A Little Night Music is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler.
Based on the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, it tells the story of a lawyer, Fredrik Egerman, who is married to a very young wife, Anne, who, despite the fact that they have been married almost a year, is still a virgin. He sees an old flame, Desiree Armfeldt, who is appearing in a popular play, and his romantic interest in her is rekindled. However, she is having an affair with a jealous, and married, military man, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. Complicating matters is Egerman's son, Henrik, a divinity student who is in love with his stepmother. The play culminates in a weekend at the country estate of Desiree's mother, Madame Leonora Armfeldt, who is looking after Desiree's daughter, Fredrika, while Desiree is on tour.
Most of the music in the show is written in waltz (3/4) time or multiples thereof. Occasionally in the score, Sondheim uses compound meter, a time signature like 12/8, in which there are actually four beats per measure that subdivide into three, giving the music the feeling of a waltz, though it is not a waltz in strict compositional terms. The work is often considered an operetta rather than standard musical comedy. Despite the oblique Mozart reference in the title (see below), the elegant, harmonically-advanced music in this show pays indirect homage to the compositions of Maurice Ravel, especially his Valses nobles et sentimentales. The score contains Sondheim's best-known song, "Send in the Clowns", as well as such songs as "The Glamorous Life," "You Must Meet My Wife," "Every Day a Little Death," "Liaisons," "In Praise of Women," "A Weekend in the Country," and "The Miller's Son." The score makes heavy demands on performers, with extensive use of counterpoint and most singing parts written with an operatic range.
A Little Night Music opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on February 25, 1973, with a cast which included Glynis Johns, Len Cariou, Hermione Gingold, Victoria Mallory, Mark Lambert, Laurence Guittard, Patricia Elliott, and D. Jamin-Bartlett. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical. For more information see A Little Night Music at The Internet Broadway Database.
The subsequent London production in 1974 starred Jean Simmons, Joss Ackland, David Kernan, Diane Langton, with Hermione Gingold reprising her role as Madame Armfeldt.
In 1978, a film version of A Little Night Music was made, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Lesley-Anne Down, and Diana Rigg, with Len Cariou, Hermione Gingold, and Laurence Guittard reprising their Broadway roles. The setting for the film was moved from Sweden to Austria, and was filmed on location. Much of the score was cut, and many of the performers, including Taylor, were dubbed by other singers. Stephen Sondheim wrote lyrics for the "Night Waltz" theme ("Love Takes Time") and wrote an entirely new version of "The Glamorous Life" which has been incorporated into several subsequent productions of the stage musical. The film marked legendary Broadway director Hal Prince's first time as a motion picture director. For more information see A Little Night Music at the Internet Movie Database .
In addition to the original Broadway and London cast recordings, and the motion picture soundtrack (now out of print), there are recordings of the 1990 studio cast, the 1995 Royal National Theatre revival (starring Judi Dench), and the 2001 Barcelona cast recording sung in Catalan. In 1997 an all-jazz version of the score was recorded by Terry Trotter.
In 1973, the original Broadway production was nominated for eleven Tony Awards. It won in the following categories:
The following were the other nominations. In the Best Featured Actress category, both Hermione Gingold and Patricia Elliott were nominated against one another for their work on the same show.
Additionally in 1973, D'Jamin Bartlett, Patricia Elliott, and Laurence Guittard were honored with Theatre World Awards for their work on the show.
A Little Night Music is also an occasionally used translation of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the nickname of Mozart's Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, K. 525.