Entertainment

The 91-year-old master of musical theater – The Hollywood Reporter

Stephen Sondheim, the brilliant and sophisticated composer and lyricist who revolutionized the American musical scene with such achievements as The company, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the park with George and Go to the forest, died, theo New York Times. He was 91 years old.

Sondheim, who was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II and Leonard Bernstein on his way to winning nine Tony Awards, one Pulitzer Prize, one Academy Award, and eight awards. Grammys of his incomparable career, passed away early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn, according to his attorney and friend, F. Richard Pappas, as quoted by Mr. Times.

A representative for Sondheim could not be immediately contacted for further information.

The end 1950s, Sondheim lyrics to Bernstein’s music for the original production of West story (“Maria,” “America”), then collaborated with Jule Styne on Gypsy (“Everything is coming to the rose”).

“To clowns,” his plea from the plaintiff was somber Some night songs, a 1973 play inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles in the summer night, has been recorded by famous singers such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand (and Krusty clown).

Written only in soft, Black wing pencils – the brand was discontinued years ago, so he bought a lifetime supply – meticulous New Yorker loves puns and his lyrics are praised for their wit and complexity .

From his song “Now”, about a lawyer weighing options to attract his young wife, from 1973 Some night songs:

Now, with my mental facilities
There is a blurred part
And ready to shoot
Now, even though there are possibilities
Still have to study, I can take a nap too
Bow even though I have to
To adjust my original plan
How will I sleep?
Half as deep
As I usually can
When I still want and/or love you now,
Now as always,
Now, Anne?

Sondheim often deal with much darker themes than the typical musical’s flamboyance and uplifting stories, and his works don’t leave theater audiences laughing and humming.

During his most fertile creative period, Sondheim in collaboration with producer-director Hal Prince. They combined in nine musicals: 1957 West story, in 1962 A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, 1970 The company, 1971 Follies, Some night songs, year 1976 Pacific Overtures, year 1979 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 1981 Let’s have fun together and 2003 Bounce.

After parting with Prince in the beginning 1980s, Sondheim worked with playwright James Lapine, Pulitzer Prize collaborator Sunday in the park with George, a 1984 Broadway play starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in a story about an iconic artist.

The musical, inspired by a painting by Georges Seurat A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Island Jatte, honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and two Tonys.

“They wrote it while we were rehearsing it and still wrote it after we opened Broadway in 1983,” Peters recalled in a 2014 interview with Guardians newspapers. “Every day, Steve would come in with a new song that we would put on the show that night or the next day.

“I remember how excited it was when ‘Finishing the Hat’ came out. Then we went to Broadway and there were more songs, including “Children and Art”. I used to wait every night to be able to sing ‘Move On’, it was like meditating – it was so healing and uplifting. “

Sondheim’s topics dealing with irrational emotions such as loneliness and phobias: In Sweeney Todd, a barber uses his cutting skills to kill people while his female friend cooks victims into pies.

His Broadway production of Go to the forest, a twisted look at classic fairy tales, also stars Peters and Joanna Gleason and was adapted for the big screen by Rob Marshall in 2014. The movie version also stars Meryl Streep, who in a 2014 interview with The Hollywood Reporter suspensefully recalls meeting Sondheim at his Manhattan home after being cast as the Witch.

Streep “asked if he’d mind autographing her music. “I’m happy,” replied the great man, then scribbled something down and turned the pages. His words for Streep read, “Don’t do that.” ”

Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930 in New York City. His father, Herbert, was a dress maker and his mother, Etta, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design, created the designs for the dresses. The family lived in a large apartment in Central Park West.

Of his parents’ marriage, which ended when Sondheim was 10, he said, “I think – here’s my opinion – that it was a bargain. I think my mom loves my dad, and he doesn’t love her, he needs a designer.”

At the age of seven, Sondheim took piano lessons. “My father would sit me at the piano bench and let me put my hand on his little finger, the finger that played the tune on his head. At the end of each year, we would have to recite prayers to all the little children,” he said in Meryle Secrest’s 1998 book, Stephen Sondheim: A Life.

“I have a very useful right arm, so one of the first pieces I will play is Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’. My mom and dad used to get me out of bed at cocktail hour if they had clients. They dragged me out in my pajamas to play ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’ ”

After his parents divorced, Sondheim went to live with his mother on a farm in Pennsylvania. Their next-door neighbor is legendary theater producer and vocalist Hammerstein (Show boat, Oklahoma!), who became the boy’s mentor and, as Sondheim notes, a surrogate father.

In 1945, Sondheim presented his first musical, By George, to Hammerstein, who told him: “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever read. It’s terrible, and if you want to know why it’s terrible, I’ll tell you.”

Hammerstein taught him how to make a musical. “I dare say, at the risk of exaggeration, that I learned more that afternoon than most people learn about composition in their lifetime,” Sondheim recalls in Joanne Gordon’s 1997 book . Stephen Sondheim: A Case Book.

Sondheim then attended Williams College, where he majored in music. Upon graduating in 1950, he won the Hutchinson Prize for Composition and a two-year scholarship to study with the avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt.

“I wanted to learn compounding, and that’s what I learned from him,” Sondheim told NPR in 2010.

“We have four-hour sessions once a week, and we spend the first hour analyzing songs by Jerome Kern or by [Buddy] DeSylva, [Lew] Brown and [Ray] Henderson – classic songs of American theater and American movies. … We did an hour of songs and three hours of Beethoven and Bach, and it was all basically composition analysis. But I just want to write songs. I don’t want to write orchestral music. “

After studying music, he worked as a screenwriter for the CBS series Topper, a 1953-55 comedy adapted from the film about a tough banker (Leo G. Carroll) who can see and hear ghosts.

In 1954, Sondheim composed music and lyrics Saturday night, which would open during the 1954-55 Broadway season. However, when producer Lemuel Ayers died, the production rights went to his widow and the show did not continue. (It finally appeared off-Broadway in 2000.)

“I don’t have any emotional reactions to Saturday night at all – except affection,” he said New York Times Magazine in 2000. “That’s not a bad thing for a 23-year-old. There are some things that confuse me very much in the lyrics – the missing parts, the obvious jokes. But I decided, ‘Let it go. That’s a picture of my baby. You don’t touch a baby picture – you’re a kid! ‘ ”

Sondheim got his big break when he was introduced to Bernstein, who hired him to write the lyrics for the song. West story. That play also began his relationship with Prince, who secured the musical’s finances.

In a 2010 interview with ABC’s Night, Sondheim described her work in the play as “shameful.”

“Most of the lyrics are… they are very self-aware. Bernstein wanted the songs to be… heavy, what he called ‘poetry,’ and my idea of ​​poetry and his idea of ​​poetry were polar opposites,” he said. “I don’t mean they’re terrible; I mean they are very self-conscious. ”

Of course, the work was adapted into a 1961 film that earned 10 Oscars, including best picture. He later worked with Bernstein as a lyricist for Gypsy (1959), starring Ethel Merman.

The first performance where Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics was A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. He once said, “When I write, I am very careful. When you write lyrics, there are so few words in the song, so few words… in a song lyrics, each word carries a lot of weight. You know, a line in a song is like a scene in a play.”

The only composer-lyricist to win a Tony Award three years in a row, Sondheim won his last competitive Tony for 1994. Passion, received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1991 for Dick Tracy“Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” performed by Madonna and received the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2010, the Henry Miller Theater on West 43rd Street in New York was renamed for him.

“I was interested in theater because I was interested in communicating with audiences,” he once said. “If not, I will join the orchestra. I want to do another job. I love theater like music, and the whole idea of ​​reaching audiences and making them laugh, making them cry – just making them feel – is paramount to me. ”

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