How to write a libretto for Lloyd Webber and another for Philip Glass

Christopher Hampton, who wrote Sunset Boulevard (ALW) and The Trial (PG), gives an icy shaft of insight:

‘With Lloyd-Webber you are given the music and and have to fit the lyrics to the score. Philip Glass writes not a note until he has the libretto, and then he will call if he wants to make a cut or needs a couple more syllables. He is the perfect collaborator because he makes every effort to honour the text and make sure every word is heard.’

Full interview here.

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  • Lloyd-Webber’s arse-backwards way of proceeding may help explain, though only in part, the wretchedness of Tim Rice’s lyrics, of which Alan Jay Lerner memorably said, “I could eat alphabet soup and shit better lyrics than that”.

    • “I could eat alphabet soup and shit better lyrics than that”.

      Hmmm …. Oscar Wilde must have been kicking himself.

  • I wonder if this is what Bach’s librettists felt like when they wrote for his “Parodiewerke” like the Christmas Oratorio …

  • Incidentally, composers who also write their own lyrics often work both ways. Sometimes the music comes first, sometimes the words. Neither approach is by design superior or inferior.

  • Lloyd Webber has written some very good melodies, but sometimes with a little help from others. He admitted to David Frost on TV that “I don’t know how to love him” from Superstar is just a tad close to the slow movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto – unconsciously of course! A tad close? Its almost note for note. And those impressed by the opening of Phantom of the Opera will find another near note for note transcription, this time from Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky!

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