Thursday, April 18, 2024

EXCLUSIVE “Maestro” Celebrated with Once in a Lifetime NY Phil Concert: Conductor Says “Bradley Cooper is a Hero to All Musicians” (Video)


What a Valentine’s night in New York for Oscar nominated Bradley Cooper and his spectacular “Maestro.”

Somehow all the talk about “Oppenheimer” and other nominated films has dominated the Oscar conversation this season, leaving this extraordinary work about Leonard and Felicia Bernstein off to the side.

But tonight a large portion of the NY Philharmonic played selections at David Geffen Hall in New York from the “Maestro” soundtrack, conducted by the Metropolitan Opera’s superstar Yannick Nezet-Seguin in a sublime presentation that mixed audio and video clips from the film. There were also top notch live performances from a 50 member chorus, top star soloists, and even Oscar nominated “Maestro” actress Carey Mulligan.

A dashing Cooper appeared in black tie and made some introductions explaining that the event was put together very quickly — by Netflix publicist Kelly Dalton— to promote “Maestro” but also as a salute to Bernstein’s three adult children, who were all in attendance. (The movie wouldn’t have happened without them turning over their father’s papers and files to Cooper.) So were noted bold faced names like Matthew Modine, Candice Bergen, Ellen Burstyn, Spike Lee, Victor Garber, Chris Meloni, Tovah Feldshuh, Hope Davis, Celia Weston, and more.

Geffen Hall, still shining a year after its opening, was the right place for this: Bernstein lived in his life in this building when it was Philharmonic Hall. The sound now is even richer and more alive, something Bernstein would have appreciated. He’d also have appreciated Cooper’s meticulous tribute to him. Nezet-Seguin sure does. He worked with Cooper for years on this project. At a conversation on stage after the 90 minute show, the conductor told Cooper: “You are a hero to all musicians.” Why? Because classical musicians are not treated like Beyonce or Taylor Swift. But Cooper made them feel that way.

This was not an easy program to put together overnight. The orchestra played pieces by Beethoven, Schumann, Mahler, and W.C. Handy, plus selections from “West Side Story,” “Candide,” “On the Town.” They also delivered Bernstein’s own classical compositions as heard in the film. Interspersed were the clips, which helped set up the orchestra. There is nothing like live symphonic music. You could feel the audience levitating.

And then there was the surprise of Mulligan and actor Zachary Booth recreating their comic patter of William Walton’s “Sir Beelzebub” from “Maestro” in character as Felicia Montealegre- Bernstein and Mendy Wager. They were sugary Floating Islands meeting Noel Coward, and the audience went wild. Booth is very talented. Mulligan is awe inspiring. What can’t she do?

Revealed in that three way conversation at the end, in fact, was that Mulligan didn’t know much about Bernstein or his world when she joined the project years ago. She’s a quick study. She just jumped in soaked it all up. As for Cooper, “Maestro” is a towering achievement. Nezet-Seguin wondered aloud how Cooper could have created, directed, and starred in this movie. (Isn’t this what happened to Orson Welles in his day?)

Kudos to all the vocal soloists involved tonight including Nick Blaemire, Mallory Portnoy, Kate Eastman, 14 year old show stealer Malaki Bayoh, Ann De Renais, Samuel Oladeinde, and Philip John Sheffield. Blair McMillan was featured keyboardist.

All pictures and video c2024 No use without explicit permission.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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