Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Charlotte, NC; hico, CA; Copenhagen, Denmark; Foyle (Derry/Londonderry), Northern Ireland; Galway, Ireland; Manchester, UK; Ottawa, ON; Toledo, OH; Ventura, CA.
Other Events This Weekend: Big Bear Adventure Weekend, Big Bear Lake, CA; SHOUT LGBTQ Film Festival, Birmingham, AL; Windy City Rodeo, Crete, IL; Camp Camp, Portland ME; AIDS Red Ribbon Ride, Rochester, NY; Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver, BC.
95 YEARS AGO: Leonard Bernstein: 1918. When he died only five days after announcing his retirement in 1990, the New York Times lionized him as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.” He became instantly famous in 1943 when he stepped in at the last minute — unrehearsed — to conduct the New York Philharmonic when conductor Bruno Walter fell ill. That concert at Carnegie Hall was nationally broadcast, and it led to guest conductor engagements around the country. In 1947 he conducted a complete Boston Symphony concert in Carnegie Hall, the first time that orchestra had allowed a guest to do so in 22 years. In 1953 he became the first American-born conductor to conduct an opera at Milan’s famed La Scala. When he was named the New York Philharmonic’s musical director in 1958, he became the youngest person to fill that role in the orchestra’s history.
Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954, continuing until his death. Meanwhile, he also achieved popular success with his many compositions, including three symphonies, ballets and operas; his Mass; and music for such Broadway hits as Candide, On the Town, and most famously, West Side Story.
Bernstein was known for both his punishing schedule and his highly animated conducting style. One legendary story has it that at his first rehearsal as guest conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, his initial downbeat was so dramatic that the startled musicians simply stared in amazement and made no sound. In 1982 Bernstein fell off the podium while conducting the Houston Symphony, and he did it again in 1984 while leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Chicago.
Bernstein married Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn in 1951 and together they had three children. After 25 years, they had a “trial separation,” although they continued to appear together at his performances. She died in 1978. Bernstein’s homosexuality, often rumored throughout his life, became public knowledge with the 1987 publication of Joan Peyser’s Bernstein: A Biography. Arthur Laurents, Bernstein’s collaborator in West Side Story, said simply that Bernstein was “a gay man who got married. He wasn’t conflicted about it at all. He was just gay.”
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