Hershey Felder Brings Leonard Bernstein Back To Life15:26

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Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro: Leonard Bernstein" (Courtesy ArtsEmerson)
Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro: Leonard Bernstein" (Courtesy ArtsEmerson)

Massachusetts native Leonard Bernstein was one of America’s most influential composers. Bernstein's carreer is widley recognized as one of the most important in the history of American music.

Born in Lawrence, Mass. in 1918, Bernstein is the composer who brough us the ballet "Fancy Free," the choral "Chichester Psalms," and of course, the musical "West Side Story."

Now, acclaimed playwright and pianist Hershey Felder has brought Bernstein back to life on stage in ArtsEmerson's production of "Maestro: Leonard Bernstein."

"He wanted to be American Mozart, he wanted to be Beethoven, or a new Copeland," Felder said. "And that eluded him."

The action is said to take place on Sunday, October 14, 1990 - the day Bernstein died. But the set, a single grand piano with a massive sheet of music draping the background, is reminiscent of CBS's television studios, where, in the 1950s, Bernstein made several legendary appearances on the show "Omnibus".

Here's Bernstein, exploring Beethoven's 5th symphony, in 1954:

Felder's Bernstein character appears on stage, beneath a projection of the "Omnibus" appearances. The Maestro watches himself. The rest of the show is a journey into the profound struggle and torment that powered a spectacularly creative career.

The Los Angeles Times notes that "trying to uncover what made Bernstein Bernstein is, of course, an impossible task."

Felder is undaunted. Impossible tasks seem to be his forte. He's done similar one man shows featuring the lives of George Gershwin and Frederic Chopin. As for Bernstein, Felder does not "sand the rough edges," he said. "Leonard Bernstein is unique...and that is thrilling."


  • Hershey Felder, co-writer and star of "Maestro: Leonard Bernstein"


This segment aired on May 9, 2012.