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Bernstein’s Wonderful Town was premiered on Broadway in 1953, preceding the more popular West Side Story by four years. It is the tale of two sisters from Ohio who arrive in New York, Eileen (soprano) to become an actress, Ruth (mezzo), a writer, and it takes a large cast and enthusiastic chorus and orchestra with zing to spring to life. In this live recording from the Barbican (2017), it gets everything required. Simon Rattle conducts the LSO with snap, quick-fire changes of tempi, contrasting big band precision with some sassy blues. His chorus sounds as though it is having a ball. Danielle de Niese is a winning Eileen, sweet but not cloying, and trilling through her pre-Glitter and be Gay roulades. Alysha Umphress displays a mordent wit as Ruth, a role created by Rosalind Russell (who bagged herself a Tony for it). Umphress puts her own stamp on the part, enjoying the deadpan wordiness of One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man and getting swept up in Conga! along with everyone else. Highly recommended!

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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