On Thursday, Nina Bernstein Simmons, Alexander Bernstein, and Jamie Bernstein met at their family’s Connecticut residence to discuss “Maestro,” the film created by Bradley Cooper about their deceased parents. A significant portion of the film was shot in this house where the siblings reminisced about their father, renowned composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, and their mother, actress Felicia Montealegre.
Rocca inquired, “What amount of time do you currently spend inside the house?”
Jamie stated, “We take advantage of every opportunity, especially on weekends and during the summer. This place is like paradise.”
“I am completely okay with that,” stated Jamie, “However, I would like to mention that Bradley has a significantly large nose. Surprisingly, this fact seemed to go unnoticed before the altercation. It’s truly a non-issue in the grand scheme of things.”
However, “Maestro” is not a comprehensive life story. Rather, Cooper chose to delve into the dynamic between Bernstein and his less well-known wife, played by Carey Mulligan. “Our mother was a truly graceful and delightful person,” shared Nina Bernstein Simmons.
Their love was complex due to Bernstein’s involvement with other men.
“Did she enter the marriage without thinking?” inquired Rocca.
“No, not at all,” responded Nina.
Jamie stated, “She was fully aware of the terms.”
According to Alexander Bernstein, the couple had a deep love for each other and never argued in front of others. There was no negativity or conflict visible to others, but the speaker and others could sense it. The couple maintained a tidy appearance and kept their issues hidden.
However, when Jamie was a young woman, she had doubts regarding the rumors surrounding her father, as portrayed in the movie. Her dad did not disclose the truth to her.
In her 2018 autobiography, “Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein,” Jamie revealed that soon after getting married, her mother had written to her father saying, “I am ready to accept you for who you are without sacrificing myself as a martyr on the altar of L.B.” However, Jamie claims that her mother had indeed made that sacrifice.
“I share the same sentiment,” she stated. “I believe it took a toll on her to persevere through it all. It was truly challenging for her and I believe it played a role in her untimely passing.”
Alexander stated, “I wouldn’t say that to such an extent. I believe, you know, that she probably had a lot of regrets when reflecting on things.”
In 1978, Felicia Montealegre passed away from lung cancer at 56 years old. Her husband, Alexander, stated that she had a fulfilling and loving life, with a mostly happy marriage.
“Maestro” is not just a tale of love and marriage, but also a portrayal of Leonard Bernstein’s passion for music. During the making of the film, Cooper was actively directing the musicians as they played Mahler’s Second Symphony. Reflecting on the experience, he shared, “It required six-and-a-half years of dedication for just six minutes and 25 seconds of music. It was an unparalleled experience for me, and one that I may never encounter again.”
Bernstein passed away in 1990 at the age of 72 due to a heart attack. He and Bradley Cooper never had the opportunity to meet.
Nina inquired if Cooper felt the absence of Bernstein. Cooper responded, “Definitely, it’s tough to discuss. We had a unique bond, the four of us. It’s difficult to put into words. But he was present, and his presence stayed with me the whole time. His spirit has somehow connected with mine, and I truly feel like I understand him.”
To view a preview of “Maestro”, simply click on the video player located below:
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The story was created by Jay Kernis and edited by Joseph Frandino.