Leonard Bernstein, born Louis Bernstein to a Jewish family in 1918, is known primarily as a conductor, composer, author and teacher of classical music - a sphere in which he is widely acknowledged as probably America's most influential musician of the 20th century. But the music he wrote for the Broadway stage ranks alongside the very best of that genre.
In particular, the ever-popular WEST SIDE STORY from 1957, written with composer / lyricist Stephen Sondheim, contains a host of songs which never seem to date, and marks a turning point for musical theatre every bit as important as Jerome Kern's 1927 triumph SHOW BOAT.
Bernstein took the genre to a new level of complexity and realism, merging popular, latin and classical traditions within operatic structure. This glorious fusion draws on the success of Georges Bizet's CARMEN, first performed over 80 years before, with it's powerful combination of latin folk rhythms, sexual tension, rivalry and classic opera.
Other popular Bernstein stage works include ON THE TOWN (1944), WONDERFUL TOWN (1953) and CANDIDE (1956).