Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim is known for the astonishing complexity of his texts and music. His major works in theater include musical comedies, musicals, operas, plays, and a number of television shows. Stephen Sondheim’s knowledge of musical theatre was influenced by his early songwriting practice by master lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who acted as his mentor. In the woods, “a funny thing” happened that earned him recognition as a rising star on Broadway.

Life and Times    

Sondheim began studying piano and organ at a young age. As a student, he was already practicing songwriting at the George School. His parents, Herbert Sondheim, a doctor, and his mother, an opera singer, worked in the New York clothing industry. They divorced in 1942 and Sonderheim moved with his father and mother to Doylestown, Pennsylvania.     

In the early 1950s, Stephen Sondheim moved to Los Angeles, California. There wrote his first musical, “The Little Mermaid”.

Initial success     

Sondheim’s next theater project was similarly prominent. An acquaintance of the director Arthur Laurents brought him to the production of the musical “The Great Gatsby”. It was a musical comedy about the life of a young woman in New York City. After returning to New York in 1956, he composed the background music for the play “Girls of Summer”.He wrote the score for “West Side Story”. It opened in 1957 and became the most successful musical of its time. In 1958 Sondheimer wrote a text for a “gypsy” for the composer Jule Styne. The star was Ethel Merman in 1959.     

To make a musical contribution to the invitation in March 1960, Sondheim wrote: “Zero Mostel”. It was a “funny thing that happened on the way to and from the Forum” (a farce based on a comedy by the ancient playwright Plautus). He made musical contributions and an invitation to a performance at the New York Theater Company’s New Year’s Eve performance. 

Tony Awards   

It opened in 1962 and ran nearly 1,000 times, winning the Tony Award for best musical. Sondheim won several Tony Awards in the 1970s. He became known as one of Broadway’s most successful musical composers. His musicals range from musical comedies to historical dramas (including the hit “Send in your clowns”). Sondheim appeared in Broadway productions such as “Sweeney Todd” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” 

Success outside of Musical Theater   

Sondheim has worked with playwright and director James Lapine on several occasions in the 1980s, and in several cases with playwright and director James Lapine. In 1987, “Im Wald” was published, a collage of conspiracies and classic fairy tales. “Sunday in Park with George” from 1984 was inspired by the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, based on their 1934 novel of the same name.     

Sondheim won an Oscar for the song for “Oscar,” one of five titles he wrote for the 1990 film “Dick Tracy,” starring Warren Beatty and Madonna. Back in 1985’s “Sunday in Park with George,” he shared the Pulitzer Prize for drama with Lapine and George and won another Oscar, this time for his performance of the song in the film.     

In November 2015 Stephen Sondheim was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2017 he became the first composer and lyricist to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for his contributions to the arts and humanities. The prize is awarded annually to critically acclaimed writers whose work has contributed to the understanding and interpreting the human condition. It was previously awarded to Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison.

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