American musical legend Stephen Sondheim dies aged 91

He had been hired at just 25 years old to write the lyrics for the legendary  “West Side Story” , his first Broadway show, later adapted for the screen.

It is a Broadway figure who has bowed out. Stephen Sondheim, legend of the American musical and West Side Story lyricist , died Friday, November 26 at the age of 91, told AFP  Rick Miramontez, the spokesperson for one of his plays, Company , currently performing on Broadway.

His lawyer, F. Richard Pappas, had previously announced to the New York Times  that Stephen Sondheim had suddenly passed away at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut (northeast of the country), after having celebrated Thanksgiving with his friends the day before.

An Oscar, Pulitzer Prize and Grammys

Trained at a young age by the great master of the musical Oscar Hammerstein ( Show Boat, The Melody of Happiness ), Stephen Sondheim was hired at only 25 years old to write the lyrics for the now legendary West Side Story , his first Broadway show, later adapted to the screen.

Born March 22, 1930 in New York City, he was considered one of the greatest composers of the musical and was seen as an intellectual of the genre, as he preferred art theater to the entertainment so prevalent on Broadway. He had notably worked on  Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, Sunday in the Park with George, A Little Night Music , as a composer or lyricist. During his long career, this Broadway giant has won eight Grammy Awards, as many Tony Awards, an Oscar, as well as a Pulitzer Prize.

American musical comedy legend Stephen Sondheim died on Friday at the age of 91, a spokesperson said. His lawyer, F. Richard Pappas, previously told The New York Times that he suddenly passed away at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, after celebrating Thanksgiving with his friends the day before.

Trained at a young age by the great master of the musical Oscar Hammerstein ( Show Boat , The Melody of Happiness ), Stephen Sondheim was hired at only 25 years old to write the lyrics for the now legendary West Side Story , his first show on Broadway, later adapted to the screen.

Eight Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer

Born on March 22, 1930 in New York City, he was considered one of the greatest composers of the musical and was seen as an intellectual of the genre, as he preferred art theater to the entertainment so prevalent on Broadway.

He had notably worked on Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, Sunday in the Park with George, A Little Night Music , as a composer or lyricist. During his long career, this Broadway giant has won eight Grammy Awards, as many Tony Awards, an Oscar, as well as a Pulitzer Prize.

Stephen Sondheim, whose parents worked in fashion, had a passion for musical theater from an early age. After working on television or writing crosswords for New York Magazine , it was thanks to West Side Story that he rose to fame.

Rain of tributes

In 2015, Barack Obama, then President of the United States, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. “To put it simply, Stephen has reinvented the American musical,” Barack Obama said. “His music is so beautiful, his words so precise, that even when he exposes the imperfections of everyday life, he transcends them”.

Actress and singer Anna Kendrick lamented a “terrible loss”. “A few days ago I was telling someone how fun (and really difficult) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim. Interpreting his works has been one of the greatest privileges of my career, ”she reacted on Twitter.

Actor Hugh Jackman, for his part, expressed his gratitude to the lyricist. “Every once in a while a person comes in to fundamentally change an entire artistic genre. Stephen Sondheim was one of them. As millions of people mourn his passing, I also want to express my gratitude for all that he has given to me and to so many others, ”he wrote.

In New York, in the Broadway district in front of the Bernard Jacobs theater, the British director of Company – A Musical Comedy  Marianne Elliott hailed “a genius who will always be a reference”.

Despite the worldwide success of Stephen Sondheim, it was not until 2010 that his musicals enjoyed the honors of the Parisian stage, with “A Little Night Music” at the prestigious Théâtre du Châtelet. Before that, only a production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum” had been shown at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in 1965, without much echo.

Proof of the longevity of his works, two of his plays, Company , created in 1970, and Assassins , which dates from 1990, were performed on Broadway this fall. Days before his death, the respected artist had said in an interview with the New York Times that he had been “lucky”, delighted to see his shows performed over and over again.

Exit mobile version