To the Editor:
In “How Good Was Leonard Bernstein?” [October 1994], Terry Teachout relates that Harold Schonberg, the former music critic of the New York Times, once said that Leonard Bernstein “could have been the American Offenbach,” and he proceeds to conjecture that “this must have enraged a man whose greatest desire in later life was to write an opera about the Holocaust.”
Not necessarily. I recall at some point, probably in the period 1955-56—unfortunately, I cannot now pin down the date more definitively—having had a discussion with Bernstein about, inter alia, Offenbach. Bernstein surprised and delighted me by saying,
You know, at the time of my early works for the theater and the ballet, a critic once wrote, “This young man may well become the American Offenbach.” And that was probably the greatest compliment I have ever received.
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