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date: 20 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In its aristocratic plot, exotic setting, and musical topoi, A Little Night Music would appear to be Sondheim’s answer to late-Romantic operetta. What makes the piece completely modern, however, is its cynical rejection of fidelity in love, the unquestionable social norm against which the romantic comedy of an operetta plays off. The chapter reveals three sources of this cynicism: the significant alterations to the plot of Ingmar Bergman’s comic Smiles of Summer Night; specific techniques of stagecraft, in particular the use of a commentator ensemble; and the syntax of Sondheim’s music. But how can music, which in opera and musical theater is always the voice of truth belying what characters may do or say, be composed to be cynical?

Keywords: A Little Night Music, Ingmar Bergman, Smiles of a Summer Night, cynicism, musical syntax, operetta

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