Sondheim and Prince play Sweeney to roomful of backers

Sondheim and Prince play Sweeney to roomful of backers


norman lebrecht

August 10, 2019

How humble is this?

Can you imagine Richard Wagner doing this for his backers?


With Liszt as his pianist….?


  • Nigel Simeone says:

    That’s an amazing recording and similar ones survive for quite a few Broadway shows. Actually Wagner did something very similar. In Paris in May 1860, he gave a private performance of Tristan: Pauline Viardot as Isolde and Wagner himself as Tristan, with Karl Klindworth at the piano. The audience of two consisted of his benefactor Marie de Kalergis, and Berlioz.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It does not say much about our times if Sondheim & Prince are today’s equivalents of Wagner & Liszt. These 19th century figures were such geniuses, that we go out of our way to overlook their darker side , their avid antisemitism (rightly so,otherwise we would be the losers) . If these lesser figures of today showed any similar flaws, they would disappear from the scene for good.

    • JPAULO says:

      I personally will take an evening of Sondheim over a Wagner opera any evening of the week !! Yes different genres, but Sondheim is brilliant in his own right. I am a full time “classical ” musician of more than 35 years, so not someone that has no appreciation of opera. American musical theater certainly has it’s share of duds, but in the overall talent department I think Sondheim would give Wagner a pretty decent run for the money. Some of his works are 50 years old and still relevant and even shocking. We shall see if some of the opera being written today will be able to say the same. Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music are actually quite operatic. I ‘ll perform and hear those over Nixon in China any day.

    • You are of course aware that both Prince and Sondheim are Jews so there should be no problem with anti-Semitism with them.

      • Bo says:

        Prince was never Jewish, as a child he was raised southern Baptist (father) and Catholic (mother), and in 2004 he joined the Jehovah’s Witness religion. FYI according to church officials, yes he did his fair share of door knockings.

      • Bo says:

        You can delete this and my previous comment, I now realize they are referring to Hal
        Prince and not Prince Rogers Nelson.

  • wladek says:

    two different worlds….no connection whatsoever/

  • WM says:

    If Wagner hadn’t had Ludwig II, he might have had to do the same.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Sondheim; another over-rated figure of NY liberalism. After he’d finished his brilliant work with Bernstein on WSS it was a case of “Send in the Clowns” – his sole mark of excellent writing of both words and music. The rest of dense, syllabic folderol which also has very limited musical appeal.