Jamie Bernstein will celebrate her father’s work during the Moab Music Festival.
“Leonard Bernstein: From the Theater to the Concert Hall” is the Sunday concert at Star Hall.
“It is my incredibly happy task to keep his music out in the world,” Bernstein said. “I’m so happy I get to share my dad’s music with new audiences and this is a particularly great way to do it.”
The first half of the program will showcase her father’s music. The second half will feature “Trouble in Tahiti”, a short chamber opera her father wrote about a 1950’s suburban couple whose marriage is falling apart. Leonard Bernstein used normal American speech set to music.
“He wrote the way people really talk and set it to music,” Berstein said. “No one ever did that before. He was groundbreaking in that way.”
Bernstein will direct her father’s opera.
“It won’t be elaborately staged, but we’ll have props and costumes.”
Bernstein is the oldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein, the great American conductor and composer of “West Side Story” and Felicia Montealegre, a Chilean-American stage and television actress. She is a narrator, writer and broadcaster who has shared her love of music through concerts, radio and television broadcasts.
“It was never boring. It was a very exciting,” Bernstein said of her childhood in New York. “My parents’ friends were exciting and cool. They were writers and musicians and such interesting artists. Our home was full of noise and people and food.”
She credits her mother for creating an energetic home.
“She had a knack to making this lively, bubbly atmosphere,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein was four years old when her father’s musical “West Side Story” was produced on Broadway. She was too young to attend because there was too much violence in the play that featured gang warfare in a blue collar neighborhood on the Upper West Side of New York.
“I didn’t get to know ‘West Side Story” until the movie came out when I was ten. And then I was ready for it,” Bernstein said. “After I saw it I would say ‘I’m going to see it 10 times.’ Now I’ve seen it at least a 100 times.”
“West Side Story” has many essential elements of Leonard Bernstein’s work, combining jazz, symphony and orchestral components together.
“He liked to mix several types of music together,” Bernstein said. “He wrote symphony orchestras and Broadway shows. He wrote opera, art songs and chamber pieces.”
The movie won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture for films produced in 1961.
“I love how the movie is still so beloved and popular. The movie still has a life,” Bernstein said. “The subject never seems to go out of date. Intolerance and hatred never goes out to date. It still has something to say to us, something urgent.”
Bernstein has been visiting Moab almost every year since the Moab Music Festival began. In the last twenty years she has only missed two or three festivals, which was difficult as she raised her two children, Francisca and Evan.
“It is a very hard time of year to get away when you’re raising kids. It was always exactly when school started,” Bernstein said. “I can’t tell you what I went through to get away to Moab to attend part of the festival.”
Bernstein is close friends with Michael Barrett, co-founder of the Moab Music Festival. They met when he studied in New York with her father. Barrett served as Bernstein’s assistant conductor from 1985 to 1990.
“Michael and Leslie got married about the same time as I married my husband,” Bernstein said. “We became best friends and would hang out together. We’ve been working together for years.”
She said that Michael’s intense energy and love of laughter reminds her of her father.
“I think we remind each other of my dad. When we work together and talk about concerts, we each remind each other of my dad,” Bernstein said. “And it is a way to keep him alive for each other and ourselves.”