30 March 2018 11:11AM
Expectation is everything, and I expected more of Lenny in “To Lenny With Love,” an evening in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial.
It’s not as if his output was thin.
Besides the thrills of “West Side Story” and “Candide”, which on their own could fill more than a little night of music, Bernstein composed the musicals “On the Town” and “Wonderful Town”, the operas “Trouble in Tahiti” and “A Quiet Place”, the theatre piece “Mass”, and more than a handful of vocal pieces, besides all the orchestral, choral, chamber, ballet, piano, incidental, film and uncategorizable music.
On my first day in Vienna, many years ago, I wandered into the Musikverein, opened a door and was ushered into a rehearsal of Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs”. There were four or five other people in the audience. The orchestra was the Vienna Philharmonic. The conductor was Lenny. I’d loved Bernstein’s music since “West Side”, but that moment took me way over the top, fortified by Gwen Gould conducting her Columbia Festival Orchestra in the “West Side” overture at PS21, eight or so summers ago.
Instead of all Bernstein all night, the first half of last Saturday night’s concert at Hudson Hall was a run-up to the 20th century—retellings of the Romeo and Juliet story by Gounod and Bellini, and pieces by Rossini, Handel, Mozart, and Bizet, which were also about, well, love.
That is not to downgrade or denigrate the pleasure of hearing glorious voices sing glorious music, including the particular pleasure of hearing the other extraordinary daughter of flutist Eugenia Zukerman, artistic director of Classics on Hudson, producer of this concert. (Mother and daughter began the program with a Handel aria from “Serse”. Zukerman’s flute has never sounded better.)
Unlike her sister Natalia, the blues-folk singer-songwriter I fell in love with last year at Club Helsinki, Arianna Zukerman is a classical singer whose lyric soprano has been applauded widely and wildly. To see and hear her in our own little opera house of sorts, was to exult in the lusciousness of her voice, face, and figure (sorry, but it’s all part of the gorgeous package). Not to mention her acting chops, comic and tragic.
It’s just that I was expecting Bernstein.
I got some. “Tonight”, the duet from Bernstein’s transcendent score for “West Side Story”, sung by Arianna and tenor Vale Rideout, and Rideout’s “Maria”, a master class in the art of repetition. (How many times can you sing Maria without sounding repetitive? Bernstein provides a roadmap, and Rideout takes you for a ride).
Zukerman and Rideout were joined by baritone Bob McDonald on many of the classical pieces, as well as a resonant “Old Friends” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along”. (They actually are all old friends, including the versatile, sensitive pianist, Joy Schreier, and Sondheim, at 26, was Bernstein’s lyricist on “West Side”).
Thankfully, there was also Bernstein’s ecstatic “New York, New York” from “On the Town”, and almost as much fun as it can be, but it was written for a trio of men, not two men and a woman. The Richard Rodgers/Bernstein medley (“I Cain’t Say No” and “One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man”) isn’t right for Zukerman’s voice either. And why, I wondered, when she is said to sing coloratura roles easily, didn’t we get to hear “Glitter and Be Gay”, the famously virtuosic aria from “Candide”? On the other hand, her “Piccola Serenata” was a vocal but nonverbal match for Bernstein’s dry wit.
Speaking of expectations, Executive Director Tammy Dillon’s introduction was, as expected, very different from the exuberant introductions of Founding Executive Director Gary Schiro. But it was unexpectedly lovely, and, in fact, refreshing.
Expectations aside, all in all a lovely evening in a handsome hall with a suddenly richer sound. No one seems to know why. Maybe it’s the curtains.
PHOTO: Joy Schreier, Vale Rideout, Arianna Zukerman, Bob McDonald