Search-icon

Stephen Sondheim

A Life

By

Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

have you read it? rate it!
Histogram_reset_icon
(1 REVIEW)
ADD TO MY SHELF
About This Book
The first and only full-scale and definitive biography of the most important composer-lyricist in musical theater today.
 
Drawing on personal conversations with Sondheim himself, as well as interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and lovers, Secrest offers new insight into the enigmatic and very private Stephen Sondheim. Here, we learn about his childhood on New York’s Upper West Side, his parents’ devastating divorce, and his ascent to the peaks of the Broadway musical. Secrest vividly recreates the energy, passion, and despair that went into each beloved show, from Sondheim’s fabled collaboration with Hal Prince on Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, to his disagreements with co-lyricist Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story. A fascinating and remarkable portrait of the man, the music, and the genius of Stephen Sondheim: star of his own fascinating and unfinished life.
Show less
The first and only full-scale and definitive biography of the most important composer-lyricist in musical theater today.
 
Drawing on personal conversations with Sondheim himself, as well as interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and lovers, Secrest offers new insight into the enigmatic and very private Stephen Sondheim. Here, we learn about his childhood on New York’s Upper West Side, his parents’ devastating divorce, and his ascent to the peaks of the Broadway musical. Secrest vividly recreates the energy, passion, and despair that went into each beloved show, from Sondheim’s fabled collaboration with Hal Prince on Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, to his disagreements with co-lyricist Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story. A fascinating and remarkable portrait of the man, the music, and the genius of Stephen Sondheim: star of his own fascinating and unfinished life.
Product Details
Paperback (480 pages)
Published: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780307946843
Other books byMeryle Secrest
  • Leonard Bernstein

    Leonard Bernstein
    A Life
    The most insightful and engrossing work we have had from the widely admired biographer of Frank Lloyd Wright ("Captivating ... The reader comes away with an understanding of Wright as a man as well as an architect" -- Washington Post Book World ... "Spellbinding" -- Boston Globe), of Bernard Berenson ("Authoritative and fascinating" -- Philip Toynbee, The Observer ... "A memorable opus" -- Sir Harold Acton), and of Kenneth Clark ("Splendid, enthralling" -- Wall Street Journal). Here is Leonard Bernstein, full scale and fully alive -- the child prodigy, the man, the composer, the teacher, the hugely charismatic personality, the lover, the American folk hero. Everything is here: the child growing up in a Hasidic family in Massachusetts, his father a rabbi's son; his first piano at age nine ("I remember touching it ... It was my contact with life, with God"); his reluctant, brilliant, argumentative years at Harvard; the rocky but exhilarating start of his career (scant jobs, no money, but friendships with Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Judy Holliday, Comden and Green, et al.); his spectacular debut (understudy into a star!) as substitute conductor at the New York Philharmonic; the great career over the years as a composer in classical music (the Kaddish Symphony, Chichester Psalms, Songfest), and in musical theater (On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, West Side Story, Mass, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). We see Bernstein: the good father to his three children, the man who adored his wife, Felicia Montealegre, the man who adored men, the brilliant and generous mentor, the temperamental artist, the hypochondriac, the politician, the businessman, the Pied Piper ... His life, his music, the great international cultural world in which he traveled, are richly and vividly portrayed in this magnificent biography, alive with music -- and with life.

    Somewhere for Me

    Somewhere for Me
    A Biography of Richard Rogers
    childhood."Somewhere For Me" is a revelation of a complex, passionate, moody and mercurial artist, as well as a lively portrait of the American musical theater.

    Modigliani

    Modigliani
    “People like us . . . have different rights, different values than do ordinary people because we have different needs which put us . . . above their moral standards.” —Modigliani Amedeo (“Beloved of God”) Modigliani was considered to be the quintessential bohemian artist, his legend almost as infamous as Van Gogh’s. In Modigliani’s time, his work was seen as an oddity: contemporary with the Cubists but not part of their movement. His work was a link between such portraitists as Whistler, Sargent, and Toulouse-Lautrec and that of the Art Deco painters of the 1920s as well as the new approaches of Gauguin, Cézanne, and Picasso. Jean Cocteau called Modigliani “our aristocrat” and said, “There was something like a curse on this very noble boy. He was beautiful. Alcohol and misfortune took their toll on him.” In this major new biography, Meryle Secrest, one of our most admired biographers—whose work has been called “enthralling” (The Wall Street Journal); “rich in detail, scrupulously researched, and sympathetically written” (The New York Review of Books) —now gives us a fully realized portrait of one of the twentieth century’s master painters and sculptors: his upbringing, a Sephardic Jew from an impoverished but genteel Italian family; his going to Paris to make his fortune; his striking good looks (“How beautiful he was, my god how beautiful,” said one of his models) . . . his training as an artist . . .and his influences, including the Italian Renaissance, particularly the art of Botticelli; Nietzsche’s theories of the artist as Übermensch, divinely endowed, divinely inspired; the monochromatic backgrounds of Van Gogh and Cézanne; the work of the Romanian sculptor Brancusi; and the primitive sculptures of Africa and Oceania with their simplified, masklike triangular faces, elongated silhouettes, puckered lips, low foreheads, and heads on exaggeratedly long necks. We see the ways in which Modigliani’s long-kept-secret illness from tuberculosis (it almost killed him as a young man) affected his work and his attitude toward life ; how consumption caused him to embrace fatalism and idealism, creativity and death; and how he used alcohol and opium with laudanum as an antispasmodic to hide the symptoms of the disease and how, because of it, he came to be seen as a dissolute alcoholic. And throughout, we see the Paris that Modigliani lived in, a city in dynamic flux where art was still a noble cause; how Modigliani became part of a life in the streets and a world of art and artists then in a transforming revolution; Monet, Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, et al.—and others more radical—Matisse, Derain, etc., all living within blocks of one another. Secrest’s book, written with unprecedented access to letters, diaries, and photographs never before seen, is an extraordinary revelation of a life lived in art . . . Here is Modigliani, the man and the artist, seemingly shy, delicate, a man on a desperate mission, masquerading as an alcoholic, cheating death again and again, and calculating what he had to do in order to go on working and concealing his secret for however much time remained . . . From the Hardcover edition.

    Shoot the Widow

    Shoot the Widow
    Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her...
    The first rule of biography, wrote Justin Kaplan: “Shoot the widow.” In her new book, Meryle Secrest, acclaimed biographer (“Knowing, sympathetic and entertainingly droll”—The New York Times), writes about her comic triumphs and misadventures as a biographer in search of her nine celebrated subjects, about how the hunt for a “life” is like working one’s way through a maze, full of fall starts, dead ends, and occasional clear passages leading to the next part of the puzzle. She writes about her first book, a life of Romaine Brooks, and how she was led to Nice and given invaluable letters by her subject’s heir that were slid across the table, one at a time; how she was led to the villa of Brooks’ lover, Gabriele d’Annunzio (poet, playwright, and aviator), a fantastic mausoleum left untouched since the moment of his death seventy years before; to a small English village, where she uncovered a lost Romaine Brooks painting; and finally, to 20, rue Jacob, Paris, where Romaine’s lover, Natalie Barney, had fifty years before entertained Cocteau, Gide, Proust, Colette, and others. Secrest describes how her next book—a life of Berenson—prompted Francis Steegmuller, fellow biographer, to comment that he wouldn’t touch the subject with a ten-foot pole. For her life of British art historian Kenneth Clark, Secrest was given permission to write the book by her subject, who surreptitiously financed it in the hopes of controlling its contents; we see how Clark’s plan was foiled by a jealous mistress and a stash of love letters that helped Secrest navigate Clark’s obstacle course. Among the other biographical (mis)adventures, Secrest reveals: how she tracked Salvador Dalí to a hospital room, found him recovering from serious burns sustained in a mysterious fire, and learned that he was knee-deep in a scandal involving fake drawings and prints and surrounded by dangerous characters out of Murder, Inc. . . . and how she went in search of a subject’s grave (Frank Lloyd Wright’s) only to find that his body had been dug up to satisfy the whim of his last wife. A fascinating account of a life spent in sometimes arduous, sometimes comical, always exciting pursuit of the truth about other lives. From the Hardcover edition.

Favorite QuotesFROM THIS BOOK
Quote Cannot be Empty

Submitted quotes are usually posted within 48 hours

ThanksYour Quote Will be posted Shortly
Bookish