Quintet is my favorite piece in the whole song score, juxtaposing the warring elements of the story against the exuberance of the starcrossed young lovers so perfectly. The music of WSS is brilliant top to bottom, IMO, and holds up on its own despite other, somewhat dated, aspects of the film. Bernstein and Sondheim at the top of their form -- who could beat that?
Also my favourite piece from this sublime show...I can't see YouTube links from my work system, but the above comment leads me to believe you've linked to the film version? The version Bernstein himself conducted of the quintet on the album with Carreras/Te Kanawa et al is just incredible - one of the many wonderful moments on that recording.
Yes, the ("Tonight") "Quintet" has also been my favorite part of the movie and Bernstein's later recording of it. Earlier this week, after getting a new center speaker and subwoofer, the "WSS" Blu-ray was one of the first things I put on, and I really turned up the volume when it got to that number.
I'd like to know how other "WSS" fans feel about the re-do that Bernstein did with Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras. It was a great recording and I have the 2-CD set, the DVD on the making of it, as well as the single disc SACD of the music (they dropped the re-recorded cues from Bernstein's "On The Waterfront"), so, on some levels, I like it. And while I recognize that nationality is practically meaningless in opera, I've still felt from the week they released it and I bought it at Tower Records that it was ridiculous having a singer with such a latin-sounding voice playing All American Tony in his life threatening conflict with the Puerto Rican gang. Plus I felt that so many of us know the story that it was ridiculous to choose someone who sounded like he should be playing a Shark and not a Jet. It would sort of be like making a musical out of the life of Rosa Parks and choosing Lady Ga Ga to play her. Was I the only one troubled with a clearly latino playing Tony? I thought it made a mockery of the entire project.
I'd like to know how other "WSS" fans feel about the re-do that Bernstein did with Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras.
I wouldn't necessarily call myself a WSS fan, but I own a version of the 1984 studio recording. I agree José Carreras sounds out of place in this role. On the making of film I am very amused when the producer(?) of the recording tries to get Carreras to pronounce "coming" properly in the "Something's Coming" song (it's at about 17 minutes into the documentary.) Bernstein gets incredibly annoyed by the direction coming from the booth, and the final track on the album shows that he never really got it right in this regard. (It's not his fault, he's simply miscast for the role.) At least he's singing with the orchestra in the final version, which must have been spliced together from a bunch of different takes. It is a testament to the orchestra, the film shows they hit it every time while Carreras struggles in following the score.
It is a testament to the orchestra, the film shows they hit it every time while Carreras struggles in following the score.
Oh hang on - that's not quite fair...again, I can't follow YouTube links on my work system, but I assume you link to Carreras' cock-up in Maria? Or one of the others? Carreras was a last-minute sub when someone (I still have yet to find out who) dropped out....given his musical background I find it somewhat unlikely (though of course not impossible) that he had performed the role before...perhaps he had never even heard it....so with VERY little rehearsal (i.e. bsaically none) he PERFORMED an entire role, and though I will certainly agree he was miscast there can be nothing taken away from his achievement in doing the impossible with this...most "Musicians" I know (and I use the term loosely) can't even play a dorian scale without reading the music and having a couple of attempts....Carreras sang an entire role...and a tough one (I know, I have sung it myself)...with less attempts.
Ditto to what Dana stated. I love the Quintet. I've always marveled at how well the composers dovetailed the melodic, gorgeous "Tonight" song with that almost dissonant fight song. Just perfect and brilliant. I love the whole musical.
I hate the carreras te kanawa redo. It aint good. Bernstein was forced to do it. He wanted to do a new recording of Peter Grimes. DG said, okay, if you make a new recording of West Side Story first. Jose Carreras replaced Neil Shicoff. I went to some of the recording sessions as I had a friend of mine who knew Bernstein. Bernstein slugged quite a bit of scoth to get through each session - which may explain why so many of the temp are slow.
I hate the carreras te kanawa redo. It aint good. Bernstein was forced to do it. He wanted to do a new recording of Peter Grimes. DG said, okay, if you make a new recording of West Side Story first. Jose Carreras replaced Neil Shicoff. I went to some of the recording sessions as I had a friend of mine who knew Bernstein. Bernstein slugged quite a bit of scotch to get through each session - which may explain why so many of the temp are slow.
Something interesting about Bernstein's "West Side Story" score is that the latin music has nothing to do with Puerto Rico.... it's all Cuban or Mexican. Brings to mind Jerry Goldsmith's Bolivian music for the Nicaraguan-themed "Under Fire".
I went to some of the recording sessions as I had a friend of mine who knew Bernstein. Bernstein slugged quite a bit of scotch to get through each session - which may explain why so many of the temp are slow.
The original tracks were snappy and punchy (sorry to use the technical terms), a key aspect of their impact and unique charm IMO. Like most re-recordings, this one had the tempos/tempi wrong and I nodded off just a few bars into the opening of the Bernstein "Making of" piece. Maybe it was an inspired idea to try to re-do perfection, but more likely it was the idea of some schlubb in the marketing department who was just sure they could squeeze a few more bucks out of WEST SIDE STORY. Nothing against Kiri, but covers of popular recordings by opera stars seldom come to much good. She's a great opera star, but for "I Feel Pretty," she ain't no Marni Nixon... It's not a question of "better," just a question of what works better for the material. Leonard Bernstein was an inspired innovator, but a lousy marionette.
And, you know what? Famous film critic Pauline Kael criticized the film "WSS" because street gangs were classical ballet dancers!! She thought the Robbins choreography much too sophisticated for the subject matter. Also, Sondheim has comparatively recently 'apologized' for his somewhat 'purple' prose ("today the world is just an address; a place for me to live in") written for a young Tony and Maria. I was extremely disappointed when I heard this because it was based on "Romeo and Juliet" and it's not like Shakespeare wrote sophisticated romantic prose for his central 14 y/o characters!!!
I think Kael had an interesting idea about how the film might have benefitted from a gritty, low-budget, documentary-style approach, perhaps closer to "Blackboard Jungle," but I believe audience expectations of their big hit Broadway musical films by that period might have been disappointed.
To my mind, the movie version of "West Side Story" is one of the greatest screen musicals of all time.
Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin did an absolutely superb job with the music and for me, it's the definitive version of the score.
I hate the Carreras/Te Kinawa version. I don't like to hear opera singers singing "Proper" songs at the best of times, but here, they just sound ludicrous ! ( I think it's the over articulated vowel sounds ? ).
Don't like the Operatic "South Pacific" album either.