since there is no 'plot' in the ordinary sense, and very little 'action.' If the words are not heard, there is no opera." Bernstein was clearly attempting to break away from the standard operatic performance techniques so common during the 1950's, which unfortunately so many people perceive as still being the norm today. A revolutionary idea for a 35 year old! We have worked hard to be respectful of Bernstein's wishes in our production.