Composers Datebook

Sondheim in the Woods

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930) Into the Woods Original Broadway cast members RCA 60752

Composers Datebook for November 5, 2020


November 05, 2020


“Into the Woods,” a new musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, opened on Broadway on today’s date in 1987, and brought to the stage characters from the world of fairy-tales: Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and not one, but TWO Prince Charmings.

But in Lapine and Sondheim’s fairy tale, bad things happen to good people who make morally questionable decisions in their quest to “live happily ever after.”

At the time, Sondheim said, “All fairy tales are parables about steps to maturity. The final step is when you become responsible for the people around you, when you feel connected to the rest of the world.”

The New York Times review noted that this fairy tale’s quest was “the same painful, existential one taken by so many adults in Sondheim musicals past.” Granting the musical was “potent stuff,” some complained there was simply too much of it, with multiple plot lines resulting in a complicated story hampering Sondheim’s lyrical gifts from really taking off on their own.

Even so, since its 1987 premiere, “Into the Woods” has gone on to become one of the most performed and popular of all Sondheim’s musicals.

Music Played in Today's Program

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930) Into the Woods Original Broadway cast members RCA 60752

On This Day


  • 1494 - German poet and songwriter ("Master Singer") Hans Sachs, in Nuremberg; He is the subject of German Romantic operas by Lortzig ("Hans Sachs," 1840) and Wagner ("Die Meistersinger," 1868);

  • 1935 - British composer Nicholas Maw, in Grantham, Lincolnshire;


  • 1942 - American songwriter and vaudevillian George M. Cohan, age 64, in New York City; He won the Congressional Medal for his patriotic song, "Over There" (recorded by Enrico Caruso among others);

  • 1956 - American jazz pianist and improviser Art Tatum, age 47, in Los Angeles;


  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 115 ("Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit") performed on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity as part of Bach's second annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1724/25);

  • 1846 - R. Schumann: Symphony No. 2, by Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn;

  • 1876 - Tchaikovsky: “Marche slav” in Moscow (Gregorian date: Nov. 17);

  • 1888 - Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Nov. 17);

  • 1895 - R. Strauss: tone-poem "Till Eulenspiegels Merry Pranks," in Cologne, conducted by Franz Wüllner;

  • 1926 - de Falla: Harpsichord Concerto, with Wanda Landowska as soloist with the composer conducting;

  • 1927 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 2 ("To October"), by the Leningrad Philharmonic and Academic Choir, Nikolai Malko conducting;

  • 1938 - Barber: "Adagio for Strings" and "Essay for Orchestra" No. 1, on a broadcast concert by the NBC Symphony, Arturo Toscanini conducting;

  • 1943 - Martinu: Concerto for Two Pianos, with Luboshutz and Nemenoff Duo, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting;

  • 1987 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Into the Woods";


  • 1903 - First concert by a 50-member Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (the current Minnesota Orchestra), conducted by Emil Oberhoffer, with Metropolitan Opera soprano Marcella Sembrich as guest soloist;

  • 1955 - Karl Böhm conducts a performance of Beethoven's "Fidelio" at the gala re-opening of Vienna Opera House (damaged by Allied bombs on March 12, 1945); During the rebuilding of the Opera House, performances had continued in two nearby Viennese halls: the Theatre and der Wien and the Volksoper.