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Bernstein: Wonderful Town(EMI 1CD)

Bernstein: Wonderful Town(EMI 1CD)

You saw it, heard it, maybe danced it at the Proms. Now there's the disc - which went into production well before that Albert Hall performance but has all the brilliant off-Broadway chutzpah of a live show. Wonderful Town was well-trodden ground for Bernstein when he came to write it, the storyline uncomfortably similar to that of Fancy Free and On the Town. But that just meant he worked his magic for a third time round. And nearly half a century later it goes on working with a cast that mixes opera and showbiz voices into a near-seamless ensemble. Thomas Hampson is perhaps a touch grandly laid-back for the male lead, but does it with style and chic. Brent Barrett is a tour de force as the aptly-named Wreck. The feistiness of Kim Criswell properly upstages the demureness of Audra McDonald in their respective handling of the two sisters, Ruth and Eileen. With instrumental playing from the BCMG of an order no musical would find in the pit of a theatre, and direction from the world's hottest conducting property, Simon Rattle, it can hardly fail. And until Rattle starts importing this sort of repertory to Berlin - as he probably will one day - it faces no obvious competition.

By Michael White

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