‘Maestro’: Leonard Bernstein’s kids say his wife knew ‘what the deal was’ with his sexuality

Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper in Maestro (2023)

Ahead of the biopic about their father, Leonard Bernstein’s three children have said that his wife Felicia Montealegre knew “what the deal was” with the composer’s sexuality.

Maestro, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper, will tell the story of West Side Story composer Bernstein, and the lifelong relationship he shared with Costa Rican actress Montealegre.

It is well-documented that, throughout Bernstein’s life, he was known to have affairs with men. 

In this new biopic, slated for theatrical release this month, Cooper depicts the complexities of Bernstein’s sexuality and the impact it had on his marriage.

Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper in Maestro (2023)
Leonard Bernstein’s children have said their mother knew “the deal” with their father’s sexuality when she married him. (Netflix)

Ahead of the film’s release, Bernstein’s three children Jamie, Alexander, and Nina spoke fondly of their father in an interview with CBS News, and revealed that they believe their mother always knew “what the deal was” when it came to their father’s sexual preferences.

“She knew exactly what the deal was,” eldest daughter Jamie Bernstein said.

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Alexander added: “They obviously loved each other to death. They never fought in front of us. We never saw any darkness. We felt a lot. They kept everything very well-tidied and well-hidden.”

From a young age, Jamie had questions about her parents’ relationship, which is documented in the film by Maya Hawke, who plays Bernstein’s eldest daughter.

In one scene from the biopic, Hawke’s Jamie, asks Cooper’s Bernstein if the “rumours” about him are true, which Bernstein dismisses.

Jamie writes in her 2018 memoir, Famous Father Girl, that, shortly after her parents’ wedding, her mother wrote to her father: “I’m willing to accept you as you are without being a martyr and sacrificing myself on the L.B altar…”

Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper in Maestro (2023)
Bradley Cooper plays Leonard Bernstein and Carey Mulligan plays his wife Felicia Montealegre. (Netflix)

In her book, Jamie notes: “But the truth was, she had done exactly that.”

Jamie tells CBS that she stands by what she wrote.

“That’s how I feel. I feel like it cost her everything to stick with it. It was really tough for her and I think it contributed to her early death, in a way.”

Felicia Montealegre died in 1978 from lung cancer. She was just 56 when she passed.

Her brother Alexander didn’t necessarily agree, telling the news broadcaster: “I wouldn’t go that far. I think probably she regretted a lot of things, looking back. She had a wonderful, rich life, and mostly wonderful marriage, and a lot of love.”

Maestro marks Bradley Cooper’s second directorial venture, following A Star Is Born, and has already been met with rave reviews since premiering at the Venice Film Festival over the summer.

The “moving” biopic was met with an impressive seven-minute-long standing ovation. Meanwhile, review site Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film sitting with a 93 per cent approval rating.

Maestro is due to open in selected cinemas on 22 November, before dropping on Netflix on 20 December.