Stephen Sondheim, groundbreaking theatre composer and lyricist, dead at 91

Stephen Sondheim, the songwriter who reshaped American musical theatre in the second half of the twentieth century with his smart, intricately rhymed lyrics, his use of evocative melodies and his willingness to take on ordinary subjects, has died. He was 91.

Sondheim’s demise was once introduced by means of Rick Miramontez, president of DKC/O&M. Sondheim’s Texas-based totally legal professional, Rick Pappas, instructed The Brand New York Times the composer died Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn.

Sondheim encouraged several generations of theatre songwriters, in particular with such landmark musicals as Corporate, Follies and Sweeney Todd, which are thought to be amongst his perfect paintings. His most famed ballad, Send in the Clowns, has been recorded loads of occasions, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.

The artist refused to copy himself, finding idea for his displays in such diverse topics as an Ingmar Bergman film (Somewhat Night Time Song), the outlet of Japan to the West (Pacific Overtures), French painter Georges Seurat (Sunday within the Park with George), Grimms’ fairy tales (Into the Woods) and even the killers of yank presidents (Assassins), among others.

Tributes temporarily flooded social media as performers and writers alike saluted a huge of the theatre.

Every so ceaselessly any person comes along that fundamentally shifts a whole artwork shape. Stephen Sondheim was one in all the ones. As hundreds of thousands mourn his passing I additionally wish to specific my gratitude for all he has given to me and so many more. Sending my love to his nearest and dearest.


“we will be singing your songs forever,” wrote Lea Salonga. Aaron Tveit wrote: “We Are so fortunate to have what you could have given the sector.”

“The theatre has lost considered one of its greatest geniuses and the world has misplaced one among its greatest and most original writers. Unfortunately, there is now an incredible within the sky. but the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim will nonetheless be right here as his legendary songs and presentations might be performed for evermore,” manufacturer Cameron Waterproof Coat wrote in tribute.

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Six of Sondheim’s musicals received Tony Awards for easiest rating, and he also received a Pulitzer Prize (Sunday within the Park), an Academy Award (for the tune Quicker or Later from the movie Dick Tracy), five Olivier Awards and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Honour. In 2008, he won a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.

Sondheim’s track and lyrics gave his presentations a dismal, dramatic facet, while sooner than him, the dominant tone of musicals was once frothy and comedian. He was now and again criticized as a composer of unhummable songs, a badge that didn’t trouble Sondheim.

Frank Sinatra, who had a hit with Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, as soon as complained: “He can make me so much happier if he’d write more songs for saloon singers like me.”

Stephen Sondheim, groundbreaking theatre composer and lyricist, dead at 91

Sondheim is seen in August 1962. (Michael Hardy/Specific/Getty Pictures)

To theatre fans, Sondheim’s sophistication and brilliance made him an icon. A Broadway theatre was once named after him. A The Big Apple magazine cover asked: “Is Sondheim God?” The Dad Or Mum newspaper as soon as offered this question: “Is Stephen Sondheim the Shakespeare of musical theatre?”

A ideally suited wordsmith — and an avid participant of phrase video games — Sondheim’s pleasure of language shone through. “the other of left is right/the opposite of right is wrong/So somebody who is left is incorrect, right?” he wrote in Someone Can Whistle. In Company, he penned the lines: “good stuff recover/Bad will get worse/Wait — I Believe I intended that in reverse.”

He offered the 3 principles essential for a songwriter in his first quantity of accumulated lyrics: Content dictates form; much less Is more; and God is within the details. these types of truisms, he wrote, have been “within the service of clarity, with out which nothing else matters.” In Combination they led to shocking strains like: “it is a very short highway from the pinch and the punch to the paunch and the pouch and the pension.”

Stephen Sondheim, groundbreaking theatre composer and lyricist, dead at 91

Sondheim presents Sweeney Todd movie director Tim Burton with an award in New York City in January 2008. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Taught by no much less a genius than Oscar Hammerstein, Sondheim driven the musical right into a darker, richer and extra highbrow position. “should you call to mind a theatre lyric as a short tale, as I do, then each line has the weight of a paragraph,” he wrote in his 2010 ebook, Completing the Hat, the primary volume of his collection of lyrics and feedback.

Sondheim used to be born March 22, 1930, into a wealthy circle of relatives, the only son of get dressed producer Herbert Sondheim and Helen Fox Sondheim. At 10, his parents divorced and Sondheim’s mom bought a house in Doylestown, Pa., where one among their Bucks County neighbours used to be lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, whose son, James, was Sondheim’s roommate at boarding college. It was Oscar Hammerstein who became the young man’s skilled mentor and an even loved one.

Stephen Sondheim, groundbreaking theatre composer and lyricist, dead at 91

U.S. President Barack Obama gifts the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sondheim all the way through an adventure within the East Room of the White Area in November 2015. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

He had a solitary youth, which concerned verbal abuse from his chilly mom. He received a letter in his 40s from her telling him that she regretted giving beginning to him. He persisted to fortify her financially and to see her occasionally but did not attend her funeral.

Sondheim attended Williams School in Massachusetts, where he majored in song. After commencement, he gained a two-year fellowship to review with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt.

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