The Library of Congress has released more than six hours of previously unseen in-depth interviews with late composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, in which he goes in-depth on much of his landmark body of work, including Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Assassins, and more. Watch the first half-hour segment (of 13 total) above. Find the rest at LoC's YouTube channel.
According to LoC Senior Music Specialist Mark Eden Horowitz, the interviews "were originally intended as something of a concordance for researchers and scholars who might be consulting Sondheim's music manuscripts at some point in the future. While we do discuss music on a fairly technical level, the conversation quickly and frequently turns to all manner of topics related to Sondheim's work and his life in the theatre."
Horowitz later transformed portions of the interviews into his book Sondheim On Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions, the second edition of which was published by The Scarecrow Press in 2010. "But nothing equals watching Sondheim's facial expressions, and hearing his voice, his inflections, his laugh, his singing, and the occasional pounding of the table for emphasis," shares Horowitz.
The interviews move through Sondheim's musicals in reverse chronological order, from Passion to Pacific Overtures, but Horowitz shares that all his works get discussed to some degree.
"Sondheim has often been quoted as saying, 'Teaching is the noblest profession.' These interviews clearly reveal that if Sondheim hadn't chosen a career writing musicals, he would have been an equally adept teacher."
Mr. Sondheim passed away in November of last year at the age of 91, leaving behind a body of work that transformed the face of musical theatre on Broadway and beyond. His Company, considered to be the first successful "concept" musical, is currently enjoying its third Broadway revival in a new production that newly reimagines its main character as a perpetually single woman—Bobbi instead of Bobby.
He made his Broadway debut contributing lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's music in 1957's West Side Story, and would go on to pen lyrics to 1959's Gypsy before making his debut as a composer-lyricist on the Main Stem with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962. Working with director and producer Harold Prince, Sondheim made his largest mark on the art form with a string of groundbreaking musicals that challenged what the genre could talk about and how, including Company in 1970, Follies in 1971, A Little Night Music in 1973, Pacific Overtures in 1976, Sweeney Todd in 1979, and Merrily We Roll Along in 1981. Working with playwright and director James Lapine, Sondheim wrote the Pulitzer-winning Sunday in the Park with George in 1984, Into the Woods in 1987, and Passion in 1991.
His Assassins, which played an Off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons in 1990, made it the Main Stem via Roundabout Theatre Company in 2004, and was recently revived Off-Broadway by Classic Stage Company.
Additional works include Saturday Night, Anyone Can Whistle, The Frogs, Do I Hear a Waltz?, and Road Show.