10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still great after all these years
I believe that WEST SIDE STORY is the greatest American musical. Period.I have been listneing to it all my life, I have performed these songs many times, I have been in a production of it that lasted 2 years of my life. I know every version there is of it on disc. I have to say, I love them all, and what always amazes me, is how fresh and up to date the music sounds in...
Published on September 30, 2007 by S. W. V. Cott
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment
West Side Story is one of my favorite Broadway musical scores, and I was looking forward to listening to this recording. What a disappointment! The Prologue starts off wrong by omitting the signature whistle signal of the Jets that is so captivating. The Jet Song is horrid, with an insertion by the Jets gang that sounds like chorus boys from The Producers doing a gig in...
Published on October 16, 2007 by West Sider
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)West Side Story is one of my favorite Broadway musical scores, and I was looking forward to listening to this recording. What a disappointment! The Prologue starts off wrong by omitting the signature whistle signal of the Jets that is so captivating. The Jet Song is horrid, with an insertion by the Jets gang that sounds like chorus boys from The Producers doing a gig in Las Vegas. The two principals have fine voices, but the casting is totally mixed up. Hayley Westenra as Maria has a lovely American accent, while Vittorio Grigolo as Tony has an operatic Italian accent. So in listening to the recording, you basically have to pretend that Maria (or should I say Mary) is the native-born, and Tony (short for Anton, or should I say Antonio) is the immigrant. Thankfully Anita and the Sharks gang carry themselves well enough. If you want to enjoy a recording of West Side Story, I guess you need to stick to the original cast. Listening to this makes me want to move to the East Side!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still great after all these years,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)I believe that WEST SIDE STORY is the greatest American musical. Period.I have been listneing to it all my life, I have performed these songs many times, I have been in a production of it that lasted 2 years of my life. I know every version there is of it on disc. I have to say, I love them all, and what always amazes me, is how fresh and up to date the music sounds in each of those versions. It doesn't matter how often you hear this music, it always moves ones heart and delights the intellect as well.
This new recording is a bit odd, in that it comes at you in random order. NOT in the order of the show. If you have performed the show, that just messes with your mind. The orchestra is wonderful though, and the recording is high quality, so you can get over that. Some of the tempos are very slow, and obviously meant for a listening audience that would not be watching dance moves on stage. People just can't DANCE that slow, guys.
TONY TONY...is WONDERFUL. Maria is a bit weak, Anita is strong but is a bit over classical for that role in my taste. If you love this show. If this show is special to you, get this album and pick your favorite parts. If you are a beginner with this piece and would like a nice recording of it,,,I would suggest the original broadway recording of 50 years ago. If you can get through it without getting goose bumps...well, I can't help you there.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype!,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)What a disappointment! I recently purchased this much-vaunted anniversary album and I'm sorry to say it will go into my archive after one play, never to see the light of day again. Talk about a dead performance - from everyone concerned. There is no life in the orchestra : sure, they are note-perfect, but you can practically hear them counting their beats. Not what is needed for one of Braodway's greatest shows. Hayley Westenra as Maria has a nice voice and is well able for the range, but without any show experience delivers a bland, uninteresting performance. Vittorio Grigolo as Tony should not have crossed over from opera. His accent would be more suited to one of the Sharks! Melanie Marshall as Anita is the recording's only saving grace - but not enough to save the show!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good experience!,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)I purchased 2 CD's - West Side Story and Vittorio - I have discovered the wonderful tenor Vittorio Grigolo. West Side Story is the new recording of the musical where Toni is sung by Vittorio Grigolo. The CD's came after a few days, and I am enjoying them very much.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New dimensions for a timeless score,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)As a Hayley Westenra fan, I didn't exactly come into this unbiased. She is indeed in top form, and for one trying this kind of performance for the first time, genuinely amazing. I was expecting to be put off by the international cast and the "wrong" accents, but let's face it - opera has been doing this as far back as any of us can remember and no one complains. West Side Story is timeless and every bit as much of a classic in every sense as Carmen or La Boheme. These are classic, though not purist, performances, and they are very, very good. I especially appreciate the orchestra's adherence to the score. Too often in revivals the perpetrators seem to think they can improve on the score/orchestration and end up butchering it instead. Not so here. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recording, but I certainly don't intend to toss out the others.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hayley and Vittorio...a match made in heaven!,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)I do like the original, but musically speaking, this recording is far superior. To start with, the two young leads have amazing voices. The first Tony and Maria were adequate, but not excellent. Kiri Te Kawana and Jose Carreras have excellent voices, but they sound too mature for the role of the teenage lovers. Hayley Westenra and Vittorio Grigolo are both young AND accomplished, and they bring such beauty and passion to the roles Tony and Maria.
The rest of the cast is great too. In fact, I wasn't expecting to like "The Jet Song" or "Cool," but Will Martin's compelling tough but strong trained voice brings real life to the Riff character, and I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job of it. Another standout is Connie Fisher's incredible performance of "Somewhere."
The only reason for criticism of this magnificent album would be the international cast. None of the singers are American (Vittorio Grigolo is Italian, Will Martin and Hayley Westenra are from New Zealand and Connie Fisher is Welsh, I believe.) Personally, I don't have a problem with Vittorio's accent, I think it's kind of cute, but the "real" Tony wouldn't have one. Hayley doesn't look or sound Puerto Rican either. Oh well. These singers were chosen for their vocal abilities, not for their nationality.
This is a classy yet accessible version of this famous musical. Everyone did a fantastic job, and I'm sure I'll listen to it again and again in years to come. Of the three major recordings of "West Side Story" that I have heard, this is the one I like best. The main reason I like it best is because Hayley and Vittorio who have such natural yet technically perfect voices; truly a match made in heaven!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Echoes of a great show.,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)The energy, sound recording and ensemble makes this wonderful recording a must for West Side Story lovers. However, the lead lady, who is usually known for her pop singing, does not have the voice quality to match the lead male, whose voice is superb. To lift the sound of her voice to an acceptable quality, the sound engineer employed much too much echo or reverberation. It sounds odd when mixed freely with other voices that don't have the same treatment. It becomes really annoying in some songs. Luckily it does not spoil the bulk of the music on the CD, which I fully recommend.
1.0 out of 5 stars One long, sorry mistake,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)If you have to have it, at least buy one of the three dollar used copies and save yourself some money. I gave it one star because you're required to. There isn't an option for no stars. I can only think with Mr. Bernstein gone, Mr. Sondheim & Mr. Laurents either had no say in the matter or just took the check and looked the other way. I've heard and seen better high school productions of West Side Story and that's not hyperbole. It take fire and heart to sing and play this score and it's not to be found on this recording.
10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment is right!,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)I am familiar with the original cast, the film cast (not sung by Natalie Wood but by Marnie Nixon), the Deutsche Grammophon recording of Kiri Te Kanawa and Carreras and some other productions but I must say that even by listening to the samples presented in Amazon's "listen to samples" option, THIS IS A BAD recording of the Bernstein classic. One has to understand that this is a groundbreaking piece of musical -- reasons: it employed the unpredictable musical tones, dynamics and tempo of Bernstein, heard in his compositions of "American" music but incorporated in musical theater -- itself an American created art form; second, being a musical, it still calls for drama and therefore, third, the audience should demand to hear something emotionally driven but fresh. We want the singers NOT just to sing but ACT!!! So far, this is the driest, most unsatisfying and sorriest interpretation of Bernstein's great innovative work.
Tony. Being an a second generation American (I presume that it was his parents who were born in Poland...) still should sound American. If not, Polish perhaps? But not Italian. But that is minor...Carreras was Spanish... But if one listens to Carreras in the 1984 recording, he may not sound right with his accent, but one can appreciate the acting still though dry it may be. Maestro Bernstein DRILLED him in singing his lines during the recording of the DG West Side Story. I think we still have to see the tenor of this recording be drilled by Bernstein (unfortunate that he has passed away) or by someone similar just to know the complexities of the role of Tony. It has to have passion and drama manifested in the syncopation of the notes. Carreras has difficulty in noting the timing of "Something's Coming", this one has probably sung it with timing but definitely without the enthusiasm of the piece. In other words, make be believe that SOMETHING is COMING.
Maria. Dry as a desert. One is not singing a lullaby which this one sounds like what she is doing. Rather -- sing us your sweetness with a yearning to break free from family traditions and to be ready to just dedicate yourself to LOVE your man. She sounds like she's singing a light ballad to make one go to sleep. Her voice is pretty but not what I expect or even want for the work.
Orchestra -- no excitement. Sounds like a metronome -- one two three four, one two three four...despite the calls for syncopation.
Listen to the DG version for the Orchestration because it was DEMANDED by Bernstein. Listen to the Original Cast for Tony (sung by the late Larry Kert -- a fine voice crystal clear....). Listen to Rita Moreno for her vicious portrayal of Anita and Marnie Nixon as Maria (it was not sung by Natalie Wood although she was tried but did not have the right vocal range and strength) in the film version.
There is no single great recording of West Side Story and each past recording as its own flaws. One thing is certain: this is not great at all.
...NOW FOR AN EPILOGUE... for the comment that states that I was basing my review on the "listen to samples" section of Amazon, I was able to buy the CD finally after being offered on a 75% reduction of the original price. I still have not made any changes on my opinion not as a matter of pride, rather, it only confirmed what I have always thought. The Orchestra was heavy and treats the musical with so much drama, it drags...a Mahler interpretation of the Jazz American work. The Riff character does not do jazz syncopation very well (lacking in lilt) just as the Tony character; although both have good voices. They both have potential. I do agree with the accent of Tony -- reminds me of the Te Kanawa-Carreras-Bernstein recording -- although I think it is a minor setback compared to its lack of anticipation inherent in portrayal of Tony (Somethings Coming...). It needs lightness where the lightness is due and drama when it is called for.
But the biggest disappointment is STILL Maria. She (conversely) lacks the accent, cannot act and has no power. Although I do not expect bleating voices and certainly no Celine Dion do I want, it should have the capacity to just stem from a high note with power and drama (e.g.: "Oh no Anita no!!... from 'A Boy Like That'). She basically sang it like the lullaby that I described in my review...
So...probably at most a 1-1/2 star but I still stick to my 1 star rating. I guess my CD will just be another my collection of thousands...
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag,
This review is from: West Side Story - 50th Anniversary Recording (Audio CD)I am on a West Side Story kick as I just saw the 2009 Broadway revival currently playing at The Palace Theatre in New York. I'd never seen the film or a staging of WSS but I know the score very well from having listened to the original Broadway cast recording, the film soundtrack, the DG recording with Jose Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa, and the Michael Ball/Barbara Bonney recording from 1993.
Vittorio Grigolo's Tony sings in a beautiful lyric tenor, but like Carreras, the accent does not work because Tony is the "Americanized" of the two immigrant lovers. Hayley Westenra's Maria has a pretty but rather paper thin voice and the recording is attempting to overcompensate for her lack of operatic qualities by overproducing Westenra's vocals. The reverb is too much, and even with the magic of sound engineering her high notes are not strong enough. This is especially true in the Quintet where, glaringly and surprisingly, Tony sings the high C (instead of sustaining the G in the final chord) along with Maria, whose high C you can barely hear.
As another reviewer stated, there is no perfect WSS recording, and I suppose the search continues. Here's hoping the recording of the 2009 Broadway revival surpasses this effort.
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