It was a real treat to see this again on television recently - a great composer conducting his own great score for one of the best musicals of all time, using opera singers in the lead roles (Jose Carreras as Tony, Kiri Te Kanawa as Maria, Tatiana Troyanos as Anita, Kurt Ollmann as Riff).
It provides two elements in its ninety-minutes - first, a snapshot of superior artists at work in the recording studio; and second, some sublime interpretations of the classic songs (Tonight, A Boy Like That, Maria, Jet Song, Cool, etc.).
Always a gamble to use opera singers in recordings of musical scores, Te Kanawa in particular adapts well (she also recorded My Fair Lady - as Eliza - and songs of Kern, Porter and Berlin). When it gets this good all you can really say is 'wow'.
The recording itself can stand up alongside the original Broadway cast album or the movie soundtrack; it is different, but it is just as good; and the fact that Bernstein himself conducted it makes it special. You feel privileged, watching this, to be able to see such a talented creative mind at work.
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