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The Making Of West Side Story [DVD] [2005]

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Leonard Bernstein, Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, Tatiana Troyanos, Kurt Ollmann
  • Directors: Christopher Swann
  • Producers: Humphrey Burton, Thomas Skinner
  • Format: Classical, DVD-Video, PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish, German, French, Chinese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: 11 July 2005
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009DBXXG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,417 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

An award winning look at the making of the recording of West Side Story, as Leonard Bernstein had originally wanted it to be. Performances from Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos, Jose Carreras, and the Kurt Ollmann Chorus and Orchestra.

From Amazon.co.uk

Filmed in 1984 for the BBC, the feature-length documentary Leonard Bernstein conducts West Side Story follows the composer through one week as he records the first-ever complete album of his musical theatre masterpiece. (The previous Broadway cast and original soundtrack albums had both been cut down to single LP length.) Virtually the entire documentary takes place in a New York recording studio with a pick-up orchestra, session singers and headliners Kiri Te Kanawa (Maria), José Carreras (Tony), Tatiana Troyanos (Anita) and Kurt Ollmann (Riff). The 89-minute programme alternates rehearsal footage with complete final takes of the main numbers--including "Tonight", "America", and "Maria"--with a limited amount of comment from the principal players. Te Kanawa explains how much the music means to her, Troyanos notes how she grew-up in the very streets depicted on stage and Carreras provides a rare moment of tension when a session ends unsatisfactorily. Bernstein himself is by turns commanding, charming, enthusiastic or weary. For anyone wanting an extensive insight into what happens as a major album is recorded this is fascinating, though others who just want to enjoy the wonderful music will be better served by the resultant two-CD set.

On the DVD: Though filmed for British television, Deutsche Grammophon have chosen to release a single region-free (Region 0) DVD for the entire world. Unfortunately this means the disc is in NTSC format rather than PAL, and requires an NTSC-compatible television for playback. It also means that while the sound has been effectively remastered for PCM stereo the picture shows all the signs of a bad NTSC copy--weak, washed-out colours and poor definition with a serious lack of detail. Most videos are far better. The DVD has subtitles in German, French, Spanish and Chinese. There are no extras, though the booklet adapts an interesting article by producer Humphrey Burton which originally appeared in Gramophone magazine in 1985.--Gary S Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Apart from the actual picture and audio quality not being wonderful on this DVD, the actual content, which is what it is here for, is awesome. Bernstein gets slated a lot for being too harsh on people, or a bully, nothing could be further from the truth. I work in this field full time and Bernstein's approach can defiantly be termed "old school" but not too harsh by any means. As for Jose Carreras being bullied by Bernstein? Hardly. Carreras didn't do his homework, plain and simple, the fact that "Something's coming" had to have take after take and Jose was still unaware that he was miles ahead of the orchestra is proof if proof were needed. Don't get me wrong, I love Carreras, he was just totally unprepared for what was expected of him.
This is a fantastic documentary of one of the all time great works, conducted by a man of immeasurable talent and ability. A true gem that is becoming less and less likely to be repeated in the world these days. If you are worried about the poor quality of the picture then I wouldn't bother with this DVD, if however you want an insight into genius in progress, then dig in!
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The musical West Side Story is a classic of the 1950's and the late Maestro Bernstein was quite justly very proud of it.This very important musical milestone of the conductor/composer recording for the very first and last time his own work is marred by this extremely eye wateringly difficult to watch video transfer to DVD.I will not comment on the content as it speaks for itself and you are either a devotee of Bernstein or you can't stand him but which ever camp you are in, I personally feel cheated with this DVD. As other reviewers have stated,the picture quality is awful and has done the reputation of those responsible for producing such a bad DVD no good at all.As a documentary it speaks the truth so surely it was worth remastering and enhancing the picture to an acceptably high enough standard for modern day public expectations. I was very disappointed with this DVD having expected a marked improvement from the video shown on television in 1985.I think the live pictures of the moon landings of July 1969 were of a better standard than this and it is such a pity.

If you do choose to buy it - Happy viewing and listening !
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To watch this expecting 2011 sound and picture quality will only disappoint; technology in 1984 was pre-digital, pre- a lot of current advances but what can not be bettered are the performances from some of the world's best musicians and singers, all under the baton of the composer of the piece, "West Side Story", the musical which lives to inspire, bringing Shakespeare to the stage too and all that his story of "Romeo and Juliet" means.
This DVD, set in the high-tension of the recording studio, is full of the marvellous moments one would expect watching a brilliant conductor/composer bringing out the best from exceptional musicians. When he does not get it, he tells them. To Jose Carrera, it is just a shrug of the shoulders, a puzzled look and a hand to the ear when his expected entry does not happen. When the the male singers in "Officer Krupke" get it just right, he dances and smiles on the podium. As the note-perfect Kiri Te Kanawa inspires as Maria, he shuts his eyes and savours the moment. She later said it was like Beethoven or Tchaikovsky returning, the tempo and dynamics just right. (I think she meant it as a compliment, not as an observation on Lennie's somewhat tired and drained appearance, especially as the days wear on and the problems of studio time affect the performances.)
For anyone who likes Bernstein, "West Side Story", Carrera, Te Kanawa and others, this is a must.

I recommend that you sit back and enjoy it.
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Its 25 years since I first saw this film following the release of the CD, and seeing it again reminds us all what an absolute genius Bernstein was. He was a brilliant composer, pianist,conductor and authority on every genre of music. Watching him rehearse the orchestra and manage the egos of the soloists in this film is an education in itself. How lucky they were to be able to tell their families and friends that they worked with Bernstein, and on his own composition, which as he says himself, is still as fresh as when he composed it in the 1950's. For anyone who thinks today's performers have the 'X Factor' they want to see this and think again!
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To watch this particular film is to be taken on a journey sometimes humorous,sometimes heart touching into the inner sanctums of who can only be described as a musical genius of our time,Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein was one of the few composers who was able to cross musical thresholds and fuse together different aspects, tonal variables and extreme styles of music in such a dynamic melodic way utilising a whole cross section of the musical spectrum. The film introduces us to the moods temprements and sheer focus Leonard portrayed in everyday activity while inside the studio bringing together at short notice from availability in New york at the time, a contracted pickup orchestra and choosing to work with established Opera singers. Jose Carreras struggles with his english and vowel sounds while Kiri Tekanawa struggles with the air conditioning,which dries out her throat a lot of the time. there is an outstanding perormance by the up and coming Kurt Ollman as leader of the Jets,though himself an opera singer, his performance breathes flexible air into the gang songs. Clearly this was a big challenge for Leonard to work with opera voices in an other wise very different musical work which he was first to admit he'd never conducted before in his life,even though he'd written it!. Te kanawa clearly struggles with aspects of the 'Maria' song delivery, and in my own view despite the ultimate lyrical qualities of her immortal voice does not 'cut it' in West Side Story music.I'm sure Leonard with his temprement and inner understanding of the requirement would argue this, wheras Carreras despite the problems with his intonation really projects Tony's ballads and once he was settled into a 'take'was giving the ultimate performance.Read more ›
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