Leonard Bernstein-“American Dreaming” from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Bernstein – 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – American Dreaming (by Romanov76110)

Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner created the very operatic musical “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” as a celebration for the Bicentennial in 1976. With financial backing by Coca-Cola, fans expected a celebratory work, but instead encountered a somber and somewhat bitter work about the difference between America’s philosophy and its actual practice. Reviewers at the time proclaimed it a failure, and Bernstein soon withdrew it, using portions of it in the Slava! overture, the Songfest and the Divertimento for Orchestra. For many, little of the wonderful music of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be heard until the recording of the heavily-cut White House Cantata of the late 1990’s. But much great music was excised from the cantata, including this powerful and cynical excerpt, in which the characters playing the American presidents and the White House’s main servant express a disillusionment and bitterness that seems to be pulled right from this year’s electorate. Although the Bernstein estate does not allow performances of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there are signs that this musical might not have been “impossible” or “problematic”, simply ahead of its time.

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