". . .I would like to know what happened to this effort over the last 20 years."
Here, Keats, from notes of the Stephen Sondheim Society, is more recent information, and an intimation of what has happened (or has not happened) to Citizen Kane by Sondheim (with, it is said, book by Arthur Laurents):
"From The Australian: 'Here's an opera fantasy to salivate over: baritone Bryn Terfel as the title character in a music-drama adaptation of Citizen Kane by Stephen Sondheim.
"'It's operatic, don't you think, owning a newspaper?' Terfel says. 'During the film he marries the singer, the soprano, and then at the end he has this fantastic scene where he has a Lucia-like moment, throwing pieces of furniture everywhere.'
"For now, Citizen Kane: The Opera must remain wishful thinking. Orson Welles's estate, apparently, is protective of its copyright. And Terfel says he has not had any discussions with Sondheim about the idea.
"The Welsh singer and leading bass-baritone of our times has an affinity with Sondheim's recherche musicals. He has sung Sweeney Todd at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (in Australian director Neil Armfield's production), and mentions that there was once even the possibility of him singing the role with Opera Australia in Sydney. Performance schedules and a proposed closure and refurbishment of the Opera Theatre, he says, got the better of the plan.
"The attraction for Terfel is working with and singing the music of living composers. 'You can't beat that,' he says. 'That's the one thing I would like in future. I'm asked many times, "What's left for you to sing?" I would like an opera to be written for my voice, with my personality in mind. . . '"
-- 24th October, 2006
It is curious that Terfel, a leading Welsh Basso-Baratone, does not seem aware that Sondheim worked on just such a project over twenty years ago. I'm also surprised, keats, that you would not know more about this subject yourself since Sondheim studied music at Williams College in your town.
Obviously, Terfel is thinking out loud, launching one of those trial baloons, without much substance, but he is interested. And since then, he has sung some Sondheim in New York City.
In a March 12, 2000 interview with Frank Rich, published in the New York Times Magazine, Sondheim, who created not only Into the Woods but A Little Night Music (based on Bergman's SMILES ON A SUMMER NIGHT), is quoted:
"'Movies were, and still are, my basic language,' he says. In the 50's, his film-buff expertise propelled him through the contestant tryouts for "The $64,000 Question." He admires independent filmmakers like Errol Morris, yet finds most current Hollywood films formulaic next to childhood favorites like 'Citizen Kane,' 'The Grapes of Wrath' and 'Stairway to Heaven.' He usually watches them in video form and misses the movie palaces of his youth like the Roxy, whose demolition inspired the set of 'Follies.'"
Born in 1930, Sondheim would have been eleven in 1941. As with other precocious, artistic youngsters of his generation, CITIZEN KANE was evidently an inspiration.
And so, if all true (which may be in doubt), Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents created a musical based on CITIZEN KANE, one of the formative artistic experiences of Sondheim's life, and among other reasons it was never produced, the Welles Estate (Beatrice Welles) objected.
I try to give Ms. Welles some slack, but I do wonder what she must be thinking, to turn down an opportunity like this one, which with a little imagination, one could imagine might be, not only a Musical Theater triumph, but a gold mine. CITIZEN KANE: The Musical would certainly be an effort of distinction. One might imagine the iPods, CDs, touring companies, motion picture versions, TV adaptations, etc., which would follow if the initial enterprise were a success.