Monday, October 26, 2009

Notes from Stephen Sondheim-Frank Rich Conversation

1)  Keep it simple.
2)  Let content dictate form.
3)  God is in the details.
4)  Ideas come from everywhere and they change.
5)  Plot-driven musicals are most satisfying.
6)  The audience needs to believe the premise and buy into the central dilemma; if it does, the plot can be as ridiculous as it wants as long as it follows LOGICALLY from the premise, e.g.,  AFUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
7)  A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM is almost perfect.
8)  Bobby in COMPANY and the giant in WOODS are neither gay nor 9/11 terrorists.
9)  Sondheim doesn't like recitative.  Opera doesn't do it for him.
10)  SWEENY TODD is not an opera.
11)  Neither is PORGY & BESS.
12)  Opera Companies usually (not always) mess these up.
13)  Sondheim doesn't cook, and often writes in a local steakhouse/sports bar, with the jukebox playing something completely different.
14)  He also doesn't frequently compose at the piano, because muscle memory limits imagination.  He also deliberately writes in a different key than he's used in a while in order to stay fresh.
15) Ticket prices still grate me, though they were worth it.

2 comments:

Irene said...

I didn't come away with feeling that "opera doesn't do it for him." He understands that the singers are what excites opera lovers, not the music, not the plot. Whereas fans of musicals are driven by plot (point #5 on your list). Different interests.

Hmmm....if opera fans are driven by the singers, why would they get so upset about a new production of Tosca?

Agree that the ticket price was worth it (for where we were sitting) since he talked for 1 hr 45 minutes. Not a bad return for entertainment value.

David Millstone said...

Well, for me a talk such as this isn't about entertainment. It's about intellectual and artistic exchange and passing down knowledge and craft. That shouldn't cost $20 a head.

"Entertainment value" = commodification of what should not be priced.

Yeah, I'm a Pinko.