- Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- Conductor: Barry Wordsworth
- Composer: Leonard Bernstein
- Audio CD (23 Jun. 2003)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Warner Classics
- ASIN: B00009RAG4
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 303,307 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Bernstein: West Side Story
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All-star 1993 recording of Leonard Bernstein’s perennial favourite, West Side Story, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, from a book by Arthur Laurents. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Barry Wordsworth are joined by a cast including Michael Ball as Tony, Barbara Bonney as Maria and La Verne Williams as Anita. West Side Story, the contemporary musical loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was originally a hit show that opened on Broadway in 1957, won a Tony Award and had a first run of 732 performances. It has been performed all over the world and is one of the most popular musicals of all time. "The men of the RPO chorus sound both authentic and spirited, with their fellow musicians they turn Gee officer, Krupke! into a cracking ensemble ideally paced by their conductor, Barry Wordsworth." Gramophone "Barbara Bonney is a charming and vivacious Maria, whom it is easy to imagine picking up the guitar in the accompaniment to I feel pretty, and playing it in just such a fashion. Her voice... is well matched by the sumptuous mezzo of La Verne Williams as Anita; the two of them are at their finest in the tempestuous A boy like that and its serene follow-on, I have love." Gramophone
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Michael Ball and Barbara Bonney play the doomed lovers Tony and Maria. Ball, a musical theatre veteran, easily slips into the material and performs it handsomely. Barbara Bonney, an opera singer best-known for her peerless Mozart soprano roles, seems a little unsteady treading in a different style of music (but the role of Maria is quite suited to an operatic soprano voice). On the whole, Ball and Bonney make quite a team and the recording flatters them both immensely.
LaVerne Williams, mezzo soprano, again displays why it's sometimes very hard for an opera singer to try adapting their voices to another genre of music. The role of Anita is written and best performed by a fiery belter, not the tranquil mezzo that Ms Williams uses on this recording. "America" comes across as a whisper rather than a scream, and "A Boy Like That", grief-stricken Anita's verbal attack on Maria, is not all that it could have been.
This recording features quite a lot of the dance and ballet music, and some snippets of dialogue to indicate the progression of the story. This is arguably Leonard Bernstein's greatest gift to the musical theatre, filled with haunting and sweeping melodies, coupled with Stephen Sondheim's earliest of lyrics.
Although it's not the best recording of the score, you could do a lot worse than this WEST SIDE STORY.