Live From Lincoln Center

S44 E6 | FULL EPISODE

New York Philharmonic: Celebrating Sondheim

The New York Philharmonic celebrates the dazzling orchestral world of Stephen Sondheim in a program hosted by Bernadette Peters, with special guest vocalist Katrina Lenk (Tony Award™ winner for “The Band’s Visit”). Conducted by Alexander Gemignani, the concert will feature some of Sondheim’s most beloved works, including suites from "Sunday in the Park," "Into the Woods," "Sweeney Todd" and more.

AIRED: December 31, 2019 | 1:23:43
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

Fred Child: Welcome to David Geffen Hall

in New York City.

I'm Fred Child, live From Lincoln Center.

The New York Philharmonic is warming up

and tuning up.

Guest vocalist Katrina Lenk will make

her New York Philharmonic debut in just a few minutes,

and conductor Alexander Gemignani

also making his debut.

Let's begin with music from 1962.

[Applause]

[Cheering and applause]

Gemignani: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome

Bernadette Peters.

[Cheering and applause]

Hello...

[Laughter]

and good evening and welcome

to our celebration

of the music of my friend Stephen Sondheim.

[Cheering and applause]

The occasion is particularly specialpecial for e

as I was lucky enough to be cast in 4

of his Broadway musicals,

many of which are being represented

on this stage tonight.

As you may know, the New York Philharmonic

is no stranger to Steve, having given

concert productions of "Follies," "Company,"

and "Sweeney Todd," but this program is different.

Though he is both a composer and a lyricist,

tonight we are going to focus specifically on his music.

There will be no Mrs. Lovett singing "Shepherd's pie

peppered with actual shepherd on top"

or Joanne in "Company" warning Bobby that

his new girlfriend is "tall enough

to be your mother."

Not even a witch...

[Laughter]

cackling to a baker and his wife that...

♪ There's no more fuss, and there's no more scenes ♪

♪ And my garden thrives, you should see my nectarines ♪

♪ But I'm telling you the same I tell Kings and Queens ♪

♪ Never, ever, ever mess around with my greens ♪

♪ Especially the beans ♪

No, none of that. Ha ha ha!

[Cheering and applause]

Aside from two songs sung by the brilliant Katrina Lenk,

it's the New York...

[Applause]

Philharmonic's night to shine,

and the orchestra will be playing

orchestral suites and overtures,

as well as symphonic treatments

of some of Sondheim's most beautiful songs.

For example, here is a suite from Steve and James Lupine's

"Into the Woods"

without interference from a witch,

arranged and orchestrated by Don Sebesky.

[Applause]

[Whistling]

[Rustling]

[Whistling]

[Whistling]

[Whistling]

[Whistling]

[Whistles two notes]

[Cheering and applause]

Peters: Now we are going to hear the premiere

of a new orchestral suite

from Steve and John Weidman's "Assassins,"

a sort of surreal, vaudeville revue featuring

9 of the assassins who, across a span of 100 years

of American history, tried to kill

the president of the United States

from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald.

The score uses styles from various periods

of American music.

The suite has been arranged and orchestrated

by Michael Starobin,

the original orchestrator of the show.

[Applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, "Assassins."

[Applause]

[Cheering and applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, the orchestrator

of "Assassins" is with us tonight--Michael Starobin!

There he is!

[Cheering and applause]

One of my favorites of Steve's scores

is the one from "Company"...

[Applause]

a show he wrote with George Furth.

Like "Assassins," "Company" is a revue of sorts,

although it has a story.

It takes place in the early 1970s,

and instead of being about politics,

it's about the difficulty of maintaining relationships

in a society becoming increasingly depersonalized.

It has two central characters--

Robert, a man unable to make an emotional commitment,

and New York City.

[Laughter]

The iconic song "Being Alive" at the climax of the show

was not the original one written for that moment.

It was the third,

but as I'm sure you know, musicals are not so much written

as rewritten.

Here is an orchestral version of one of the songs

that preceded "Being Alive,"

a rhapsodic love song that the hero Robert sings

about Amy, the girl he thinks he loves.

It's called "Multitudes of Amys,"

here arranged and orchestrated by Don Sebesky.

[Applause]

[Applause]

The 1970s were a prolific time for Steve--

"Company," "Follies," "A Little Night Music,"

"Pacific Overtures,"

and then to finish out the decade "Sweeney Todd."

In New York alone, this musical has been performed

on Broadway, at City Opera,

twice right here on this stage with the Philharmonic,

once with actor-musicians,

and most recently downtown at a theater converted

into a pie shop.

No matter what the scale or the venue,

"Sweeney Todd" is spectacular.

Here's a suite of the score, again in an arrangement

and orchestration by Don Sebesky.

[Applause]

[Cheering and applause]

In 1973, Steve and Hal Prince decided they wanted to do

a romantic musical.

Together with Hugh Wheeler, they chose to adapt

Ingmar Bergman's romantic comedy "Smiles of a Summer Night"

and called it "A Little Night Music."

In order to keep the sense of romance afloat,

Steve composed the score entirely in variations

of triple meter-- waltzes, minuets,

polonaises, and so forth.

The show contains Steve's most popular song

"Send in the Clowns,"

and I was lucky enough to get to sing it

in the most recent Broadway revival.

[Applause]

Here is one of the orchestral waltzes

from the score, "The Night Waltz,"

orchestrated by Steve's long-time collaborator

Jonathan Tunick.

[Applause]

[Applause]

Next up is a piece from Steve and James Goldman's

breathtaking "Follies,"

a show about former "Follies" showgirls

attending a reunion at the theater

they once performed in, which is about to be torn down.

The score is in part pastiche,

filled with homages to great composers

from between the two World Wars,

including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter,

and George Gershwin.

We are going to hear the overture,

which serves to introduce the themes

of each of the characters as they arrive

at the reunion,

once again orchestrated by the great Jonathan Tunick.

[Applause]

[Applause]

Steve often says that one of the things

he loves most about the theater

is that it allows his shows to be reconceived

in fresh ways.

"Sweeney Todd" in a pie shop

or played by a small cast of actor-musicians

or, as in London last year, a revival of "Company"

by the imaginative director Marianne Elliott,

which swapped some of the genders of the characters.

Happily, it's coming to Broadway this season,

and the leading role of Bobbie, now female

and spelled with an i-e,

will be played by the dazzling Tony-Award-winning Katrina Lenk.

She is with us tonight to sing two

of Steve's great songs from "Follies."

Ladies and gentlemen, Katrina Lenk!

[Cheering and applause]

♪ The sun comes up ♪

♪ I think about you ♪

♪ The coffee cup ♪

♪ I think about you ♪

♪ I want you so ♪

♪ It's like I'm losing my mind ♪

♪ The morning ends ♪

♪ I think about you ♪

♪ I talk to friends ♪

♪ I think about you ♪

♪ And do they know? ♪

♪ It's like I'm losing my mind ♪

♪ All afternoon, doing every little chore ♪

♪ The thought of you stays bright ♪

♪ Sometimes, I stand in the middle of the floor ♪

♪ Not going left ♪

♪ Not going right ♪

♪ I dim the lights ♪

♪ And think about you ♪

♪ Spend sleepless nights ♪

♪ To think about you ♪

♪ You said you loved me ♪

♪ Or were you just being kind ♪

♪ Or am I losing my mind? ♪

♪ I want you so ♪

♪ It's like I'm losing my mind ♪

♪ Does no one know? ♪

♪ It's like I'm losing my mind ♪

♪ All afternoon, doing every little chore ♪

♪ The thought of you stays bright ♪

♪ Sometimes, I stand in the middle of the floor ♪

♪ Not going left ♪

♪ Not going right ♪

♪ I dim the lights ♪

♪ And think about you ♪

♪ Spend sleepless nights ♪

♪ To think about you ♪

♪ You said you loved me ♪

♪ Or were you just being kind? ♪

♪ Or am I losing my ♪

♪ Mind? ♪

[Cheering and applause]

♪ Leave you? Leave you? ♪

♪ How could I leave you? ♪

♪ How could I go it alone? ♪

♪ Could I wave the years away ♪

♪ With a quick good-bye? ♪

♪ How do you wipe tears away ♪

♪ When your eyes are dry? ♪

♪ Sweetheart, lover, could I recover ♪

♪ Give up the joys I have known? ♪

♪ Not to fetch your pills again ♪

♪ Every day at 5:00 ♪

♪ Not to give those dinners for 10 elderly men ♪

♪ From the U.N. ♪

♪ How could I survive? ♪

♪ Could I leave you ♪

♪ And your shelves of the world's best books ♪

♪ And the evenings of martyred looks ♪

♪ Cryptic sighs ♪

♪ Sullen glares from those injured eyes? ♪

♪ Leave the quips with a sting, jokes with a sneer ♪

♪ Passionless lovemaking once a year? ♪

♪ Leave the lies ill-concealed ♪

♪ And the wounds never healed ♪

♪ And the games not worth winning ♪

♪ And wait, I'm just beginning ♪

♪ What, leave you, leave you ♪

♪ How could I leave you? ♪

♪ What would I do on my own? ♪

♪ Putting thoughts of you aside ♪

♪ In the South of France ♪

♪ Would I think of suicide? ♪

♪ Darling, shall we dance? ♪

♪ Could I live through the pain ♪

♪ On a terrace in Spain? ♪

♪ Would it pass? ♪

♪ It would pass ♪

♪ Could I bury my rage ♪

♪ With a boy half your age ♪

♪ In the grass? ♪

♪ Bet your ass ♪

♪ But I've done that already ♪

♪ Or didn't you know, love? ♪

♪ Tell me, how could I leave when I left long ago, love? ♪

♪ Could I leave you? ♪

♪ No, the point is, could you leave me? ♪

♪ Well, I guess you could leave me the house ♪

♪ Leave me the flat ♪

♪ Leave me the Braques and Chagalls and all that ♪

♪ You could leave me the stocks for sentiment's sake ♪

♪ And 90% of the money you make ♪

♪ And the rugs and the cooks ♪

♪ Darling, you keep the drugs ♪

♪ Angel, you keep the books ♪

♪ Honey, I'll take the grand ♪

♪ Sugar, you keep the spinet ♪

♪ And all of our friends and-- ♪

♪ Just wait a goddam minute ♪

♪ Oh, leave you? Leave you? ♪

♪ How could I leave you? ♪

♪ Sweetheart, I have to confess ♪

[Clucks tongue]

[Laughter]

♪ Could I leave you? ♪

♪ Yes ♪

♪ Will I leave you? ♪

♪ Will I leave you? ♪

♪ Guess ♪

[Cheering and applause]

Before we say good night, I think we should thank

our conductor Alexander Gemignani,

making his New York Philharmonic debut.

[Cheering and applause]

And above all-- what other word can I use--

the monumental New York Philharmonic!

[Cheering and applause]

For our finale, a suite from one

of the most exhilarating pieces of theater ever,

and I don't say that just because I was part of it.

[Laughter]

It's Steve and James Lupine's

"Sunday in the Park with George."

[Applause]

Inspired by the French pointillist painter

George Seurat's painting

"A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,"

the show is about the wonders of creativity,

and there's a lyric in the show which reflects

how I feel about Steve and his work--

"Anything you do, let it come from you,

"Then it will be new,

Give us more to see."

"Sunday in the Park with George"

arranged and orchestrated by Michael Starobin.

[Applause]

[Cheering and applause]

Child: A medley of highlights from the music

Stephen Sondheim wrote for the 1984 musical

"Sunday in the Park with George,"

coming to you live from Lincoln Center,

where Alexander Gemignani is conducting

the New York Philharmonic.

Tonight's program, a celebration

of Stephen Sondheim, who was all of 27 years old

when he rocketed to fame in 1957

as they lyricist for the groundbreaking classic

"West Side Story."

Sondheim won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985

for "Sunday in the Park with George"

and has collected multiple Grammys, Tonys,

Drama Desk Awards, and more.

Conductor Alexander Gemignani now back on the podium,

and I think we're heading toward a Sondheim encore.

[Cheering and applause]

Child: An encore from the New York Philharmonic

as they're celebrating Stephen Sondheim.

That's the overture

from "Merrily We Roll Along,"

the 1981 musical

by Stephen Sondheim.

Our conductor Alexander Gemignani

making his New York Philharmonic

debut tonight

with, by the way, tips

from his dad Paul Gemignani,

who was the musical director

for Stephen Sondheim

for 45 years.

Join the conversation on Twitter,

using #LFLC.

You can also watch

a conversation between Paul

and Alexander Gemignani at pbs.org.

[Applause]

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