Just in: Cecilia Bartoli to star in West Side Story

Announcing next year’s Salzburg Whitsun Festival today, the Italian mezzo said she will sing Maria in a new production of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.


UPDATE: Norman Reinhardt will sing Tony. Gustavo Dudamel will conduct the Simon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. The director is Phil McKinley.

The musical fits into a Shakesperian theme that Bartoli has been running at the festival.

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  • I can’t wait to hear her Puerto Rican accent.

    Isn’t it odd that whenever they do West Side Story, the singers alway imitate the Puerto Rican accent of the characters, when they don’t do that in other operas: in Butterfly, you don’t hear Cio Cio San sang with a Japanese accented Italian or Pinkerton with an American accented Italian…

    Maybe the divide is between serious opera and lighter fare of operetta/Broadway….

    • Bernstein once mentioned that West Side Story is not an opera and thus shall not be performed like one.

      Thus the Broadway way of interpretation, including the accents.

      And thus the constant weird interpretations by all those opera singers – they sing as if this is an opera and forced the accents – they are all bombed crossover attempts.

    • In West Side Story it’s normal for the actors to portray the accents the characters would have. It’s a “play” with music that is set in the actual language the characters would communicate with. The Jets have heavy New York accents, the Sharks are Puerto Rican, so it’s normal that actors/singers give these characters the appropriate accents.

      Where your analogy fails is that Butterfly is set in Japan, with a Japanese protagonist, and her American lover… neither is supposed to be actually communicating with the other in Italian. If anything, they would be either speaking Japanese to each other, or English.

      As beautiful as Fanciulla del West is, the inherent problem with staging it is just how ridiculous it looks to have Italian-singing cowboys and barmaids.

    • you’re right, of course, about the accents. But makers of movies and TV shows have always made HUGE boo-boos in that quarter! Not sure Bartoli could sing ANY accent but Italian — her French is accented, and her spoken English also. Oh well, who cares? I sincerely doubt this project will really happen. Decca? ….

    • Um… they should consider calling the new production : “West Side Story 50 years later : the middle-aged Maria ” : (

  • I have lost all confidence in this festival’s artistic reputation. This is ridiculous and terrible casting.

  • This has to be a bad joke — wasn’t Kiri Te Kanawa the first opera singer to crash and burn in West Side Story? Oh, but ANITA was sung by someone else on that bizarre recording…

    • Dame KTK was in that “operatic” recording with Bernstein conducting. I reckon she holds her own pretty well, although on the accompanying “Making of” documentary DVD she looks distinctly uncomfortable throughout. It’s Jose Carreras who can’t sing the role. Anita was the wonderful Tatiana Troyanos who has much more success in sounding Puerto Rican. As she pointed out at the time, she was brought up on those very New York streets. Sadly she died of cancer aged just 54.

  • This is so sad. I thought she adhered to a different standard.
    The only thing that makes me glad is to see that it is the dumbing of the world not just the dumbing of America!
    Very sad news indeed. I guess the money must have been to goof to resist!

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