Aspen Opera Center stages Stephen Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’ with Broadway conductor Andy Einhorn
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘A Little Night Music,’ presented by the Aspen Music Festival and School
When: Thursday, July 11, 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 13, 8 p.m., Monday, July 15, 8 p.m.
Where: Wheeler Opera House
How much: $25-$75
Tickets: Aspen Music Festival box offices and aspenmusicfestival.com
The Aspen Opera Center is going Broadway this week, staging Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” for a three-night run at the Wheeler Opera House.
Sondheim, whose lyrics and music have helped define the American musical since “West Side Story” debuted a half-century ago, had to be on the bill somewhere in the Aspen Music Festival and School’s American-themed season. So the festival is bringing his most classically informed stage work to the Wheeler.
For audiences, that means a night at the opera with show tunes and without subtitles. For the cast of voice and opera students, it means an acting challenge.
“Sondheim really writes for actors and the text is paramount,” conductor Andy Einhorn said. “So the challenge here is to say, ‘You all have fantastic voices, we know that, but remember that we’re telling a story and that the lyric is first and foremost.’”
On the first day of rehearsals with director Edward Berkeley, Einhorn pushed his student singers to find the depths in Sondheim’s wordplay: “Continue to find new things in the lyrics. You will be amazed at how you continue to find these treasures and double-entendres throughout the piece.”
Einhorn is an accomplished Broadway conductor with wide experience in Sondheim’s work, including conducting Broadway’s “Sondheim on Sondheim” and serving as music director of the 2013 HBO documentary “Six By Sondheim.” His most recent credits include the revivals of “Carousel” with Aspen alum Renée Fleming and “Hello, Dolly!” with Bette Midler and touring with six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald.
“A Little Night Music” has been produced regularly by opera companies since the 1980s, as the show — set in 1900 in Sweden — is filled with classical music references and contains some of Sondheim’s most complex songs. But, Einhorn noted, it’s also among Sondheim’s poppiest and most digestible musicals — the story of a love triangle, free of the esoteric bits in shows like “Follies” and “Sunday in the Park with George,” or the darkness of “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd.”
“You’re coming to a love story that promises some great entertainment,” Einhorn said.
It is also the Sondheim show that produced the pop music standard “Send in the Clowns,” which has been covered in beloved versions by the likes of Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and even Krusty the Klown.
“It’s our job as artists to make you listen again freshly to a piece of music like that,” Einhorn said. “To be aware that, of course, everybody knows this music but there will be people in the audience who don’t. You need to be telling the story as though everybody is taking it in for the first time.”
Nearing opening night, Einhorn said he had been astounded by the talent, drive and attention to detail his students have brought to the production.
“It’s a symbiotic experience for both those of us who do this professionally and the students,” he said. “I think I’m learning more from them than they’ll learn from me.”