Barcelona, Economics, Music, Thoughts

Alan Jay Lerner and the scarcity of democracy and freedom

Yesterday I went to listen to Brent Barrett singing the music of Leonard Bernstein. Brent Barrett is one of the greatests tenors from Broadway.

He was performing at Barcelona’s opera house, also known as the “Liceu“. It was an impressive performance. This artist knows how to sing, how to express and how win the audience.

But, let’s go to the point. I already knew that Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was Jewish, from a liberal family in Massachusetts and a strong defendant of human rights. I was surprised to know, tho, that Alan Jay Learner and Leonard Bernstein had written a musical in 1976 in the context of the Watergate scandal, disenchanted by politicians and especially of Richard Nixon. The musical was about the story of the White House and called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (that’s the White House address).

Leonard Bernstein with sister Shirley in the Green Room at Carnegie Hall after a performance with the Israel Philarmonic, March 1951

The show was a flop and lasted only for seven days. But it contained more than one century of American History, from George Washington to Roosevelt. How the country had strived for freedom and the struggle for black freedom. It’s a story about the difficulties of maintaining a democratic society.

This work has been largely overlooked and unappreciated. It wasn’t recorded until 1997. But there’s a song that Brett sang yesterday that inspired me a lot. It’s called “Take care of this house”.

Take care of this house
keep it from harm
if bandits break in
sound the alarm.

Care for this house,
shine it by hand
keep it agleam
so it can be seen
all over the land

Be careful at night
check all the doors
if someone makes a break in
the dream will be lost

Take care of this house
be always on call
for this house
is the home of us all

It is sung by the First Lady to Lud, a young black boy that is a slave to the White House. He is the future. She is presenting him with the challenge to attempt a democratic society that will be able to overcome social injustice. The house represents the whole nation and the whole of the democratic world; it’s the hope for us all.

As I usually, capitalism has won, but don’t take democracy for granted.


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