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Leonard Bernstein Conducts "West Side Story" (1985)

Leonard Bernstein , Kiri Te Kanawa , Christopher Swann  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)


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DVD 1-Disc Version $24.96  
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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: Color, NTSC, HiFi Sound, Subtitled
  • Language: English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: January 29, 2002
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005UDFZ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,185 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Leonard Bernstein Conducts "West Side Story"" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Filmed in 1984, the feature-length documentary Leonard Bernstein Conducts "West Side Story" follows the composer as he records the first-ever complete recording of his musical-theater masterpiece. 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 program alternates rehearsal footage with complete final takes of the main numbers--including "Tonight," "America," and "Maria"--with limited comments 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, and weary. This is a fascinating insight into what happens as a major album is recorded. --Gary S. Dalkin

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bernstein and Carreras at their magnificent best November 21, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This 1984 behind the scenes look at Bernstein's first recording of his classic score, West Side Story, is a real treat. The singers he assembled were an eclectic mix: Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos and Jose Carreras, among others. The latter may have seemed an odd choice for the role of Tony, but vocally this character has never been better interpreted. Less successful is Te Kanawa, who overdoes her Puerto Rican accent, ignoring Bernstein's plea for "the merest hint of Puerto Rican-ness".
The video takes the viewer through preliminary rehearsals in Bernstein's apartment, interviews with the singers and Bernstein, and finally the recording studio. More than anything else, it conveys the joys and frustrations of making a recording with the composer himself conducting, and the programme does not shrink from showing temper tantrums from both Bernstein and Carreras (who storms out of the studio at one point, cursing "Ma porco in Dio!")
Bernstein's energy, creativity, anguish and love of life are evident in every scene, and this is often a moving study of a towering musical figure.
Among the singers Jose Carreras steals the show, singing the demanding "Maria" in a performance that is both poetic and powerful. He sings a magnificent High B flat on the word "MAria!" and then ends the song on a melting falsetto. This is the Carreras of yore, and he is unforgettable.
Forget the off-key singing in the movie version of this classic - this is the real thing, with the maestro himself in charge.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Geniuses at work October 13, 2005
Format:DVD
Almost a year ago I was away on a one week photo workshop. After a few days our teacher treated us to this dvd while saying that "this is to show you that real artists also struggle to achieve what they want. They are not merely superstars that always can deliver at the tip of a hat".......... The film started and we watched the great ensemble of artists giving their all to get the best possible result out of the recording sessions. I have to say it was kind of encouraging for me to watch and to hearing a voice saying "take 132" while the great artists are getting ready to record. It shows that no man is infallible. We're getting a really interesting glimpse into how things are working when an artist is recording an album. I was sitting there watching and then came the clip where Carreras is singing Maria and my mouth just fell wide open. Something went "click" in my head and it's possible that my heart skipped a beat too and I was completely hooked on this absolutely beautiful voice. The first thing I did when returning back home was to order a copy of this dvd and then I started checking out José Carreras and at the moment I'm the proud and delighted owner of a substantial opera collection - all of them of course with Carreras singing the tenor role.

This dvd is showing us clips from rehearsals and recording sessions as well as some brief comments from the singers about how they feel about working with Bernstein; Troyanos and Te Kanawa are talking about their "connection" to the music of West Side Story and of course we have the more or less (in)famous episode where Carreras is cut of in the middle of "Maria" and someone is saying that this was the end of the session and they have to continue the next day.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Boffo Production! October 20, 2005
Format:DVD
This video is one of the most amazing performances i've ever witnessed. This behind the scenes look at recording one of the best musicals ever with a high voltage cast shows the whole creative, artistic process at work. Some egos are bruised along the way, tempers flare, but it is obvious that everyone wants this to work-and it does. The music is timeless and never sounded better. The interplay between Mr. Bernstein and the cast is fascinating, particularly between him and Mr. Carreras.

Mr. Carreras stumbling over the word "coming" -he never did get it right-finally led to his storming off the set uttering epithets in Spanish! But he prevailed in the end, hitting a burnished, softly held "Maria" that would raise the hairs on anyones neck. Overall, a very fine performance by all involved

including a "pick up" orchestra that could hold it's own with

anyone. I highly recommend this video. You'll smile when you hear it!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but... May 29, 2002
Format:DVD
This is an excellent DVD. I however was expecting what I had seen a few years back on PBS. In that version there was far more tension between Carreras and Bernstein. Carreras, whom I believe had just found out he had leukaemia, walked out in the middle of rehearsal after Bernstein picked him apart. Although there is not all that tension present in this DVD, it is still a good look inside the making of this recording. Watching the performance of the singers, musicians, and Bernstein is a far better treat then just listening to them on a CD. I do believe it has been whitewashed by removing a lot of the tense moments which is why I didn't give it 5 stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Geniuses at work October 15, 2005
Format:DVD
Almost a year ago I was away on a one week photo workshop. After a few days our teacher treated us to this dvd while saying that "this is to show you that real artists also struggle to achieve what they want. They are not merely superstars that always can deliver at the tip of a hat".......... The film started and we watched the great ensemble of artists giving their all to get the best possible result out of the recording sessions. I have to say it was kind of encouraging for me to watch and to hearing a voice saying "take 132" while the great artists are getting ready to record. It shows that no man is infallible. We're getting a really interesting glimpse into how things are working when an artist is recording an album. I was sitting there watching and then came the clip where Carreras is singing Maria and my mouth just fell wide open. Something went "click" in my head and it's possible that my heart skipped a beat too and I was completely hooked on this absolutely beautiful voice. The first thing I did when returning back home was to order a copy of this dvd and then I started checking out José Carreras and at the moment I'm the proud and delighted owner of a substantial opera collection - all of them of course with Carreras singing the tenor role.

This dvd is showing us clips from rehearsals and recording sessions as well as some brief comments from the singers about how they feel about working with Bernstein; Troyanos and Te Kanawa are talking about their "connection" to the music of West Side Story and of course we have the more or less (in)famous episode where Carreras is cut of in the middle of "Maria" and someone is saying that this was the end of the session and they have to continue the next day.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Requested by Deutsch Grammophone for 25th anniversary.
most energetic Bernstein jumping while conducting...then he told the strings
to put the Latin accent on the section. Read more
Published 4 months ago by beverly stanford schaile
1.0 out of 5 stars The Most Awful Songs I've Ever Heard
Awful - awful - awful.

Holy ___, is it awful!

The maestro slashes and trashes his masterpiece with vocal butcher knives. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kenneth Blum
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the scenes
I watched this DVD many times over. My regret is that after I purchase my second copy , I dropped it scratching the CD rendering it unplayable.
Published 7 months ago by Bob
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful inside view of a fabulous performance
As one who often felt that West Side Story was just a bit shy of being an opera, it is wonderful to see it made into one ... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bichael
5.0 out of 5 stars It's West Side Story---That says it all!
This is a replacement for my original which I wore out! That should tell you how much I enjoy this.
Published 10 months ago by Curious but Cautious
5.0 out of 5 stars Never get tired of this music
I love the behind the scenes feeling you get with this recording. Leonard Bernstein up close and personal. A must for West Side Story fans.
Published 12 months ago by Robert J Mosley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great musical!
I perfect condition as well. I'm a big fan of Bernstein and this DVD is a welcome addition to my collection.
Published 14 months ago by John Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars a must
To see young Jose Carreras and Kiri as tey are tutored by Bernstein is ajoy to behold. Especially when Jose's timing is off!
Published 15 months ago by gene pytel
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into the mind of Bernstein
It was wonderful to see Bernstein working with the performers to produce this recording. What a musical genius. The candid interactions are fascinating.
Published 21 months ago by tomzid
5.0 out of 5 stars Any West Side Story fan would LOVE this DVD
Being a life-long West Side Story fan, I was only able to view this documentary in pieces on YouTube. Read more
Published on December 21, 2011 by MelissaT.
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