Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Now as the sweet imbecilities tumble so lavishly onto her lap..."

Whenever I listen to the sublime original Broadway cast recording of A Little Night Music, I'm always impressed with how Stephen Sondheim establishes Fredrik Egerman in the musical's first song. Fredrik is a middle-aged lawyer whose eleven month marriage to naive 18 year old Anne has gone unconsummated. During an afternoon nap he, in true lawyerly fashion, lists all the ways he can go about seducing his wife. (His impetuous but staid "Now" is countered in a few minutes by her "Soon"). His son Henrik interjects with "Later" and eventually all three motifs are weaved together in contrapuntal soliloquies. The English major in me has always been amazed at this patter section in which he vents his sexual frustrations by listing the books he can read to get her into the mood...

"Which leaves the suggestive,
But how to proceed?
Although she gets restive,
Perhaps I could read.
In view of her penchant
For something romantic,
De Sade is too trenchant
And Dickens too frantic,
And Stendhal would ruin
The plan of attack,
As there isn't much blue in
The Red and the Black.
De Maupassant's candour
Would cause her dismay,
The Brontes are grander
But not very gay,
Her taste is much blander,
I'm sorry to say,
But is Hans Christian Ander-
Sen ever risque?
Which eliminates A..."

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