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Sondheim’s BUNUEL No Longer In Development

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Jordan Catalano
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ljay889
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Not surprised Sondheim’s BUNUEL No Longer In Development but I wish we could at least hear the music that was completed. There would certainly be enough interest in this for a studio recording.
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PianoMann
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Terribly disappointing, especially considering how promising the concept sounded and how enthusiastic Sondheim once was about it. Fingers crossed we get to hear that Act 1 score some day, since it sounds like it was completed.

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JBroadway
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Brutal news! But frankly, I can't say I'm surprised. Throughout this show's development, I've managed to maintain a healthy "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude, and I'm sad to discover that it paid off. 

Also, I have slightly mixed feelings, because it's been quite a while since Sondheim has written a song that I've really loved. So I've had my doubts about whether his score would really be any good. But damn, I still would have loved to see it. 

I have some hope though: it seems to me that Sondheim's career has demonstrated a long history of revisions, alternate versions, piece-meal collaborations and editions, etc. It seems to me that while Sondheim may be a perfectionist in many ways, and while he may be a purist about certain things, he hasn't been shy about allowing other artist to make changes to his work (when he approves them). So I would hope that he allows for some contingency where we might see other artists fill in some of the gaps, so we can see some version of it performed someday. Likewise, I he has historically been been very open about sharing early, unfinished version of his songs. It might be difficult for him to apply that openness to his current work, but I imagine that someday these songs will see the light of day in some form or another - either from him, or by the permission of his future estate. And if/when they do, I think it will be in the spirit of his overall philosophy and approach to sharing his work. 

EDIT: By the way, it's a little ironic that BroadwayWorld would mistakenly call this musical "BUNUEL" after they proudly published this "BroadwayWorld Exclusive" 

https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Exclusive-Sondheim-Knocks-Riedels-Reporting-Says-His-New-Musical-Was-Never-Called-BUNUEL-20170426

As far as I'm aware, this is the last piece of information we got about the title (or lack thereof) of this show.

Updated On: 4/27/21 at 04:08 PM
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imeldasturn
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Yeah, count me I'm the disappointed but not surprised group. A couple of years ago he was talking at the National Theatre and said that the book for act 1 was almost finished and that he had written a handful of songs. I remember thinking that it wasn't much considering how long they had been working on it. Oh well, Sondheim's legacy is enormous but still I wish he had given us "more to see".
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binau
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I reflect on Sondheim speaking about working on Do I Hear a Waltz with Richard Rogers and how now as he has aged he has more empathy for the challenges of creating new music. I am guessing he just doesn’t have the motivation or ideas (or at least, satisfaction with the ideas) to finish the piece. So disappointing to hear but I suppose not shocking. I was secretly hoping he was working on it over the pandemic though.
"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
¿Macavity?
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I'm obviously not surprised. I am crushed though. As many do, I adore him and his work more than almost anything. As a younger theatre lover who has only been to NYC once, it would have meant more than the world to me to have had the privilege to see a new Sondheim musical. It was a fantasy I foolishly let myself become too comfortable in.

All that said, I fully respect the various potential reasons this project has been dropped. The man is 91 and lord knows he's given us more than enough beauty.
AnythingYouDo
Swing
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I'm disappointed, but not shocked after the report in May 2019 that Sondheim and Ives were no longer working on the project.

I am a little surprised though, given how frequently Sondheim has talked about the project. As late as June 2019 (after the report that Ives and Sondheim were no longer working on the project), Sondheim mentioned that he was making progress on the show. And in July of the same year there was a report that Sondheim was working with director Jeremy Sams on the project.

Who knows––Sondheim informed the Public last year, but I suppose it's possible things have changed since then. I'd be curious to hear the whole story of this project's development, and I have no doubt we'll hear at least part of the unfinished score at some point.

JasonC3
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I agree with Michael Cerveris 100% in the NYT story:

“The marriage with Buñuel felt pretty right for the times, and the world has only gotten darker and weirder since then,” he said. “I’d have loved to see it come to be. But then, I will always want more Sondheim in the world (my emphasis added).”

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Charley Kringas Inc
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Not surprised, but still heartbroken.

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NameGreg
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Very sad but expected news. I agree with Cerveris 100%.

While it’ll be bittersweet that he never finishes it, hopefully we can hear what he’s done of it at some point. And regardless, there’s still plenty of exceptional Sondheim music out there.
“Somebody stop me before I sing again” - Bazzard
cliffordbradshaw2
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I've wondered if Sondheim might have been somewhat discouraged when the Met presented Thomas Ades' opera "The Exterminating Angel" in 2017.  It got a rave review in the NY Times, was transmitted to theaters, was telecast on PBS, and is available on DVD/Blu-ray.

 

Interesting that both Sondheim and Ades were granted rights to the property for stage treatment.

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joevitus
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The whole project seems odd to me for Sondheim, who back in the early '70's dismissed The Rules of the Game as a project with Hal Prince because he considered it too pretentious and arty (of course, they went with Smiles of a Summer Night instead, creating A Little Night Music). The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie are hardly less arty or pretentious than The Rules of the Game. Maybe working with James Lapine after Prince really turned him around on all that.  I also have to agree with JBroadway that it's been a while since anything new Sondheim has written has grabbed me. 

But it's also, ultimately, no big deal. Had it been finished, it would have been at least interesting, and that it isn't finished doesn't matter much, considering the wealth of material Sondheim has provided the world.

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TotallyEffed
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As you mentioned, Sondheim has adapted European art house cinema before, to great success. This project didn’t seem odd to me at all, in fact it made perfect sense.
UrNotAMachine
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joevitus said: "The whole project seems odd to me for Sondheim, who back in the early '70's dismissed The Rules of the Game as a project with Hal Prince because he considered it too pretentious and arty (of course, they went with Smiles of a Summer Night instead, creating A Little Night Music). The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie are hardly less arty or pretentious than The Rules of the Game. Maybe working with James Lapine after Prince really turned him around on all that.I also have to agree with JBroadway that it's been a while since anything new Sondheim has written has grabbed me.

But it's also, ultimately, no big deal. Had it been finished, it would have been at least interesting, and that it isn't finished doesn't matter much, considering the wealth of material Sondheim has provided the world.
"

I don't think Sondheim thought that "The Rules of the Game" was too "arty," If I recall correctly he just thought that film was somewhat unsubtle thematically, and he considered "Smiles..." to be the superior film in that "genre." They tried to get the rights to "Rules" first if I'm not mistaken, but were denied.

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Kad
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Not terribly surprising- the protracted development process did not bode well at all for the project.

Hopefully any worthwhile parts of the score will trickle out into the public at some point. Otherwise, even though Sondheim is my favorite composer, I don't know that I would another mediocre work being his final project... we already have Road Show.
"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
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JBroadway
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Kad said: "I don't know that I would another mediocre work being his final project... we already have Road Show."

 

By that logic though, you could say that leaving the Buñuel show unfinished has now cemented the possibility that his final score will be a mediocre one (aka Road Show). At least the Buñuel musical MIGHT have been good. But oh well. The early reports from the workshop seemed promising, but I guess they could've been blowing smoke up Sondheim's you-know-what. 

But as others have said, Sondheim's legacy should not, and will not, be defined by his final work. He'll be remembered for the plethora of beautiful work he's produced throughout his career. 

Updated On: 4/28/21 at 04:31 PM
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fashionguru_23
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I wonder if any of this has to do with the Public Theatre. Sondheim has always said that yes, he is a slow worker, but he loves a deadline. I wonder how concrete the deadlines were, and if the coming and going of it just made it not enjoyable anymore. 

Also, where is David Hare in all of this?

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JBroadway
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It strikes me as highly uncharacteristic of the Public to drop a project like this at all, let alone because of the deadline. If anything, I'd expect it to be the opposite: if Sondheim needs a deadline, maybe he stopped because the Public was being so unceasingly accommodating, that he lost his sense of urgent motivation to finish it. 

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joevitus
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UrNotAMachine said: "joevitus said: "The whole project seems odd to me for Sondheim, who back in the early '70's dismissed The Rules of the Game as a project with Hal Prince because he considered it too pretentious and arty (of course, they went with Smiles of a Summer Night instead, creating A Little Night Music). The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie are hardly less arty or pretentious than The Rules of the Game. Maybe working with James Lapine after Prince really turned him around on all that.I also have to agree with JBroadway that it's been a while since anything new Sondheim has written has grabbed me.

But it's also, ultimately, no big deal. Had it been finished, it would have been at least interesting, and that it isn't finished doesn't matter much, considering the wealth of material Sondheim has provided the world.
"

I don't think Sondheim thought that "The Rules of the Game" was too "arty," If I recall correctly he just thought that film was somewhat unsubtle thematically,and he considered "Smiles..."to be the superior film in that "genre." They tried to get the rights to "Rules" first if I'm not mistaken, but were denied.
"

Seems to me "arty" and "pretentious" was the words he used for it when interviewed by Frank Rich (at the NY Public Library? I watched it on YouTube; can't find it now). But I may be wrong.

Updated On: 4/28/21 at 11:13 PM
Owen22
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Kad said: "Not terribly surprising- the protracted development process did not bode well at all for the project.

Hopefully any worthwhile parts of the score will trickle out into the public at some point. Otherwise, even though Sondheim is my favorite composer, I don't know that I would another mediocre work being his final project... we already have Road Show.
"

I know what you mean. And I have TRIED with Road Show.  I though I'd eventually get to a point where hearing and seeing it enough I would come to appreciate it like I eventually did with Passion.  But after the two out-of-town Bounce's, the Public's and then the Encore's (with a damn fine cast) I realize it's not a good piece.

The Brunuel sounded interesting though...

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broadwaybabywannabe2
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As a true SONDHEIMMANIAC I am totally bummed out by this news...Sondheim has been a part of my Broadway experiences since 1970, when i saw COMPANY...9 times that Summer!...i am so ever grateful for all the music the Maestro has given us mere mortals...and as someone here has suggested, maybe a studio or concert production would at least let us hear his final composition... 

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fashionguru_23
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I have a strange feeling we won't hear the score until Sondheim has left the early planet...God forbid!

"Ok ok ok ok ok ok ok. Have you guys heard about fidget spinners!?" ~Patti LuPone