06. March 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Quotes

Well, whether one thinks that’s good or bad, that is just simply, I don’t think, that Maria would sing, or in fact anybody would outside of opera, where it’s always allowable to sing nonsense.

-Stephen Sondheim (Commenting on some lyrics Leonard Bernstein had written for West Side Story which were nixed)

(The lyrics:
Once in your life, only once in your life, comes a flash a fire and light, and there stands your love, the harvest of your years.)


  1. That’s ironic, because Sondheim has pretty much disowned his own lyrics to WSS. I heard a radio interview where he said he especially disliked his lyric to “I feel pretty” — on the grounds that lines like “It’s alarming how charming I feel” could never have been spoken by a poor Puerto Rican seamstress.

    He’s right that it’s a pretty unlikely prose line — from anybody! But, of course, nonsense often does work in musical theater!

  2. In the interview he does suggest that the lyrics in WSS weren’t all great, IIRC.

    I actually like a lot of his lyrics. He’s quite the clever writer, IMO.