Leonard Bernstein

I Feel Pretty, song (from "West Side Story")

    Description by Robert Cummings

    West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein's 1957 Broadway hit, features songs that generally fall into two categories -- those dealing with romance ("Maria," "Tonight," "Somewhere," etc.) and those of a humorous or sassy character ("Jet Song," "America," "Cool," "Gee Officer Krupke," etc.). But "I Feel Pretty" is the one song whose Richard Rodgers-like gaiety and elegance place it in a different category, making it seem almost out of place in this ultimately tragic musical, an updated take on Romeo and Juliet. In the story Maria, swept away in her love for Tony but unaware he has just killed her brother, sings it in the bridal shop where she works.

    "I Feel Pretty" features one of Bernstein's more memorable melodies: its first four notes, deliciously rhythmic in their rising contour, repeat, then are reduced to three, then to two. This forms the core of the theme and the rest is brilliantly imagined as well. Bernstein's instrumentation colors the music with a Latin character (note the recurring rhythmic motif for brass) and so does the girls' chorus that enters midway through. Stephen Sondheim's lyrics deftly capture Maria's bliss and newfound sense of confidence, while expressing the sass and sarcasm of her coworkers ("Have you met my good friend Maria, the craziest girl on the block?"). All in all, this song must be counted among the plentiful gems from West Side Story.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Decca Gold
    2017 Decca Gold 4815791
    2017 Sony Classical 88985386282
    2016 Sony Classical 88985342842
    2014 Armoury Records / Eagle / Eagle Rock ARM 251282
    2013 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960266
    2012 Acanta 233352
    2012 Summit Records DCD 588
    2010 Denon Records
    2009 Masterworks Broadway 8869753085
    2008 Decca 4756298
    2007 Kultur 4198
    2005 Nonesuch
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000356802
    2002 Eroica Classical Recordings / Eroica Distribution 70342
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469115
    2000 Polygram / Universal Distribution 463598
    1999 CPO 999505
    1999 Koch Discover International DICD920541
    1999 Sony Music Distribution 66493
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459050
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459 070-2GCC11
    1998 Carlton Classics 6601042
    1997 Channel Crossings CCS 9896
    1997 Harmonia Mundi 905240
    1997 BMG / RCA 68633
    1996 ASV CDWHL 2099
    1996 Star 86080
    1994 Elektra 7559793452
    1989 Sony Music Distribution 45531
    Deutsche Grammophon 427042
    Fanfare 3499