Composer Profile: Celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s 100

By David Salazar

***As of the writing of this piece, Leonard Bernstein is 100-years-old.

Born on August 25, 1918, Bernstein (who was actually born with the name Louis, which he changed to Leonard legally at age 15), he would go on to become one of the great icons of American music.

He studied at Harvard and then Curtis, and it wasn’t long before he was performing with the greatest orchestras and companies on the planet. He was a long-time musical director of the New York Philharmonic and he was also an advocate for education, giving a series of publicly broadcast lectures on music. He had a lengthy relationship with the Vienna State Opera and was a major proponent of the works of Gustav Mahler.

Bernstein made several opera recordings, including of his own works for the stage. He won 16 Grammys throughout his career, two of them for opera recordings.

He died on Oct. 14, 1990. 

Major Works

Bernstein composed two operas in his career, “Trouble in Tahiti” and “A Quiet Place.” The latter is a sequel to the form, though a later version of “A Quiet Place” includes “Trouble in Tahiti” in its entirety as a flashback.

However, one might argue that Bernstein’s greatest achievements for the “opera stage” might actually be his lighter fare, namely his operetta “Candide” and his musical “West Side Story.” Both works are widely performed, with “Candide” cropping up at virtually every opera house around the world throughout the composer’s centennial year celebration.

Read More on Bernstein

A Look at His Two Operas

A Profile on “Candide”

Watch and Listen

Here is a recording of a performance of “Candide” led by the composer himself.

And here he conducts an excerpt from “A Quiet Place”


Opera Wiki