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SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE A masterpiece comes to life In 1884, a twenty-five year old French Impressionist named Georges Seurat began work on A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, an idyllic park scene that would eventually become an icon of late 19th century painting. Sunday in the Park with George is a joyous musical theatre retelling of a visionary artist’s creative process. Seurat’s much-loved painting comes to life, revealing the lives and loves of its subjects, and exploring the ‘art of making art’ across generations, from 19th century Paris to 20th century Chicago. Following its Broadway opening, legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein declared it ‘brilliant’. A year later Sunday in the Park with George won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Sunday in the Park with George | Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine 20 – 27 July Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Originally Directed on Broadway by James Lapine. Originally Produced on Broadway by The Shubert Organisation and Emanuel Azenberg. By arrangement with Playwrights Horizon, Inc. New York City which produced the original production of Sunday In The Park with George in 1983. By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International (NY).

SYNOPSIS Act One In 1884 George is completing his masterpiece which is simultaneously the backdrop and the feature of the musical. The characters in the painting come to life and discuss their relationships with each other and their thoughts and feelings. George is so obsessed with his work he neglects his mistress Dot, the main character of the painting. Dot then leaves George for a pastry baker, Louis and emigrates to America. Act Two The second act is set in New York in 1984, one hundred years later where George (Seurat’s grandson) is working with light sculptures. He is suffering from an equivalent of writer’s block Figure 1: Georges Seurat, French, 1859-1891, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -- 1884, 1884–86, Oil on canvas, 81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308.1 and is also struggling with the modern art world cm), Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224, The Art Institute where his creations are dependent on of Chicago. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago. commissions and patronage. At the end of the musical, George makes a pilgrimage to Paris where the painting in Act One is set. Dot appears and helps George to put his life together and move on.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource - General © Victorian Opera


CREATIVES

CAST

Conductor Phoebe Briggs Director Stuart Maunder Set & Costume Designer Anna Cordingley Lighting Designer Niklas Pajanti Sound Designer Jim Atkins

George Alexander Lewis Dot/Marie Christina O'Neill an Old Lady/Blair Daniels Nancye Hayes Nurse/Mrs. an American couple/Harriet Pawling Dimity Shepherd Jules/Bob Greenberg David Rogers-Smith Yvonne/Naomi Eisen Antoinette Halloran Boatman/Charles Redman John Brunato Celeste #1/Waitress Olivia Cranwell Celeste #2/Elaine Carrie Barr Louise/Boy Monique Heath/Emily Chessum Franz/Mr. - an American couple/Dennis Lyall Brooks Frieda/Betty Noni McCallum Soilder/Alex Matthew McFarlane Trumpeter/Lee Randolph Jeremy Kleeman Louis/Billy Webster Nathan Lay Young Man/Photographer Kirilie Blythman Man lying on bank/Museum Assistant Daniel Todd

Orchestra Victoria

Figure 2: Christina O'Neill (Dot) Š Martin Philbey

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource - General Š Victorian Opera


BACKGROUND The making of a masterpiece Sunday in the Park with George Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine Broadway Musical Opened Booth Theatre, 2nd May, 1984 ran for 604 performances 10 Tony Nominations Pulitzer Prize in 1985, only the sixth musical to receive that honour After the first performance of Sunday in the Park with George, critics acclaimed the work as being creative, ground breaking, a culmination of past musical theatre innovations and a rejection of them. As the curtain rises, the audience is immediately captivated by the gradual appearance of the backdrop which is a painting comprising 50 statuesque figures who are not looking at each other. It is this painting by Seurat that is the inspiration for the plot, and the story evolves as these characters in the painting come to life. The story revolves around George Seurat’s obsession to paint his Neo-Impressionist masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. The musical is about the inner life of the artist.

A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR Stuart Maunder This quirky, Pulitzer Prize winning, ‘impossible to define’ work is not a biography of Georges Seurat; (so little is known of this artist’s life that the details would scarcely provide fodder for a full length musical), rather Sunday in the Park with George is, at its essence, an examination of what makes artists tick, how and why they must create. In the second half of the Nineteenth Century, Georges Seurat pushed the boundaries and forced the Art Establishment to look at the world through new eyes. In Sunday in the Park with George, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have created a work which asks audiences to look at the Broadway musical in a new way. And Sondheim delights in breaking the rules. When one reads the libretto of Sunday in the Park with George it is often difficult to see where the songs finish and the words take over. This is not a conventional musical in the Rodgers and Hammerstein sense. From Figure 3: Victorian Opera Sunday in the Park with George – George & Dot the first moments we are in the hands of Illustrations © Anna Cordingley the painter, we must take him for our guide. Trees disappear at his will, dogs talk, scenes merge. Just as Seurat created dozens of miniature studies before tacking his monumental painting so we experience these little snapshots of Parisian life. We meet various members of Parisian Society with all their arguments, liaisons, insecurities, jealousies and sense of longing. We also experience his tempestuous relationship with his love and muse: the model Dot. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource - General © Victorian Opera


But ultimately all these ideas, issues and conflicts remain unresolved. They all pale into insignificance and all exist just to provide inspiration for the creation of one of the greatest Neo-impressionist paintings of all time: Seurat’s masterpiece A Sunday on La Grand Jatte. All that counts is the work. Although the relationship between George and Dot is at the heart of the piece Sunday in the Park with George is not a conventional love story, indeed we have to wait four generations for the relationship built and destroyed in Act 1 to find some sort of resolution. Rather what we have is a love affair with art; with the act of creation of art. We experience in a very real way the bliss of the creator, the intense concentration, the sheer hard work, the craft, the passion, the desire:

‘To make things that count, things that will be new’. And then the realisation that:

‘Anything you do, let it come from you. then it will be new.’ To many Sunday in the Park with George is the most autobiographical of Sondheim’s canon, and even though the man himself may not have concurred it is not a major leap to see the parallels between creator and his subject. Seurat created works that to the art world of his time were considered cold, difficult, unconventional, not commercial. How often have we heard the words of ‘No Life’, the second song in Sunday in the Park with George leveled at Sondheim himself?

‘So drab, so cold. and so controlled. no life. all mind, no heart. no life in his art. no life in his life— no life.’ Sondheim brings the same intense, systematic intellectual precision to the composition of his words and music that Seurat brought to his paintings. Studied up close, both the paintings and the musical reveal the precision and meticulous attention to detail, the technique of the artist. Viewed from a distance, or experienced as a whole in the theatre what is revealed is a perfect and complete vision; satisfying and edifying. Sunday in the Park with George shows us that ordered passion of the creative artist can be just as fulfilling as traditional romantic passion. In addition ‘Sunday’ delights in arguing that one must ‘move on’, past recreation of the familiar, the safe. The final lines of Sunday in the Park with George provide Sondheim and Lapine’s challenge to us all:

‘White. A blank page or canvas, His favourite. So many possibilities’ Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource - General © Victorian Opera


EXTEND YOUR OPERA EXPERIENCE! Visit our interactive Wall online for historical facts, behind-the-scenes and photographs and more!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Visit the Education “Wall” to download: • Sunday in the Park with George Music Resource • Sunday in the Park with George Arts Resource • Sunday in the Park with George Theatre Studies Resource

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource - General © Victorian Opera


With thanks to Dr Sharon Lierse for the research and preparation of this resource pack.

CONTACT US For enquiries about our 2013 Education Program contact: Melissa Harris, Education Manager E: melissah@victorianopera.com.au P: 03 9012 6652 Engage with us @ facebook.com/vopera Join in the conversation @ twitter.com/victorianopera #victorianopera See our snapshots @instagram/victorianopera View our opera journey @ youtube.com/victorianoperapage Discover our 2013 Education Season @ victorianopera.com.au/education Read our behind-the-scenes blog @ victorianopera.com.au/blog

Victorian Opera Education Program is generously supported by the Victorian Opera Education Syndicate.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource - General Š Victorian Opera


SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE A masterpiece comes to life In 1884, a twenty-five year old French Impressionist named Georges Seurat began work on A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, an idyllic park scene that would eventually become an icon of late 19th century painting. Sunday in the Park with George is a joyous musical theatre retelling of a visionary artist’s creative process. Seurat’s much-loved painting comes to life, revealing the lives and loves of its subjects, and exploring the ‘art of making art’ across generations, from 19th century Paris to 20th century Chicago. Following its Broadway opening, legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein declared it ‘brilliant’. A year later Sunday in the Park with George won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Sunday in the Park with George | Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine 20 – 27 July Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Originally Directed on Broadway by James Lapine. Originally Produced on Broadway by The Shubert Organisation and Emanuel Azenberg. By arrangement with Playwrights Horizon, Inc. New York City which produced the original production of Sunday In The Park with George in 1983. By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International (NY).

WHAT TO EXPECT BEFORE, DURING & AFTER YOUR OPERA EXPERIENCE! To gain the most of your opera experience it is highly recommended to study the work, discover its inspiration, learn about the composers and explore the main themes. The following educational resources will provide you with information about the work, what to expect during your opera experience and post opera reflection. Most of the information is included here in the pre-visit exploration section can be re-visited during and after the opera experience. Visit our interactive Wall online for historical facts, behind-the-scenes, photographs and more!

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music © Victorian Opera


BACKGROUND The making of a masterpiece Sunday in the Park with George Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine Broadway Musical Opened Booth Theatre, 2nd May, 1984 ran for 604 performances 10 Tony Nominations Pulitzer Prize in 1985, only the sixth musical to receive that honour Stephen Sondheim (1930) Stephen Joshua Sondheim is possibly one of the greatest composers and lyricists in American Theatre. His career spans almost 60 years and he has collaborated on 19 musicals, many which have been performed globally. Sondheim’s accolades include eight Tony Awards including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, an Academy Award, many Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award. James Lapine (1949) Three times Tony Award recipient, James Lapine is a stage director and librettist. His major collaborations have been with Sondheim and William Finn (1952). Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine Collaboration This was Sondheim’s first collaboration with James Lapine. When deciding on a topic, they first looked at photos to see whether they could invent relationships, but later abandoned this idea. They then came up with an inspiration for art and used George Seurat’s painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884). The painting and the mystery surrounding it fascinated them. They were 50 people in the painting as well as trees, a dog and a yacht. Sondheim speculated why no one was looking at each other and James said what was missing from the painting was the protagonist, the painter. That formed the basis of the musical.

PRE-VISIT EXPLORATION

Sondheim’s Compositional Style When Sondheim researched the painting style of Seurat, he discovered that he arranged only 12 colours on his paint palette which comprised 11 colours and white. Inspired by this information, Sondheim initially explored the 12 tone technique as exploited by the Serial Composers of the Second Viennese School, namely Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. This technique abandoned the traditional ‘tonal’ technique with the major and minor scales systems and created a new scale where the 12 semitones in the octave could be arranged in a new order according to the composer’s inspiration. However, after consulting with his mentor Babbitt, Sondheim came to the realisation that he was indeed a tonal composer and abandoned this approach. To imitate Seurat’s Pointillist painting technique, he adopted a musical language for this musical which was highly rhythmic, disjointed and staccato. To hold the score together, Sondheim created motifs which he introduced in the opening sequences, and in songs throughout the musical. Tonic and dominant harmonies are used frequently which are designed to reflect the complimentary colours in Seurat’s painting. Romantically inspired sweeping melodies and legato phrases are not used until finale “Move On” which acts as a synthesis of melodic and harmonic styles found throughout the musical.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music © Victorian Opera


Themes

The themes Sondheim uses here are a departure from his previous musicals which have focused on marriage and class inequalities. Sunday in the Park with George focuses on the inner life and creative process of an artist to the extent that this work has been described as the most autobiographical work of Sondheim. The work of the artist becomes an obsession to the extent that the artist and his life become secondary to his output. The perception and value of the artist is also a reoccurring theme in the musical. This is contrasted between the two acts. Figure 1: Georges Seurat, French, 1859-1891, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884, 1884–86, Oil on canvas, 81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION •

Study the painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Note how all 50 characters are static and are not looking at each other. What clues are there that the painting was completed in the nineteenth century? Try to predict story lines of each character and how they interrelate or not interrelate with others. Look at the use of colour, light and the fashions of the time.

Listen to excerpts from Sunday in the Park with George. The songs can found on YouTube. Songs to listen to include; “Sunday in the Park with George”, “Color and Light”, “Finishing the Hat’ and “Sunday”. In Act Two “Putting it Together”, “Children and Art” and “Move On”. Note the use of staccato phrases when George is painting and repeated motives such a “Finishing the Hat” and “Putting it Together”.

Sondheim has used different compositional approaches with each of his musicals. Listen to his musicals written prior to and after Sunday in the Park with George. Recommended songs include “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” from Sweeney Todd (1979), “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along (1981) and his other collaboration with Lapine “Opening Sequence Act One” from Into the Woods (1987). Compare the range of topics selected for the musicals from the dark tale of Sweeney Todd, a story of friendships in Merrily We Roll Along and a fairy tale inspired musical in Into the Woods.

Sunday in the Park with George has been described as inspired by the styles of Benjamin Britten (operas), Leos Janacek (use of interlocking motifs) and Sergei Rachmaninov (the finale “Move On”). Listen to music from these composers and discuss whether there are striking similarities to the musical.

Carl Jung described in The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature how one “can be understood as an artist only in terms of his creative achievement”. To what extent does the life of the artist impact their creative output?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music © Victorian Opera


Motifs

The musical uses a series of motifs which act as a unifying thread. The principal motif is introduced in the opening sequence. It is an ornamental turn followed by an interval of a minor third or a fourth. Similar motifs are found in “Color and Light” and in Marie’s song “Children and Art” where the motif is inverted. The motifs used in “Finishing the Hat” and “Putting it Together” are almost identical. Act One – “Finishing the Hat” This is one of the most popular songs from the musical. The song describes Seurat’s inner struggle between Dot who has just announced that she is leaving him, and his obsessive need for painting. When Sondheim collaborates with librettists, he requests them to write the inner dialogues of the characters so that Sondheim can further and refine his melodic and compositional style. The dialogue is a series of incomplete phrases and thoughts.

Studying the hat, Entering the world of the hat, Reaching through the world of the hat Like a window, Back to this one from that. Studying a face, Stepping back to look at a face Leaves a little space in the way like a window, But to seeIt’s the only way to see. The song has been described as autobiographical. There was an instance when Sondheim went to a coffee bar with the music director Paul Gemignani and sang “Finishing the Hat” which is the story of Sondheim’s life. “So by the time he was finished he was drenched in sweat, completely dripping. It wasn’t at all hot in there. He was terrified, just terrified.” (Secrest, 199, p.333) Prior to its opening on Broadway, the musical was work-shopped for three weeks with Playwrights Horizons. When it was first presented, Mandy Patinkin who played George was still reading the score. According to Patinkin, the reaction by the audience was overwhelming “And the audience quickly realized it was the song, and in my view it’s the best one in the show, and one of his keynote songs ever…”(Secrest, 1998 p.332)

QUESTIONS • • • • •

Listen to the song. How does Sondheim vary the motif in each phrase? How does Sondheim treat words such as ‘hat’, ‘see’ and ‘window’ in terms of pitch, melodic phrasing and duration? Why do you think he does this? Listen to the opening sequence. How does the motif change with each new word or phrase? Compare the motifs in “Finishing the Hat” and “Putting it Together”. What is the small difference between these two motifs? In “Color and Light” and “Children and Art” does Sondheim use word painting? Which words are high or low in pitch? Which words are repeated?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music © Victorian Opera


Act Two - “Putting it Together” This is the longest song in the musical, taking up almost a fifth of the score. It describes the frustrations and pressures of an artist working in the contemporary art scene. Art is now treated as a business and the artist has become a servant to the financiers rather than their own creativity and expression. “Putting it Together” is also one of the most popular and enduring songs Sondheim has written. It was used in an advertisement for the Xerox Corporation for over six years. It is probably best known outside the musical by Barbra Streisand’s The Broadway Album. Streisand recorded seven of Sondheim’s songs and used “Putting it Together” as her opening number. She was a highly successful singer at that stage, but was attracted to that song as it reflected her own relationship with her record company. When she approached the record company, they said, “Barbra, you can’t do a record like this. It’s not commercial. This is like your old records. Nobody’s going to buy it.” Every word they said only encouraged me. I wanted to put all their comments into this song. And I thought, “What a great way to open this album.” (Zadam, 1989 p. 289) Streisand contacted Sondheim to request changing one word “lasers” in which Sondheim suggested “vinyl”. Over the course of a month, they ended up rewriting half the song to make it more personalised. Streisand commented, “Here I am, a very successful recording star and yet I have to fight for everything I believe in. I’m still auditioning after twenty-three years.” I asked him if he could encompass that thought and he wrote, “Even though you get the recognition/Everything you do is still audition.” (Zadan, 1989, p. 289)

QUESTIONS • • • • •

Listen to “Putting it Together”. Listen to the phrasing. Why does Sondheim have some words sung slowly such as “bit by bit” and other quickly such as “putting it together?” The melody “Art isn’t easy” is legato in contrast to the rest of the song. What impact does this have on the words and its message? Do you believe the words are an accurate reflection of the contemporary art and music industry? How does George’s attitude towards art differ here to his grandfather in act one? Listen to Barbra Streisand’s interpretation. How different is it to the original?

DURING YOUR OPERA EXPERIENCE Before the performance, make sure you are familiar with the plot. Reacquaint yourself with the characters and the songs. During the performance, note the size of the painting and how it looks in ‘real life’. Has this production followed the conventional costumes, lighting and scenery? Listen to the music and how it blends with the singers. Take note of the audiences’ reaction around you, what emotion they are sharing with the performers, and how the performers respond to the audience. Most importantly, enjoy the performance and all it has to offer.

Figure 2: Christina O'Neill (Dot) © Martin Philbey

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music © Victorian Opera


POST- VISIT REFLECTION After the performance, reflect on what you have experienced. Also discuss this with your peers. What did you like best about the performance? Who was the most memorable performer? What surprised you? If you were a critic for a newspaper, what would you write? Below are the critics’ responses. Remember that this was premiered over a quarter of a century ago. Do you think their responses would be different if it was premiered in 2013? Read the critics’ responses and review the questions below. Critic’s Response There was a mixed response by critics. The musical was innovative and creative yet at the same time extremely reflective and personal. “Jack Kroll in Newsweek stated how “Sondheim’s score is original even for him…To say that this show breaks new ground is not enough; it also breaks new sky, new water, new flesh and new spirit.” (Zadan, 1989, p.313) Time magazine commented, “Sunday in the Park stands before its audience… a cool, unblinking object. Only a closer look reveals it as a shapely object of art.” (Secrest, 1998, p.341) And Frank Rich in the New York Times wrote:

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine demand that an audience radically change its whole way of looking at a Broadway musical…[they] have created an audacious, haunting and in its own personal way, touching work…The protagonist is possibly a double for Mr. Sondheim at his most self-doubting. …In keeping with his setting , Mr. Sondheim has written a lovely, wildly inventive score that sometimes remakes the modern French composers whose revolution in music paralleled the post-Impressionists’ in art… Look closely at the canvas – or at Sunday in the Park itself – and you’ll get lost in a sea of floating dots. Stand back and you’ll see that this evening’s two theater artists, Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine, have woven all those imaginative possibilities into a finished picture with a startling new glow. (Zadan, 1989, p.313) Later, Rich, in a New York Times Magazine piece followed on to say:

Sunday is at once a culmination of past musical theater innovations and a rejection of them… Sunday is a watershed event. (Zadan, 1989, p.313)

QUESTIONS • • • •

Has the critics’ responses altered your perception of the work? What is the role of a music or art critic? How influential are they? Has the work broken new ground in musical theatre? Would you expect an opera company to approach the work differently to a theatrical group?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music © Victorian Opera


With thanks to Dr Sharon Lierse for the research and preparation of this resource pack.

REFERFENCES & FURTHER READING Bocquillon, Marina Ferretti, Ted Gott and Elizabeth Cross. (2012) Radiance: The NeoImpressionists. State Government of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria. Herbert, Robert L. Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte.(2004) Art Institute of Chicago. Horowitz, Mark Eden (2003). Sondheim on Music. Scarecrow Press, Lanham. Secrest, Meryle. (1998) Stephen Sondheim: A Life. Meryle Secrest Beveridge, London. Sondheim, Stephen. (2011). Look, I Made a Hat. Random House, New York. Tacey, D. (2012) The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature The Jung Reader. London, Routledge. Zadan, C. (1989). Sondheim & Co. 2nd Ed. New York, Harper and Publishers.

CONTACT US For enquiries about our 2013 Education Program contact: Melissa Harris, Education Manager E: melissah@victorianopera.com.au P: 03 9012 6652 Engage with us @ facebook.com/vopera Join in the conversation @ twitter.com/victorianopera #victorianopera See our snapshots @instagram/victorianopera View our opera journey @ youtube.com/victorianoperapage Discover our 2013 Education Season @ victorianopera.com.au/education Read our behind-the-scenes blog @ victorianopera.com.au/blog

Victorian Opera Education Program is generously supported by the Victorian Opera Education Syndicate.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Music Š Victorian Opera


SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE A masterpiece comes to life In 1884, a twenty-five year old French Impressionist named Georges Seurat began work on A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, an idyllic park scene that would eventually become an icon of late 19th century painting. Sunday in the Park with George is a joyous musical theatre retelling of a visionary artist’s creative process. Seurat’s much-loved painting comes to life, revealing the lives and loves of its subjects, and exploring the ‘art of making art’ across generations, from 19th century Paris to 20th century Chicago. Following its Broadway opening, legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein declared it ‘brilliant’. A year later Sunday in the Park with George won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Sunday in the Park with George | Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine 20 – 27 July Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Originally Directed on Broadway by James Lapine. Originally Produced on Broadway by The Shubert Organisation and Emanuel Azenberg. By arrangement with Playwrights Horizon, Inc. New York City which produced the original production of Sunday In The Park with George in 1983. By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International (NY).

WHAT TO EXPECT BEFORE, DURING & AFTER YOUR OPERA EXPERIENCE! To gain the most of your opera experience it is highly recommended to study the work, discover its inspiration, learn about the composers and explore the main themes. The following educational resources will provide you with information about the work, what to expect during your opera experience and post opera reflection. Most of the information is included here in the pre-visit exploration section can be re-visited during and after the opera experience. Visit our interactive Wall online for historical facts, behind-the-scenes, photographs and more!

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


OVERVIEW About this Resource Pack This compact resource for secondary teachers includes some interesting facts, key questions and points of discussion to facilitate an engaging experience of discovery at Victorian Opera. The resource includes both pre-visit and post-visit suggested activities which aim to enrich student understanding and enjoyment of the opera experience. Sunday in the Park with George provides a unique opportunity to unite opera and the visual arts. Students will be invited to uncover the intriguing relationship between an iconic painting and the musical it inspired 100 years after its creation.

Art is Harmony. Harmony is the analogy of opposites, the analogy of similar elements of tone, of colour, and of line, considered according to their dominants and under the influence of lighting in gay, calm, or sad combinations. 1 Georges Seurat (August, 1890)

About Sunday in the Park with George During the period from1884-1886 Georges Seurat painted the iconic A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884, which was to become one of the world’s most recognisable images. The painting exemplifies the groundbreaking technique Seurat developed known as Neo-Impressionism or Pointillism, the meticulous practice of painting tiny brushstrokes of pure opposing colours side by side to create a luminous sparkling effect. This painting was the inspiration for the opera Sunday in the Park with George. Seurat’s complex and beautiful exploration of colour and light is honoured and theatrically realised by Stephen Sondheim (music) and James Lapine (Libretto).

About Georges Seurat • • • • • • • • •

1

Seurat studied first with a sculptor before he was classically trained in art at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His education was cut short by military service. Seurat made black and white drawings of particular types of people in France - nurses, workers, farm hands etc. He used conte crayon to create symphonies of light and shade. 24 years old when he started painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884 Seurat was described as being reserved, eccentric and aloof. He was determined to pioneer his own style – this painting can be seen as Seurat’s manifesto. His career lasted only 10 years. One evening in March 1891 he arrived at his parent’s home severely ill Figure 1: Georges Seurat and two days later he died of Diphtheria. Young son died of the same affliction soon afterwards. Camille Pissarro lamented Seurat’s passing: ‘imagine the distress of all who followed him – it is a great loss to art.’

E. Lee. The Aura of Neo-Impressionism: The WJ Holliday Collection. Indianna University Press, 1983, p12

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884 ‘Remember that a painting, before it is a warhorse, a nude or some anecdote or other, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order’. 2 Maurice Denis (1870-1943)

Figure 2: Landscape with dog: study for 'La Grande 1884 Jatte' , 1884, Georges Seurat.

Figure 3: Georges Seurat, French, 1859-1891, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -- 1884, 1884– 86, Oil on canvas, 81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago.

• • • • • • • • • • •

2

The painting was first displayed in Paris May 1886 at the final Impressionist exhibition. Two other artists refused to have Seurat’s painting exhibited alongside their own and his painting was to be viewed separately in the last room of the show. The picture was largely ignored by critics but championed by critic, Félix Fénéon who boldly stated that what was important about the painting was its revolutionary technique. In 1900 Lucie Breu Cousturier was the first proud owner of the painting after her father bought it for her from Seurat’s family for 800 francs. Several decades later the astute American art collector (and trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago) Frederick Clay Bartlett purchased the painting from Lucie for $20,000 and soon the U.S. owned the painting. In the summer of 1924, Seurat’s painting was proudly displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1930 a French consortium was unsuccessful in reportedly offering huge sums of money to reacquire the painting. French officials say the painting is the only true great French masterpiece that is not in France. La Grande Jatte in French means a shallow bowl or basin. It is now the name of an affluent suburb of Paris. In 1958 it left Chicago for the first time in 30 years. The painting was on loan to MOMA in New York for a major exhibition of Seurat. This remains the first and last time the picture was lent to another gallery.

B. Thompson. The Post-Impressionists, Phaidon, New York, 1990, p47

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES Taking a closer look at Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884 • What is the mood of the painting? • Describe the painting as you would to someone who has never seen it. ‘Paint a picture’ with words as you portray the subject, style of painting, use of colour and anything that puzzles you. • What is the focus of the painting? What are you immediately drawn to upon first look? • What is the relevance, if any, of the little girl in the painting? • How does the Neo-Impressionist style of the painting, sometimes known as the Pointillist technique, add to the overall effect of the work? • How can you tell the artist is interested in painting light effects? • What indications can you find that this work is about: a) colour? b) the process of looking • Consider the clothing and activity, stance and posture of the figures in the painting. Discuss what the different people are doing. • In what ways could this painting be seen as a social commentary on Parisienne lifestyle in the late 19th century? c) Why do you think this painting was such a rich source of inspiration for Sondheim? • Can you suggest an alternative title that would fit the painting? • Create your own story using this painting as inspiration. • Why might this image have been used so often in popular culture?

Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism Impressionism (1863 – 1890) • First exhibition held in Paris 1874 including paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Berthe Morisot and others. • The paintings were received with mockery and indignation from the public and the critics and were labelled, rather unflatteringly, the Impressionists. • The style of painting was ridiculed and laughed at, as it was different to the relatively refined brushwork and careful finish of the usual Paris Salon painting. • The paintings were produced with broad, impetuous strokes in a free style, often outside (en plein air). • The artists focused on landscapes and images of the Modern world including the streetscapes of Paris. • The artists were attempting to capture fleeting sensations of nature and passing glimpses of the world.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


Neo-Impressionism (1886 – 1891) • Seurat’s new technique of precisely laying down dabs of pure complementary colours side by side on the canvas received a largely negative response. Words like ‘bedlam’, ‘scandal’ and ‘hilarity’ were used to describe the painting. • Art critic Félix Fénéon, an anarchist and supporter of the movement, christened the new style ‘NeoImpressionism’ (new Impressionism). • Seurat looked to recent explanations of optics and colour perception as the basis for his new methods. • He was influenced by chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul who produced ‘The Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colours’. For example, if two complementary colours are put together such as red and green, the red appears redder and the green, greener. • Charles Blanc’s invention of the Colour Wheel also informed Seurat’s practice. • Seurat believed that if the right colours were used they would create a luminosity that couldn’t be created by mixing colours. • The complementary colours don’t actually blend but the combination of colours creates a pleasant, animated, lively surface. • The Neo-Impressionists condemned the mixing of paint on a palette believing that this created a greyish sludge. They used pigments that were broken down into their pure, constituent hues. The painters had to choose and distribute their colours carefully in order to achieve specific harmonic effects. • This arrangement of colours created a clash on the canvas causing a flicker of light on the retina of the viewer’s eye which resulted in a bright luminous effect. • Seurat was looking for a way to make the physical substance of oil paint generate the luminosity and radiance of real light. • Paul Signac was a dedicated follower and friend of Seurat and developed his own style using this technique. (Camille and Lucien Pissarro were also followers for a time). • The Neo-Impressionists painted modern, urban scenes, landscapes and seascapes. • Unlike the ephemeral moments captured by the Impressionists, the Neo-Impressionists sought to create a more long lasting and universal statement. • They were criticised for being too mechanical and methodical in the application of paint and in composition.

PRE-VISIT EXPLORATION Prior to viewing the opera inspired by A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -1884, prompt students to consider the origin of creative inspiration. Ask the students to reflect on how music, relationships, other artists, books, major life events etc. might affect their own creative practice.

QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES •

• •

Discuss how different art forms influence each other: a) Historic tales inspiring modern films b) A muse compelling the creative urge of a painter c) Poems inspiring paintings d) A painting inspiring an opera Invite the students to comment on contemporary examples such as the classic Emma written by Jane Austen in 1815, which was the inspiration for the 1995 film Clueless. Introduce students to some images of the Impressionist style of painting and a NeoImpressionist painting by Paul Signac at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


Recommended viewing at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV): • • • • • •

Claude Monet, Vetheuil, 1879 Paul Cezanne, The Uphill Road, 1881 Edouard Manet, The House at Rueil, 1882 Claude Monet, Rough Weather at Etretat, 1883 Camille Pissarro, The banks of the Viosne at Osny in grey weather, winter 1883 Paul Signac, Gasometers at Clichy, 1886

QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES Ask students to respond to the following questions about one work of art selected from the NGV list: • How does this painting make you feel? • If you stepped inside the painting, what would you see, smell and hear? • Find descriptive words to depict the colours, lines, textures and forms in the painting. • Create your own title for the painting. • What do you think the artist was trying to achieve? • Why do you think the artist had to struggle for critical acceptance when the painting was made? • Compare the work of art with another painting created before the advent of Impressionism. • How is the subject matter different?

Figure 4: Claude Monet, Rough Weather at Etretat [Public domain]

DURING YOUR GALLERY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES • • •

• • •

Look at the paintings closely to examine the brushwork as well as technique and subject. If you could touch the surface of the canvas, what would it feel like? Rough, smooth, scratchy, coarse, uneven? When looking at Signac’s painting Gasometers at Clichy (1886), remember that terms like ‘divisionism’, ‘spotted’, ‘dabbed’ and ‘network of dots’ were used to describe the Neo-Impressionist style. Use your own words to describe the technique you think the painter has used. Discuss how long a painting such as this would take to create. What creative restrictions, if any, are there in painting such a work of art? What do you notice about the titles of Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist paintings? Imagine you are situated in Signac’s Gasometers at Clichy landscape. What is it like to be there?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


DURING YOUR OPERA EXPERIENCE

Figure 4: Christine O'Neill (Dot) © Martin Philbey

Figure 5: Victorian Opera Sunday in the Park with George. Illustrations © Anna Cordingley

QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES • • • • • •

Is there any evidence of Seurat’s painting composition in the stage design or the set? What other aspects of the performance remind you of Seurat’s painting? (Consider costume, mood, colour, pace, movement). Do you agree that the original painting and the opera are both richer from the connection that has been created between them? Discuss. What is the story told and is it relevant today? Consider the elements of Art: colour, line, form, texture. Which musical equivalent of these can you hear in the opera? There are many aspects vying for attention during an opera. Maintain an awareness of: a) The story and the lives of the characters b) Set design and use of props / stage c) Costume design: look for colour, movement and changing fashion d) The use of language and voices

POST-VISIT REFLECTION QUESTIONS & ACTIVITIES •

• • •

Compare and contrast an Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painting of choice. Seek out similarities and differences and comment on what has been achieved and what you believe has been less successful. Do you think Divisionism and Pointillism were effective terms to describe the Neo-Impressionist movement? Discuss. What are the similarities and differences between Art and Opera? Imagine you are one of the people in Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884. Write a description of that person or a monologue.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


POST-VISIT REFLECTION (CONT.) QUESTIONS •

• • • •

It is said that Seurat tried to convey a more permanent image of a landscape rather than its momentary appearance. Do you agree that he achieved this? If so, how? If not, how did he fail in this attempt? Seurat transcribed what he considered the lasting essence of reality. What aspects of A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884 are real and unreal? Give examples of contemporary artists who search for purity of light and colour in their practice as Seurat did. How has technology enhanced our understanding and use of colour? The foundation of Seurat’s theoretical framework was the difference between coloured light and coloured pigment. Does this search for purity of light and colour exist in today’s artistic practice? Has technology enhanced our understanding and use of colour or has it impaired a sense of true colour? What are the ways that we seek to explore colour and light in contemporary art?

Discuss whether you agree or disagree with this statement

‘At the time of exhibiting, many viewers of paintings by Seurat and Signac complained that their pictures were indistinguishable one from another. This was an understandable reaction given the deliberate impersonality of the pointillist technique’.” 3 •

Consider and discuss how science can contribute to the creative process.

‘Seurat was actually seeking a way to make the physical substance of oil paint generate the luminosity and radiance of real light. Simply stated, Seurat’s entry into the realm of science focussed on the way the eye sees and way coloured light, as well as coloured pigment, behaves’.” 4 •

Discuss the way harmony is used effectively in both painting and music (with examples).

Georges Seurat in his letter to Maurice Beaubourg, 1890 states that, ‘Art is harmony. Harmony is the analogy of contrary elements and the analogy of similar elements of tone, color and line, considered according to their dominants and under the influence of light, in gay, calm, or sad combinations’.” 5

3

B. Thompson. The Post-Impressionists, Phaidon, New York, 1990, p23 E. Lee. The Aura of Neo-Impressionism: The WJ Holliday Collection. Indianna University Press, 1983, p15. 5 J. Taylor (editor). Nineteenth-century Theory of Art. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987, p541. 4

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


POST-VISIT REFLECTION (CONT.) QUESTIONS •

• •

View this clip from the 1986 John Hughes cult film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It provides a glimpse into the characters’ experience of Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884. a) The iconic Seurat painting was a favourite of Hughes’ and he described the Art Institute of Chicago as “a place of refuge”.1 What do you think was meant by this comment? b) In the scene, the character ‘Cameron’ is mesmerised by the Seurat painting. Hughes is paying homage to his favourite painting as well as exploring the profound impact that art can invoke. A visual dialogue is taking place between a man and a painting. Discuss this dialogue and describe the scene. Consider a time when art has had a profound impact in your own life.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts © Victorian Opera


With thanks to Renee Atkinson, NGV Education for the research and preparation of this resource pack.

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING Batchelor, David (editor). Colour. The M.I.T Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008. Gordon, I and Weitzenhoffer, F (editors). Studies in Post-Impressionism / John Rewald. Thames & Hudson, London, 1986. Homer, William Innes. Seurat and the Science of Painting. The M.I.T Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964. Lee, Ellen W. The Aura of Neo-Impressionism: The WJ Holliday Collection. Indianna University Press, 1983. Lewis, Jon (editor). The New American Cinema. Duke University of Press, North Carolina, 1998. Lewis, Mary Tompkins (editor). Critical Readings in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: An Anthology. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2007. Nochlin, Linda. Impressionism and Post Impressionism 1874-1904. Prentice Hill Inc. Eaglewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1966 Ratliff, Floyd. Paul Signac and Colour in Neo-Impressionism. The Rockefeller University Press. New York, 1992. Taylor, Joshua C (editor). Nineteenth-century Theories of Art. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987 Thompson, Belinda. The Post-Impressionists. Phaidon, New York, 1990

CONTACT US For enquiries about our 2013 Education Program contact: Melissa Harris, Education Manager E: melissah@victorianopera.com.au P: 03 9012 6652 Engage with us @ facebook.com/vopera Join in the conversation @ twitter.com/victorianopera #victorianopera See our snapshots @instagram/victorianopera View our opera journey @ youtube.com/victorianoperapage Discover our 2013 Education Season @ victorianopera.com.au/education Read our behind-the-scenes blog @ victorianopera.com.au/blog

Victorian Opera Education Program is generously supported by the Victorian Opera Education Syndicate. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resource – Visual Arts Š Victorian Opera


A masterpiece comes to life In 1884, a twenty-five year old French Impressionist named Georges Seurat began work on A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, an idyllic park scene that would eventually become an icon of late 19th century painting. Sunday in the Park with George is a joyous musical theatre retelling of a visionary artist’s creative process. Seurat’s much-loved painting comes to life, revealing the lives and loves of its subjects, and exploring the ‘art of making art’ across generations, from 19th century Paris to 20th century Chicago. Following its Broadway opening, legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein declared it ‘brilliant’. A year later Sunday in the Park with George won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Sunday in the Park with George | Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine 20 – 27 July Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Originally Directed on Broadway by James Lapine. Originally Produced on Broadway by The Shubert Organisation and Emanuel Azenberg. By arrangement with Playwrights Horizon, Inc. New York City which produced the original production of Sunday In The Park with George in 1983. By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International (NY).

To gain the most of your opera experience it is highly recommended to study the work, discover its inspiration, learn about the composers and explore the main themes. The following educational resources will provide you with information about the work, what to expect during your opera experience and post opera reflection. Most of the information is included here in the pre-visit exploration section can be re-visited during and after the opera experience. Visit our interactive Wall online for historical facts, behind-the-scenes, photographs and more!

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


‘White. A blank page or canvas. The challenge. Bring order to the whole through design…composition…balance…light…order…and harmony.’ Sunday in the Park with George

In the opening to the show, the main character Georges Seurat speaks these words and magically a blank stage is populated with the characters of his painting. In many ways the experience you will have seeing Sunday in the Park with George will be similar to these words. The audience can only fill the blank canvas that is the stage when they actually experience the production; their presence ensures the theatre’s reality. As students of Theatre Studies you will also need to consider how ‘design’ and ‘composition’ work, discuss ‘balance, ‘light’, and ‘order’ of characterisation and stagecraft, and find a point of ‘harmony’ in your decisions about the intended meaning of the performance. These opening words have great resonance. Sunday in the Park with George is a musical. Importantly, it is a Stephen Sondheim musical. This means that it offers both challenges and opportunities to the performers and the audience, but particularly to those who are studying it for Theatre Studies Unit 4. In musicals, it is the music and the songs that drive the narrative and express the motivations of the main characters. In analysing and evaluating the production, the realisation of characters and the characters’ journeys, the type and the positioning of songs, and the music you hear is all very important. These education notes serve to act as an introduction the Victorian Opera’s production of Sunday in the Park with George. They provide a background to the artist who inspired the musical, Georges Seurat and the world which inspired his artistic style. They provide insight into the musical’s creator, Stephen Sondheim, and his librettist, James Lapin. Finally, the notes offer a way to focus your study according to the Key Knowledge and the Key Skills of the Outcome. Not the way…just one way. You are encouraged to find your own meaning.

Creatives

Conductor Phoebe Briggs Director Stuart Maunder Set & Costume Designer Anna Cordingley Lighting Designer Niklas Pajanti Sound Designer Jim Atkins

Orchestra Victoria

Figure 1: Christina O'Neill (Dot) © Martin Philbey

Cast

George Alexander Lewis Dot/Marie Christina O'Neill an Old Lady/Blair Daniels Nancye Hayes Nurse/Mrs. an American couple/Harriet Pawling Dimity Shepherd Jules/Bob Greenberg David Rogers-Smith Yvonne/Naomi Eisen Antoinette Halloran Boatman/Charles Redman John Brunato Celeste #1/Waitress Olivia Cranwell Celeste #2/Elaine Carrie Barr

Louise/Boy Monique Heath/Emily Chessum Franz/Mr. - an American couple/Dennis Lyall Brooks Frieda/Betty Noni McCallum Soilder/Alex Matthew McFarlane Trumpeter/Lee Randolph Jeremy Kleeman Louis/Billy Webster Nathan Lay Young Man/Photographer Kirilie Blythman Man lying on bank/Museum Assistant Daniel Todd

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Characters

In Sunday in the Park with George the performers play one character in Act 1 and another in Act 2. This is called ‘doubling’. The following list of characters indicates the fifteen roles required in both acts of the show. This is a large cast and as a class, you may like to allocate the ‘study’ of particular characters to different people. Act I (1884) George, an artist Dot, the mistress of George, and his model Jules, another artist Yvonne, his wife Old Lady, George's mother Nurse, the nurse of the Old Lady Celeste #1, a shop girl Celeste #2, another shop girl A Soldier A Boatman Franz, coachman to Jules and Yvonne Frieda, cook for Jules and Yvonne and wife to Franz Louise, the little daughter of Jules and Yvonne Mr & Mrs, an American couple (NB: in the Broadway, the Nurse doubled as ‘Mrs’) Louis, a baker and Dot's husband-to-be Act II (1984) George, an artist Dot, the mistress of George, appearing as a vision Marie, George's grandmother Bob Greenberg, the museum director Dennis, a technician Naomi Eisen, a composer Elaine, George's former wife Harriet Pawling, a board member of the museum Billy Webster, her friend Charles Redmond, a visiting curator from Texas Alex, an artist Betty, another artist Lee Randolph, the museum's publicist Waitress Blair Daniels, an art critic

Doubling (original production) (George) (Dot) (Dot) (Jules) (Franz) (Yvonne) (Celeste #2) (Nurse/Mrs) (Louis) (Boatman) (Soldier) (Frieda) (Mr) (Celeste# 1) (Old Lady)

Musical Numbers The musical includes eighteen different songs that integrate with the dialogue to create the overall narrative. Below is a list of the songs in the order they are sung. However, unlike other musicals, Sondheim structures his musicals quite differently. Some songs begin and then are interrupted with dialogue, the appearance of another character, or a character creating an ‘aside’. The very first musical number is a good example, and there are others throughout. It is a good example of how integral the music and song work as part of the narrative structure.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Musical Numbers (Cont.) Act I "Sunday in the Park with George" – Georges & Dot "No Life" – Jules, Yvonne "Colour and Light" – Dot, Georges "Gossip" – Celeste #1, Celeste #2, Boatman, Nurse, Old Lady, Jules, Yvonne "The Day Off" – Company "Everybody Loves Louis" – Dot "The One on the Left" – Soldier, Celeste #1, Celeste #2, Georges "Finishing the Hat" – Georges "We Do Not Belong Together" – Dot, Georges "Beautiful" – Old Lady, Georges "Sunday" – Company Act II “It’s Hot up Here” Company “Chromolume #7” – Orchestra “Putting it together” – Company “Children and Art” – Marie “Lesson #8” – George “Move On” – George, Dot “Sunday (reprise) – Company

Songs in musical theatre

In musical theatre the key to successful songs is how well lyrics and music work together. Songs may function dramatically in several ways, a primary one being to define character. Within the genre of musical theatre such character songs serve a number of functions.

Character songs

‘I am’ songs Because musicals are by nature ‘presentational’ characters may introduce themselves directly to the audience through ‘I am’ songs. ‘I am’ songs can also allow characters to express feely how they are feeling at that moment, for example Maria’s ‘I feel Pretty’ in West Side Story, and sometimes characters discover something about themselves in an ‘I am’ song. Besides defining oneself and providing moments of self-revelation through these types of songs, characters may also assert themselves against a challenge. ‘I want’ songs Where ‘I am’ songs describe a present state, ‘I want’ songs suggest a course of action for the future. Characters often express their goals and dreams through these types of songs. For example, in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye dreams of wealth in ‘If I were a rich man’. Some characters may also use these songs to say what they ‘don’t want’. Reprises Often a song will occur again in the musical as a ‘reprise’ which can be used effectively to reveal how a character has developed during the story. An effective reprise which functions dramatically reveals the development of character since the last time it was sung. The lyrics may reflect a change in the character’s attitude or self-awareness, or they may indicate a change in situation.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Reprises (cont.) In West Side Story Tony and Maria reprise their romantic ballad ‘Tonight’ but now it is the night of the gang’s street fight and it takes on a new meaning. Emotional climax songs When characters read a point in the drama where they can’t help but explode with feelings or love or success or simply the joy of live, music serves to amplify these emotions to a level above mere words. Emotional climax songs are exuberant, celebratory and infectious, allowing the audience to share the character’s passion and excitement.

Songs that tell the story

Exposition songs Because songs take up time reserved for dialogue in the play, musicals must move quickly to establish the dramatic situation, introduce the main characters, and give audiences some reason to care about them. Exposition songs inform an audience what has happened and what may have brought the characters to this point in the action. They may also preview the themes of the story. Conflict songs At the heart of every drama lies conflict. Some of the most interesting and exciting songs in Musical Theatre involve conflict, when characters struggle. Narration songs Narration songs describe events that we otherwise may not see, what has happened off stage for instance. Summary songs Similar to narration songs, summary songs compress lengthy amounts of time into one song.

Songs with special functions

Comment songs A character not in the dramatic scene may step to one side and sing about events on stage. Stephen Sondheim uses this device in several of his musicals including Company and A Little Night Music. Musical metaphors These songs take advantage of the unique qualities of musical theatre to portray a situation in presentational, non-literal fashion. Much of Sunday in the Park with George is non-literal and acts metaphorically. Cameo songs Cameo songs feature a minor character in a memorable number, someone who otherwise might be forgotten. A good cameo song defines a minor character quickly and effectively as well as giving a performer in a small role time in the spotlight Parodies: These rely on an audience’s familiarity with music that is not in the show they are watching but is used to evoke an appropriate mood. For example, Dot’s ‘Follies’ moment in Sunday in the Park with George. Source: Songs in Musical Theatre.1 1

Spurrier, James. The Integration of Music and Lyrics with the Book in the American Musical. Ph.D. dissertation, Southern Illinois U, 1979.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Using the above descriptions as a guide, identify which ‘type’ of song style might apply to the following:  Colour & Light – Dot and George, in George’s studio, Act 1  The One on the Left – Soldier, the Celeste’s and Georges, in the park, Act 1  We do not Belong Together – Dot and George in George’s studio, near end of Act 1  Putting it Together – Company in the Chicago art gallery, 1984 Chicago art gallery  Lesson #8 – George, in Paris in the park with Dot’s book in 1984

Sunday in the Park with George The musical is in two acts that span one hundred years. The first act is staged in Paris in 1884. The second act begins in 1891, the year Georges Seurat died, and then flashes forward to Chicago, 1984. The following synopsis includes the positioning of the songs, as indicated by the inverted commas. Act I In 1884, Georges Seurat, known as George in the musical, is sketching studies for his famous painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. His mistress, Dot, models for him despite her frustrations - Sunday in the Park with George. Meanwhile an Old Lady and her Nurse discuss how Paris is changing to accommodate a tower for the International Exposition – The Eiffel Tower. The setting then abruptly changes to an art gallery, where Seurat's first painting is on display Bathers at Asnières. Jules (a more successful artist friend of George's) and his wife Yvonne think George's work has "No Life". Back on the island, Jules and Yvonne have a short discussion with George and depart. They take their coachman Franz with them, interrupting Franz's rendezvous with the Nurse. In George's studio he works on his painting while Dot prepares for their date at the Follies -"Colour and Light". In the end George chooses to continue painting instead, which greatly upsets Dot. Back in the park George sketches a grumpy Boatman. Dot enters on the arm of Louis, a baker. Two chatting shop girls, both named Celeste, notice Dot with a new man -"Gossip". George sketches two dogs while whimsically trying to imagine the world from their perspective - "The Day Off". Jules and Yvonne enter during the song and mock the unconventional nature of George's art. They protest an initiative to have his work included in the next group show. The two Celeste’s try to attract the attention of a handsome Soldier and his companion; Franz and his wife Frieda argue with Jules and Yvonne's daughter, Louise; Jules returns to further lecture George on his shortcomings as an artist; the Boatman reappears to rebuke the condescending attitude of artists. Dot misses George, but feels justified in having chosen Louis instead - "Everybody Loves Louis". The two Celeste’s fight over the more handsome of the two soldiers - "The One on the Left". As the park empties for the evening, George returns. He misses Dot and laments that his art has alienated him from those important to him, but resigns himself to the likelihood that creative fulfilment may always take precedence, for him, over personal happiness - "Finishing the Hat". At the studio Dot tells George that she is pregnant by him but that she and the baker, Louis are getting married and leaving for America. She asks for a painting George made of her ‘Young Woman Powdering Herself’ (1888) but he refuses and tells her he has painted over it with a new model. Jules and Yvonne come to the studio and the conversation is interrupted. Yvonne and Dot talk about the difficulties of trying to maintain a romantic relationship with an artist, while Jules and George discuss George's painting in progress. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Jules is puzzled by George's new technique, and concerned that George's obsession with his work is alienating him from his fellow artists and collectors alike. Jules and Yvonne leave, and Dot and George argue bitterly about their failed relationship, concluding sadly that - "We Do Not Belong Together". In the park George and his mother, the Old Lady, reminisce about George’s childhood and his father "Beautiful". The Celeste’s and the Soldier argue over their respective break-ups while Jules and Frieda enter to have a clandestine affair in the park. Louise informs her mother, Yvonne, of her father's infidelity and a fight breaks out between Jules, Yvonne, Franz, and Frieda. While this conflict develops the Celeste’s and the Soldier squabble noisily. Soon all the park-goers are fighting furiously, until the Old Lady shouts, "Remember, George!" George takes control of the subjects of his painting, who sing in harmony "Sunday". George transforms all of the people into the final tableau of his finished painting. Act II As the curtain opens the characters – still in the tableau – complain about being stuck in the painting - "It's Hot Up Here". The characters then deliver short eulogies for George, who died suddenly at age 31 in 1891. The action fast-forwards one hundred years to 1984. George and Dot's great-grandson, also named George and also a struggling artist, is at a museum unveiling his latest work: a colour and light machine called - "Chromolume #7", an artistic reflection on the painting from the first act A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Marie, the daughter of George and Dot, and grandmother to this George, helps with the presentation. At a reception various patrons and curators congratulate George on his work while George comments about the difficulties of producing modern art - "Putting It Together". After the museum's patrons have left Marie contemplates her legacy - "Children and Art". Weeks later, Marie has died and George has been invited by the French government to do a presentation of the Chromolume on the island where the painting was made. On the island George reads from a book he got from his grandmother – the same book Dot used to learn to read – and ponders the similarities between himself and his great-grandfather - "Lesson #8". A vision of Dot appears and she discusses 'her' book with George. Dot tells George to stop worrying about his critics - "Move On". George finds some words written in the back of the book – the words Georges Seurat often muttered while he worked. As George reads them aloud the characters from the painting fill the stage and recreate their tableau "Sunday". As they leave and the stage resembles a blank canvas, George reads: "White: a blank page or canvas. His favourite – so many possibilities."

Seurat’s Artistic Style Georges Seurat was a 19th Century French impressionist painter and draftsman. In 1884, at twenty-five Georges Seurat, began work on A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, an idyllic park scene that would eventually become an icon of late 19th century painting.

‘White. A blank page or canvas. The challenge. Bring order to the whole through design…composition…balance…light…order…and harmony.’ Sunday in the Park with George Seurat is credited with developing an impressionist style known as Pointillism. Seurat created his art using small, distinct dots of Figure 2: Georges Seurat pure colour applied in patterns to form an image. The form was also variously called Divisionism and Chromoluminarism and became the characteristic style in Neo-Impressionist painting, defined by the separation of colours into individual dots or patches that interacted optically. Georges Seurat founded the style by drawing from his understanding of scientific theories from the time. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Seurat took to heart the colour theorists' notion of a scientific approach to painting. He believed that a painter could use colour to create harmony and emotion in art in the same way that a musician uses counterpoint and variation to create harmony in music. He theorized that the scientific application of colour was like any other natural law, and he was driven to prove this conjecture. He thought that the knowledge of perception and optical laws could be used to create a new language of art based on its own set of heuristics and he set out to show this language using lines, colour intensity and colour schema. Seurat called this language Chromoluminarism. In a letter to Maurice Beaubourg in 1890 he wrote:

‘Art is Harmony. Harmony is the analogy of the contrary and of similar elements of tone, of colour and of line, considered according to their dominance and under the influence of light, in gay, calm or sad combinations.’ Seurat's theories can be summarized as follows: The emotion of gaiety can be achieved by the domination of luminous hues, by the “predominance of warm colours, and by the use of lines directed Figure 3: Georges Seurat, French, 1859-1891, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -upward. Calm is achieved through an 1884, 1884–86, Oil on canvas, 81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Helen equivalence/balance of the use of the light Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224, The Art Institute of Chicago. and the dark, by the balance of warm and Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago. cold colours, and by lines that are horizontal. Sadness is achieved by using dark and cold colours and by lines pointing downward.” Source: Georges Seurat.2 View online In divisionism colour theory, artists interpreted the scientific literature through making light operate in one of the following contexts  Local colour: As the dominant element of the painting, local colour refers to the true colour of subjects, e.g. green grass or blue sky.  Direct sunlight: As appropriate, yellow-orange colours representing the sun’s action would be interspersed with the natural colours to emulate the effect of direct sunlight.  Shadow: If lighting is only indirect, various other colours, such as blues, reds and purples, can be used to simulate the darkness and shadows.  Reflected light: An object which is adjacent to another in a painting could cast reflected colours onto it.  Contrast: To take advantage of Chevreul’s theory of simultaneous contrast, contrasting colours might be placed in close proximity. Source: Divisionism3. View online

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Consider carefully how Seurat’s artistic style is reflected in the musical Consider how the staging and themes of the performance relate to Seurat’s work on the science of ‘pointillism’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Seurat http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divisionism

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Inside Sunday in the Park with George

The following extracts are drawn from a very comprehensive essay on the musical George by Scott Miller. The full essay can be found at online here. Sunday in the Park with George sits precariously on the edge between traditional plot-driven musicals and the concept musicals developed mostly by Stephen Sondheim and director Hal Prince. Like concept musicals, Sunday explores an idea more than telling a story, and yet it does still tell a story. The difference is that the exposition and conflicts are established in the 1880s but the resolution comes a hundred years later to a protagonist who is a different man and yet the same… Sunday in the Park with George does on stage what Seurat's painting does on canvas - catch people in the midst of living their lives, but in a formal, unnaturalistic style. The musical just sits back and watches people come and go, being lazy or combative, happy or otherwise, and because we only get snippets of most of these characters' lives, we don't get resolution to their many problems. Like the hundreds of people we each encounter every day without really knowing them, most of the characters in the show just pass through this park, but in this case they are frozen there for all time, caught not all at one moment but at many Figure 4: Landscape with dog: study for 'La Grande 1884 Jatte' , 1884, Georges Seurat moments at once… One of the interesting things about the show is the fact that the two acts are set a hundred years apart and yet are intimately related. One of the devices to help the two acts connect is the use of the same group of actors in both acts, all playing different though sometimes parallel roles. The actor playing Seurat also plays the modern George. The actor playing Dot also plays her daughter Marie, who is the modern George's grandmother. The actor playing Seurat's mother later plays an art critic and friend of the modern George (anyone looking for a connection between being a mother and being a critic hasn't had a mother). Jules, the more conventional, commercially successful painter and colleague of Seurat later becomes the director of the modern day museum, in both cases walking the tightrope between making art and making a living (as evidenced by the museum director's comic monologue about selling the air rights over the museum for condominiums). The actor playing the sweet but bland Louis the baker in Act I becomes the bland boyfriend of a rich arts patron in Act II. The crass, uncultured American couple in Act I becomes a crass but rich arts patron and a museum publicist in Act II. Interestingly, some of the connections were different in the first workshop production of the show. For instance, George's mother later became a rich arts patron and Jules' wife (who didn’t really understand very much about art) became the critic. It's also interesting to note that the character pairing from the Broadway production was not recreated exactly in London… George literally is what he does. He does not exist outside his work. It defines him. He sees everything as his art, as colour and light. In the song “Colour and Light,” he says to the figures in his painting: “It's getting hot... it's getting orange...” Heat immediately transfers for him into colour, into the language of his art. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


He says “I am not hiding behind my canvas. I am living in it.” How could he have a real life, too? And we have to remember the time in which Seurat lived and worked. Science and technology were moving ahead by leaps and bounds. Wagner was transforming music theatre… Sondheim and Lapine play a lot with the theme of art vs. commerce. George represents art; Jules represents commerce. The musical motif for “Finishing the Hat” represents the creation of art in Act I; the same motif represents the creation of funding in “Putting It Together” in Act II. In fact, the entire song, “Putting It Together” is about the friction between art and commerce. During that sequence, Charles Redman, a museum director, mentions a commission to George and then says, “Hope you don't mind me bringing up business at a social occasion.” Of course, it's not a social occasion; it's a business occasion. Is Redman really not conscious of that? Is he just pretending not to know that? He's only there to scout George, and certainly George can't make another chromolume without another commission. In the original Broadway production, the use of cut-outs made an interesting comment. In Act I, the cut-outs are used to create the art, as elements in the painting (trees, the monkey, other people), but in Act II, the cut-outs are used to help George raise money. Source: Inside Sunday in the Park with George.4

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How do the excerpts above provide an insight into the world of the musical? What do you learn about the characters? What do you learn about the theatrical styles? What do you learn about the intended meaning of the story and the production?

Cultural and Geographical The Île de la Jatte (formerly called the Île de la Grande Jatte, which means “Big Bowl Island”) is a large island in the middle of the Seine River in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Contemporary views of Ile de Le Grand Jatte

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Excerpt (expanded and revised) from Deconstructing Harold Hill: An Insiders Guide to Musical Theatre by Scott Miller (Heinemann Publishing, 1999).

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Paris in the 1880s – the construction of the Eiffel Tower, Street life

Figure 5: Pierre Petit, Eiffel Tower under construction, 1888

Figure 6: Jean Béraud, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877

Sunday in the Park with George is a theatrical reconstruction/fantasy of the work of Georges Seurat, the musical’s story is based on the creation of Seurat’s pointillist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884– 1885) a mammoth work which took the experimental French painter two years to complete. Since the musical loosely represents the problems Seurat encountered while painting the piece, the original scenic design recreates that process on stage. The first act is set on the Island of La Grande Jatte, where Seurat sketches his model/lover Dot and a variety of eccentric park regulars. The park setting alternates with scenes in Seurat’s studio, in which the actual painting is displayed in various stages of completion. Paris in the 1880s was known as the Belle Epoque or Edwardian era. Source: Counterculture Timeline: The Progressive Period (La Belle Epoque / Edwardian Age) 1880 to 19135. View the timeline online. The second act, while beginning with Seurat’s painting and death in 1891, is predominantly set in Chicago and Paris in the 1980s. In the 1980s Chicago was known as a fairly alternative art scene. Seurat’s grandson, also called George, is a modern-day conceptual artist, used multimedia and laser technology to display his own kinetic artwork. His artistic vision faltering, he returns to the Island of La Grande Jatte, the impressionistic setting (which inspired his grandfather’s art) now obscured by cubist architecture. In a fantasy/dream sequence, Georges Seurat’s original setting is recreated, and the painting is once again restored. Source: Kinectic Art6. View online. Playwright and director, James Lapine, said of the work ‘The script, and Stephen Sondheim’s music too, are about obsession’.

Other online resources      5 6

Sunday in the Park with George lyrics Article written in 2000 in the New York Times on Sondheim’s 70th birthday Watch the original Broadway production Highlights from 5th Avenue 2006 Production Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity

http://www.well.com/~mareev/TIMELINE/1880-1913.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_art

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Stephen Sondheim Interview Although the piece is often criticised for falling into two disconnected halves, Sondheim says it was always his and James Lapine’s (script/book and director of original production) intention to look at the painting from different angles, since it was first inspired by an issue of a French magazine devoted to themes and variations based on the Mona Lisa. Linear plots rarely feature in Sondheim’s work, instead time, as in Sunday in the Park with George, is more often used as the unifying force. Naturally, while working on the piece, he and Lapine travelled to the Art Institute of Chicago, where the painting hangs, and lost themselves in front of Seurat’s mesmeric masterpiece.

‘We discussed the fact that nobody in the painting was looking at anybody else and we started to fantasise about that and the fact that it looks like a stage set. And then James said, “The main character is missing,” and I said, “Who?” and he said “The artist.” Once that was spoken it immediately became a play.’ The first act is set in The Island of La Grande Jatte, but Sondheim’s music, he says, was more influenced by Benjamin Britten than any French composer, this in spite of the fact that Maurice Ravel is one of his heroes. ‘Boy, it’s hard to explain verbally but I was haunted by the vision of that man putting those dots in. When you go up close to the painting what you find out is that they are not dots, they’re daubs. I’m sure he painted them this way,’ he mimes dragging a brush down, ‘and then changed colour.’ I say that he and Lapine could hardly have called Seurat’s mythical mistress Daub instead of Dot and am ridiculously pleased when Sondheim laughs and says ‘That’s funny’. He goes on:

‘It seemed to me that the music should be sparkly, as opposed to Ravel, which I think of as swooning.’ And he also wanted to suggest Seurat’s rhythm? ‘Yeah, really. That rhythmic verve, if I may be pretentious about it, is very much part of early twentieth century British music.

Sondheim’s more of an art enthusiast than a connoisseur. ‘I don’t have a good visual sense. After you’ve gone, I won’t remember what you were wearing, but I will remember what you sounded like.’ Instead of paintings, he collects board games – he’s also famous for his ability to do crosswords, something he shares with several Sondheim enthusiasts – and there are many examples in the room in which we are sitting. Wistfully, he says he doesn’t play anymore. ‘Everyone I used to play with has either given up or is dead.’A musical about art leads to a discussion about the art of writing musicals. Sondheim is not keen on those that are sung all the way through because he loves the contrast between dialogue and song. But then how do you negotiate the moment when two people who are talking suddenly start singing? ‘There’s the old cliché,’ he explains ‘that the character bursts into song when the emotion becomes too great for dialogue. That’s nonsense. You can see why people would say that after the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution when the songs became part of the story as opposed to just entertainments in between comedy scenes. But for me it’s more fun to find an unexpected moment for a character to sing when you don’t expect them to. I always feel a slight chill when I can hear the orchestra under the dialogue, when people are starting to have a love scene and you think: Uh oh! Here comes the love song. So it’s nice if it’s unexpected.’ Source: Stephen Sondheim Interview7. Read the full article online.

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Stephen Sondheim: Interview. TimeOut London: Jane Edwardes, Tuesday 9 May 2006

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Stuart Maunder writes about the Victorian Opera production What drew you to this particular piece of musical theatre? What does it offer you as a director? Sunday in the Park with George with book by James Lapine is a masterpiece. This quirky, Pulitzer Prize winning, ‘impossible to define’ work is at it’s essence, an examination of what makes artists tick, how and why they must create. As an artist I find that fascinating…we love talking about ourselves!

What is unique about Sunday in the Park with George as a piece of musical theatre? What does it offer a 21st century audience?

Figure 7: Christina O'Neill (Dot) © Martin Philbey

Sondheim and Lapine have created a work that asks audiences to look at the Broadway musical in a new way. Sondheim delights in breaking the rules. When one reads the libretto of Sunday in the Park with George it is often difficult to see where the songs finish and the words take over. This is not a conventional musical in the Rodgers and Hammerstein sense. From the first moments we are in the hands of the painter, we must take him for our guide. Trees disappear at his will, dogs talk, scenes merge. ately all these ideas, issues, conflicts remain unresolved, all pale into insignificance, all exist just provide inspiration for the creation of one of the greatest Neo-impressionist paintings of all time: Seurat’s masterpiece A Sunday on La Grand Jatte. All that counts is the work. Sondheim brings the same intense, systematic intellectual precision to the composition of his words and music that the Seurat brought to his paintings. Studied up close, both the paintings and the musical reveal the precision and meticulous attention to detail, the technique of the artist. Viewed from a distance, or experienced as a whole in the theatre what is revealed is a perfect and complete vision; satisfying and edifying. ‘Sunday’ shows us that ordered passion of the creative artist can be just as fulfilling as traditional romantic passion. In addition ‘Sunday’ delights in arguing that one must ‘move on’, past recreation of the familiar, the safe.

Have you directed other Sondheim work before? What are the challenges and opportunities that his productions offer? Yes. I have directed A Little Night Music, Company, and Sweeney Todd. Sondheim’s Figure 8: Victorian Opera Sunday in the Park with George. canon offer among the most intelligent, rich, Illustrations © Anna Cordingley profound and of course ultimately entertaining works in the Music Theatre repertoire. Sondheim is never content to provide ‘just’ entertainment. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Never do you leave a Sondheim show without it throwing up questions, interrogating your often long held views. His subject matter is vast, his insights always profound.

Without giving away too many secrets, what is your overall vision for the piece? That’s a huge question, and one that should be evident to an audience member when they see the show. The Seurat painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte impacts strongly on my vision. However, I never prescribe what the audience should see. Too many times I have been called to task for NOT doing what I said I would…Alan Jay Lerner spoke of the director Moss Hart:

‘His objective as director was to produce what the author has written tastefully, theatrically and truthfully. He did not intrude, he guided.’ That’s what I will be doing. Act 1 of the musical is set in Paris. Seurat’s version of the Eiffel Tower and the costumes showcased in A Sunday on La Grande Jatte are in evidence. Act 2 is set in the modern day in Chicago…but it could be any art gallery, anywhere. Peopled with ‘beautiful’ A-list people. The audience can make the leap.

Would you agree that there is a sense of ‘magical realism’ or ‘fantasy’ in this production? It will be theatrically ‘magical’ and we will see the entire show through George’s eyes…anything is possible. Everything is ‘real’ to George, and therefore is real to us as an audience as well.

Would you talk about the structure of the musical? Two Acts, 100 years apart? Although the relationship of George and Dot is at the heart of the piece this is not a conventional love story. We have to wait four generations for the relationship built and destroyed in Act 1 to find some sort of resolution. Rather what we have is a love affair with art; with the act of creation of art. We experience in a very real way the bliss of the creator, the intense concentration, the sheer hard work, the craft, the passion, the desire ‘to make things that count, things that will be new’. And then the realisation that ‘Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new.’

How do the music and songs contribute to structure and narrative arc? How do they contribute to the tone and mood, the drama and the comedy? The synthesis of words and music is at the heart of all music theatre. They create the arc. Music theatre, along with opera (Richard Bonynge, opera conductor and husband of the great Dame Joan Sutherland has said, ‘Operas are just old musicals’) is the synthesis of so many disciplines: drama, music, dance. We will always have music, we will always have theatre as it is how we express ourselves…we love to be in a darkened theatre in a relationship with performers. That thrill has been with mankind since ancient times. Musicals wear their hearts on their sleeves exploring big emotions, big themes, accessible music.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


American musical theatre composer Richard Rodgers has said: ‘The greatest gratification allowed anyone, is to be able to gather a large group of people under one roof, and through words and music, impel them to feel something deeply and strongly within themselves....People have an emotional need for melody....but what would I know... I’m only a commercial theatre kid, I don’t write for posterity.’

Does the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne offer particular challenges or opportunities as a space? Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne is a state-of-the-art theatre, giving great opportunities for technical possibilities. It is also the perfect size for this intimate piece, allowing immediate connection between actor and audience.

Would you talk about the characters of George and Dot in Act 1? What type of characters are they? This is far too early for me to prescribe the essence of these characters. That is the work to be done working with the actors playing the roles in the five week rehearsal period. The list the qualities of each character should be evident to anybody reading the piece. The joy of coming to the show is that each audience member will have a different view of these complex, very human characters. I am not going to force a view.

What are the challenges of directing performers to act, speak dialogue and sing? Assuming the actors have ability in all these disciplines there is no difference in directing in the different disciplines. The challenges are when the performers are asked to perform in a genre in which they have no training or ability. My cast, however, are adept in every discipline. The ultimate aim is to tell a story, whether through spoken word, sung word or presence.

What are the challenges of directing performers who play double or multiple roles? How do you find contrast? Is it in the music? Songs? How does stagecraft contribute? The stagecraft of the actor is at the heart of actors playing multiple roles. One task is showcasing the versatility of the actor. Your job as a director is to guide/question/suggest, to help the actor to find the best way - a way that might be not the most obvious - to play a character. This will be influenced by their craft, training, instincts, and relationships with other characters within the production. Multiple roles obviously make more demands, and I would suggest more delights for the actor and the audience.

In Act 1 in Sunday in the Park with George, many of the figures in the Seurat painting come to life. Some are characters who really existed in Georges Seurat’s life and others are imagined, representing the cross section of people who frequented the park on their Sunday off. Below is a suggested guide to how the musical’s characters relate to the figures in the painting. Note that Louis is not in the painting, nor is the American couple, Mr and Mrs, who have comic cameo roles.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


In Act 1 in Sunday in the Park with George, many of the figures in the Seurat painting come to life. Some are characters who really existed in Georges Seurat’s life and others are imagined, representing the cross section of people who frequented the park on their Sunday off. Below is a suggested guide to how the musical’s characters relate to the figures in the painting. Note that Louis is not in the painting, nor is the American couple, Mr and Mrs, who have comic cameo roles. Some of the characters who ‘come to life’ only exist in the world of the painting, at the park. Others also exist in George’s real world – Dot, Jules, Yvonne and his mother, the Old Lady. Soldier & Friend (behind Louise & Yvonne)

Old Lady & Nurse (behind Franz & Frieda)

Louise & Yvonne (lying down behind man standing behind Old Lady & Nurse)

Louis & Baby Marie (standing next to tree)

Figure 9: Georges Seurat, French, 1859-1891, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -- 1884, 1884–86, Oil on canvas, 81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago.

Boatman (lying down)

Franz & Frieda (behind the Boatman)

Celeste 1 & Celeste 2 (sitting down behind dog)

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera

Dot & Jules


Outcome 3 – Performance Analysis

The following dot points outline the Key Skills you need to consider when responding to Sunday in the Park with George and completing Outcome 3  Analyse the characters in the production including status, motivation and characteristics  Analyse and evaluate interpretation by actor/s of a playscript in performance including – the acting skills used to realise character, and the use of focus and acting space  Analyse use of verbal and non-verbal language to convey the intended meaning of the play  Analyse application of stagecraft  Analyse and evaluate establishment and maintenance of actor-audience relationship  Analyse the way actors work within theatrical styles utilized in the production  Discuss the intended meaning of the play/musical and how this was conveyed in the performance

Theatrical Styles and the World of the Play ‘It will be theatrically ‘magical’ and we will see the entire show through George’s eyes…anything is possible. Everything is ‘real’ to George, and therefore is real to us an audience as well.’ Stuart Maunder, Director Consider this statement by the director. This is a musical about an artist creating a great artwork. Further it is a musical that spans 100 years.

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What is ‘magical’ about the world of the play? What theatrical elements make it so? What is real in the play? Which characters anchor it in reality? Would you agree that musicals are by their very nature ‘heightened’ and ‘stylized’? What is heightened and stylized about Sunday in the Park with George?

‘Linear plots rarely feature in Sondheim’s work, instead time, as in ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ is more often used as the unifying force.’ Notes on Sunday in the Park with George

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What is a ‘linear plot’? Does the show have a linear plot? For instance it begins in 1884 and ends in 1984? Does this make it linear? If the world of the play is defined by TIME. Consider how time impacts on the story How does the one hundred year time difference link the two acts in the play? Do we witness ‘real’ time? Do we flashback? Is time disjointed? What aspects of the following contribute to establishing time – accent, costume, music, set, props, content, themes?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


The historical contexts in ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ are Paris, 1884, then Chicago, US 1984. These are the overarching worlds of the play.

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How is each specific era created and portrayed? Consider how set, costume, make-up and lighting assist with the construction of each era How do the characters in each timeframe contribute to establishing the era? Consider accent, physical relationship How are the contexts recreated through the use of accent, costume and set?

The world of the play could be described as one that includes a sense of ‘magic realism’ or ‘fantasy’.

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Do you agree? How is this established? In Act 1, how many of the characters exist in George’s head? What is real to George? What is ‘fantasy’? Comment on the appearance of Dot in the park in Act 2. Is this a moment of magical realism?

The key theatrical style apparent in Sunday in the Park with George is musical theatre. The director of this production, Stuart Maunder says …the ultimate aim of the musical is to tell a story, whether through spoken word, sung word or presence. Musical theatre is a form of theatre that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The story and emotional content of the piece – humour, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Musical Theatre asks an audience to accept the notion that songs contribute to the story and the characters’ journeys.

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Discuss how the songs contribute to the narrative of Sunday in the Park with George Choose two songs from the musical and analyse and evaluate the narrative/story. Whose story do they tell? What do they reveal? What comment do they make? Discuss how ‘humour, pathos, love and anger’ are communicated in the production. How does the music contribute to the evocation of these?

A key feature of the musical is the ‘presentational’ nature that it demands. In presentational acting the performers acknowledge the audience by speaking or singing to them.  How is this apparent in the production? What do you observe about the performers?  Consider how the following characters contribute to the presentational style – George (in both acts), Dot, Mr and Mrs  Traditionally a ‘presentational style’ eliminates the 4th wall, or the pretence that the audience is looking in on the real world of the characters. Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


The world of the play in Act II, is 1984, Chicago, an art gallery

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How is this apparent in the production? For instance how do the use of accent, costume, music and other stagecraft help create this era?

Actor/audience relationships

In Sunday in the Park with George the actor/audience relationship is established, maintained and then reestablished on a number of occasions. It changes throughout the performance, within the theatrical style of musical theatre, for the purposes of establishing the worlds of the characters

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Does the design depict a ‘proscenium arch’? Do the characters remain within the arch or do they sometimes emerge from it? Who? Why? How would you describe the actor/audience relationship that a proscenium arch theatre/design establishes?

In both Act I and Act II characters directly address the audience  Discuss how the artist, George, uses direct address when he is painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte  Consider how this works when he painted the dog  Consider how direct address or the presentational style of the show works in ‘Finishing the Hat’  Discuss – Is George speaking directly to us? Are these moments more like soliloquies? The opening scene in the Chicago gallery is quite particular  Discuss how Marie and George’s direct address enrol the audience. Who do we become? When George enters the gallery after his Chromolume presentation doesn’t work, the production becomes very stylized.  As George sings ‘Putting it together’ who does he sing to? What happens to the other characters while he is singing?  How is the actor/audience relationships affected? What impact does it have?  Comment on the use of ‘cut outs’ in this scene. How do they function and how do they enhance the stylized nature of the scene? Consider the scenes in George’s studio in Act 1.  How do they contrast with the park scene?  Is there a ‘fourth wall’ apparent in these scenes?  How does the actor/audience relationship shift in these scenes? In the production, how does the use of Freeze and Stillness Use of freeze contribute to the establishment, maintenance and/or changing actor-audience relationship?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Characterisation – acting and expressive skills

The concept of character in this musical is complex. Firstly in Act 1 several characters are imagined people, observed by the artist, who simply come to life within the time George is painting them.

The Soldier, Franz, Frieda, Nurse, Louise, Mr, Mrs, Celeste 1, Woman with a baby carriage, Man with a Bicycle and Boatman are all ‘characters’ in Seurat’s painting and ‘sample’ the late 19th century ‘day off’ that French citizens may have experienced. Such ‘characters’ are imagined by Georges Seurat and they come to life in the musical through the gradual creation of Seurat’s painting. This is Sondheim’s intention. Secondly, there are the characters such as Dot, Jules, Yvonne and the Old Lady (mother) who have a basis in historical reality. Thirdly, there is the doubling by the performers. The director, Stuart Maunder says:

‘Multiple roles obviously make more demands, and I would suggest more delights for the actor and the audience.’ Stuart Maunder, Director

Select TWO of the imagined characters in the painting  Would you describe them as caricatures? Would you describe them as ‘types’?  Discuss the use of expressive skills used by the performers to create the two imagined characters – voice, gesture, accent, focus, movement, stillness and silence.  Are there ‘class’ differences between these characters. E.G. Working class and middle class characters?  Is this evident in the use of voice, accent, timing, pitch etc.?  How did the use of expressive skills contribute to the PERFORMANCE STYLES within the show? What function do the American couple, Mr and Mrs, have in the production?  Discuss the performers’ use of accent, gesture, focus, movement to create these two roles  How do these characters contrast with other characters?  Would you describe these characters as ‘heightened’, ‘presentational’, ‘stylized’? Why? Now consider the two main characters, George the French painter and George the descendent of Marie  How does the performer, Alexander Lewis, create EACH George?  Begin with French George – What is specific about the performer’s use of accent, voice, focus, gesture, movement, stillness?  Which characters does he interact with most? Why? Do these characters impact on George?  Now the American George – What is specific about the performer’s use of expressive skills to create this George?  Evaluate the similarities and differences between the two George’s? Performance wise? Thematically? Narratively?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


‘George literally is what he does. He does not exist outside his work. It defines him. He sees everything as his art, as colour and light.’ Scott Miller, author Deconstructing Harold Hill: An Insider’s Guide to Musical Theatre

Discuss and analyse this comment based on your experience of the production.  How would you describe the characteristics of each George?  What qualities does each possess?  Do you agree with the comment above?  Discuss this comment in relation to the song ‘Colour and Light’ In Act 1, Song 5 - ‘The Day Off’, George is painting the dog. The challenge for the actor portraying Georges is to take on characteristics of the dog he is painting.  How do the lyrics and music allow the performer to create this moment? Characters may introduce themselves directly to the audience through ‘I am’ songs. ‘I am’ songs can also allow characters to express feely how they are feeling at that moment – The genre of musical theatre  Consider the songs: ‘Gossip’ from Act 1 and ‘Putting it together’ in Act 2.  Discuss how these two songs or moments within them, introduced particular characters to the audience  Now discuss how ‘Colour and Light’ works to explore the relationship between George and Dot, and how they feel about each other The performer playing the dual roles of Dot and the grown up Marie is Christina O’Neil.  How would you describe the characteristics and qualities of each of these characters?  Discuss in detail how the performer used expressive skills – voice, facial expression, gesture, movement, stillness, focus – to create each of these roles  Evaluate the contrasts between the two roles, discuss any similarities.  How does music and song assist in defining Dot? E.G. ‘Colour & Light’ and ‘Everybody loves Louis’  How does ‘Children and Art’ help to define Marie? DOUBLING – Choose two of the minor characters in Act 1 and discuss how the performers used their expressive skills to create their second role in Act 2.  How did they manipulate their voice, facial expression, accent, gesture, movement etc. in order to create a convincing new role?  How did costume, hair and make-up contribute to the effectiveness of this?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Characterisation – status

As you are journeying through the discussion, analysis and evaluation of the production, now consider how status between characters was evident in the show. How is status made evident in theatre? How do you recognise high status, what is low status, when does status shift? What are the stakes for characters in these moments?

A good example would be to examine the status between George and Dot in Act 1. Consider the following moments:  When George is painting Dot in the opening song. What is the status play here? Who is higher, who is lower? How is tension created?  When George and Dot are in the studio, Dot preparing to go to The Follies. What is the status play here? What are the stakes?  When Dot tells George she is leaving and going to America ‘We do not Belong Together’. What is the status at play in this song? What are the stakes? How is tension created?  Consider spatial relationship, physical proximity, focus, tone, interaction etc.

Another example worth exploring is the status between George and his artist friend, Jules, in Act 1.  Consider the scene in the studio when Jules comes to see George’s work  How would you describe the status between the two friends/colleagues? Does it change? When? Why? A fun way to examine status is by considering the two shop girls, Celeste 1 and Celeste 2 who are in competition over the Soldier and his ‘friend’ (which is a cut out).  Discuss the status play between these two characters and how it is generated through expressive skills, the music, the use of space Consider the scene in the park between Franz and his wife Frieda as they picnic. It is quite comic and slightly exaggerated.  What is their status? Do they like each other? No, how is this made obvious? In Act 2, consider the status play between Marie and George as they argue over the story of Georges Seurat and what the truth is.  How is space used? How is voice used? How is tension created?

Characterisation – motivation

Explore the motivations of each of the following characters. Remember to use the elements of the production to support your response.  What motivates George to paint? Is he obsessive? Why does George let Dot go?  What motivates Dot to a) to love George and c) to leave him and go to America?  What motivates Marie to give George her mother’s writing book?  What motivates the various art critics in Act 2? Why are they there? What is at stake for them?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Characterisation – use of acting space

The two acts of Sunday in the Park with George take place in two very different locations, 19 th century Paris and 20th Century Chicago. Within these two broad locations there are more specific places.

Consider the creation of the Park in Act 1  How does it create a very particular playing space? What are the limitations?  What is the distinction between the ‘park’ as a painting and George’s world?  How do the performers use the park space to go about their lives? Consider levels, relationship to other characters, relationship to set items and pop-ups or cut-outs? In Act 1, George’s studio includes Dot’s dressing table  How does the design and use of the playing space create these two places?  How does the existence of both places comment on the relationship between the characters?  Does either character enter the other’s space? Why/Why not? The modern art gallery in Act II is full of people and there are many entrances, exists and conversations  How do the performers use the modern art gallery space in Act 2?  What are the limitations of the space? How does it contribute to the theatrical styles?  As an audience, how did you respond to this scene? How did you navigate the ‘busyness’? Comment on the use of any cut-outs and pop-ups in this production.  How do they contribute to the use of space? Character interaction?

Application of Stagecraft

In this section, you are asked to consider the contribution stagecraft makes to the world, the story and the characters in Sunday in the Park with George

‘Music - Sondheim brings the same intense, systematic intellectual precision to the composition of his words and music that the Seurat brought to his paintings.’ Stuart Maunder, Director      

Discuss how the music created to world of the Park in 1884 Discuss how the music created Chicago in 1984 Were there particular songs? Vamps? Chords? Discuss Stuart Maunder’s comment with regard to ‘intense, systematic intellectual precision’ How would you apply it to your own experience of the production? How does the music contribute thematically?

‘Sondheim delights in breaking the rules. When one reads the libretto of Sunday it is often difficult to see where the songs finish and the words take over.’ Stuart Maunder, Director 

Do you agree with this comment?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Application of Stagecraft (cont.) ‘SET - Act 1 of the musical is set in Paris. Seurat’s version of the Eiffel Tower and the costumes showcased in A Sunday on La Grande Jatte are in evidence. Act 2 is set in the modern day in Chicago…but it could be any art gallery, anywhere. Peopled with ‘beautiful’ A-list people.’ Stuart Maunder, Director The director made this comment early in the rehearsal period. Consider it now and comment on how each of these elements were present in the set design.  For instance, Eiffel Tower, the island of Le Grand Jatte, modern day Chicago, an art gallery?  How would you describe the aesthetic and style of the overall set? Stylized? Representational? Realistic? Non-naturalistic?

Mechanics Consider how the mechanics of the set worked in the theatre to create the different locations required. For instance:  How was the ‘painting’ set up using any of flies, trucks, projection, pop-ups?  How was the chromolume art work performance generated?  How was George’s studio and Dot’s dressing table created on stage?  How was the dog that George paints created on stage?  How did the mechanics contribute to overall aesthetic of the production? Costume Costume is a very large part of the production. It is particularly important for creating era or period, class, fashion, and character.  Take TWO characters from Act 1 and their doubled role in Act 2 and carefully examine the costumes they wore as each character  Sketch each costume and annotate it for colour, silhouette, texture, period or era, class, and other references you feel assist in enhancing its contribution to creating CHARACTER  Would you consider the costumes to be intimate or public? Meant to be seen or only worn in private?  Consider in your discussion the inclusion of ACCESSORIES – hats, gloves, bags, parasols  CHARACTERISATION – discuss how the costumes enhanced the qualities of each character, enhanced or inhibited their movement, determined their class, did they look comfortable?  COMPARE the fashions in the painting with those worn in the production – how are they referenced?  CONSIDER the comment that the gallery is ‘peopled with beautiful A-listed people’ by the director. Do the costumes in this scene reflect this? Do they reference the 1980s?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


Application of Stagecraft (cont.)

Makeup & Hair Again, this is a large part of the production, particularly because the performers are doubling character. As you are discussing costume in detail, consider how make-up and hair contributed to: Era/period, the overall aesthetic, age, class, occupation, and to the creation of each CHARACTER. Properties Among many properties, there are two significant props in Sunday in the Park with George  George’s sketch book  Dot’s grammar book  Discuss the significance of each of these props and how they contributed to the story and to the development of the characters  List other props you saw in the show and comment on their relevance to the characters who used them E.G. Louise’s glasses, the Old Lady’s parasol

Intended meaning of the production ‘Some of the ideas explored in Sunday in the Park with George include - science and colour, the artist’s role, art, love, obsession, perfection, moving on. Sunday in the Park with George shows us that ordered passion of the creative artist can be just as fulfilling as traditional romantic passion. In addition ‘Sunday’ delights in arguing that one must ‘move on’, past recreation of the familiar, the safe.’ Stuart Maunder, Director     

Discuss the first part of this comment in relation to your analysis of the show How does George’s story, across 100 years comment on artistic passion being as fulfilling as romantic passion? Now consider the second part of this comment How does George’s story explore what it means to move beyond the familiar and the safe? How is this reflected in Dot’s story?

Critics and academics discuss the production as being one that explores art and politics.  Do you agree?  Which scene or moments do you think explore these as opposing or complementary ideas?

‘There are only two worthwhile things you leave behind when you depart this earth – children and art.’ Marie, Act II, Sunday in the Park with George    

Consider this line from the production by the old Marie What do you think she means? How do both these ‘worthwhile’ things relate to her character? How do they relate to George?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


When George returns to Paris and to the Jardin la Gatte, he experiences a ‘visitation’ by Dot. She sings to him the song ‘Move On’.  What does George need to move on from?  How might this song capture an essential idea in the story? Discuss other ideas and meanings that you discovered in the production or that have occurred you as you have been analysing and evaluating the production. Remember to use the LIVE PERFORMANCE as your ‘text’ and draw on specific examples from it to emphasise and support your arguments.

Monologue Performances  How will your exploration of key characters in this production relate to your own monologue performance?  What performance styles did you see being explored that could be useful?  Which performers use of expressive skills were examples of excellence?  What did you learn about the establishment of particular actor/audience relationships that could be helpful?  How did costume and props assist in establishing a world or place or location?

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies © Victorian Opera


With thanks to Meg Upton for the research and preparation of this resource pack.

For enquiries about our 2013 Education Program contact: Melissa Harris, Education Manager E: melissah@victorianopera.com.au P: 03 9012 6652 Engage with us @ facebook.com/vopera Join in the conversation @ twitter.com/victorianopera #victorianopera See our snapshots @instagram/victorianopera View our opera journey @ youtube.com/victorianoperapage Discover our 2013 Education Season @ victorianopera.com.au/education Read our behind-the-scenes blog @ victorianopera.com.au/blog

Victorian Opera Education Program is generously supported by the Victorian Opera Education Syndicate.

Sunday in the Park with George Education Resources – Theatre Studies Š Victorian Opera


Victorian Opera 2013 Education Resources - Sunday in the Park with George