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Camille Saint-Saens / A Little Night Music

Rick Rogers Published: December 13, 2012

On this day in classical music: Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor” was given its premiere in Paris in 1868. Anton Rubinstein conducted and the composer was the soloist. The most popular of Saint-Saëns’ five piano concertos, the Second was championed by Arthur Rubinstein, the Polish pianist who made his professional debut with this concerto. The concerto’s unusual opening, for piano alone, points out the composer’s admiration for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The finale, in contrast, is a lively tarantella. Polish pianist Zygmunt Stojowski quipped that the concerto “begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach.” Listen to Arthur Rubinstein perform the opening movement of Saint-Saëns’ “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor” with the London Symphony Orchestra. Andre Previn conducts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aaz8ZtJrSk

Camille Saint-Saens
Camille Saint-Saens

On this day in the musical theatre: A Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” opened in New York in 2009. Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night,” “A Little Night Music” starred Catherine Zeta-Jones as the actress Desiree Armfeldt and Angela Lansbury as her mother, this revival offered a darker view of Sondheim’s story about mismatched couples whose lives intertwine during a dinner party at the Armfeldt’s family estate. Zeta-Jones won a Tony Award in her Broadway debut. After she and Lansbury left the production, their roles were taken over by Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. Listen to Zeta-Jones perform the musical’s breakout hit, “Send In the Clowns,” on the 2010 Tony Awards broadcast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUGkjNTRoNo

A Little Night Music - Broadway Revival Cast
A Little Night Music - Broadway Revival Cast

Musical musings: The night itself is said to smile at the escapades of the addled lovers in “A Little Night Music,” Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s erotic waltz of a show from 1973. But the expression that hovers over Trevor Nunn’s revival, which opened Sunday night at the Walter Kerr Theater, feels dangerously close to a smirk. It is a smirk shrouded in shadows. An elegiac darkness infuses this production, which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, in a lively Broadway debut, and the indomitable (and invaluable) Angela Lansbury. But the behavior of the characters who wander through a twilight labyrinth of passion in early-20th-century Sweden has the exaggerated gusto of second-tier boulevard farce, of people trying a little too hard for worldliness. Mr. Nunn’s “Little Night Music,” the first full Broadway revival of the show, may well be a hit too, though not because of any artistic finesse. It has what is a producer’s favorite form of insurance these days: stars known to the public from movies, television and tabloids, of whom people can later say things like “She’s even more beautiful in person” (as they surely will of the lustrous Ms. Zeta-Jones) or “She’s amazing for her age” (in reference to the 84-year-old Ms. Lansbury). In addition to being drop-dead gorgeous in David Farley’s wasp-waisted period dresses, Ms. Zeta-Jones brings a decent voice, a supple dancer’s body and a vulpine self-possession to her first appearance on Broadway. This Welsh-born Hollywood actress appeared in West End musicals in her youth and won an Oscar for the film of the musical “Chicago,” as the man-killing chorine Velma Kelly. Her Desiree, to be honest, is much like her Velma: earthy, eager and a tad vulgar, though without the homicidal rage and jealousy. – Ben Brantley in The New York Times