Adam Guettel (pronounced:ˈɡɛtəl), born 16 December 1964) is a Jewish American musical theater composer and lyricist best known for 2005's The Light in the Piazza, for which he won two Tony Awards and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations.


Early years

Guettel was born and raised in the Upper West Side of New York City. He performed as a boy soprano in operas including Pelléas et Mélisande at the Metropolitan Opera and The Magic Flute at the New York City Opera. He later claimed that he ended his career as a boy soprano at age 13, by faking that his voice was changing; he turned to music composition soon afterward.[1] The composer attended Phillips Exeter Academy, Interlochen Center for the Arts and graduated from Yale University in 1987.


His early works include 1996's Floyd Collins, Love's Fire, and Saturn Returns (which was recorded as Myths and Hymns). Guettel's music was almost immediately characterized by its complexity and use of various strings. He is perhaps one of the modern musical theater composers most heavily influenced by the work of Stephen Sondheim (for his part, Sondheim has referred to Guettel's work as "dazzling".)[2] Guettel's songs have been recorded by such artists as Audra McDonald and Brian d'Arcy James.

In 2004, Guettel contributed vocals to Jessica Molaskey's P.S. Classics album Make Believe, dueting with Molaskey on the song "Glad To Be Unhappy." After six years working on the project,[1] Guettel's musical The Light in the Piazza opened on Broadway in 2005. The show, which starred Victoria Clark and Kelli O'Hara, met with mixed critical notices, but on June 5, 2005, Adam Guettel won the Tony Award for Best Original Score and the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations.

In 2003, one of Guettel's future projects was said to be "a shockingly ambitious concert piece for Audra McDonald."[1] The composer also spent much of 2006 working on a musical adaptation of The Princess Bride with original screenwriter William Goldman. As of January 2007, Guettel had completed several songs for the project. An orchestral suite from the score was performed at the Hollywood Bowl in November 2006, and Lincoln Center conducted a workshop of Bride in January 2007. The project was abandoned when Goldman reportedly demanded 75 percent of the author's share, even though Guettel was writing both the music and the lyrics.[3]

In summer 2007, Guettel composed background music for a production of Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya at the Intiman Playhouse in Seattle, Washington.[4]

Personal life

In a 2003 profile in The New York Times, Guettel revealed that he has struggled with addiction and drug problems since the age of seven, when he began smoking cigarettes. He attributed part of his interest in drugs (he called the first time he got high "the happiest moment of my life") to family expectations, saying:[1]

Because it's not just a disease; it's me, it's knowing how much I could do if I kept it together, if I had the courage and stamina and willpower! I wish I could just have fun and relax and not have the responsibility of that potential to be some kind of great man! In my family, to be good is to fail. To be very good is to fail. To only do three really good things is to fail. The only thing not a failure is to be great. And tiring.


Guettel is the son of composer, author and Juilliard School chairman Mary Rodgers and grandson of Pulitzer Prize-winning musical theater composer Richard Rodgers. His father Henry Guettel was a film executive[5] and ran the Theater Development Fund.[6]

When Guettel took up music composition in his mid-teens, he was encouraged by his family. His mother said that she offered him advice for around a year, "After that, he was so far beyond anything I could ever have dreamed of, I just backed off."[1] Richard Rodgers, who died when Guettel was 15, overheard an early composition, said he liked it and asked him to play it louder. Guettel has qualified the compliment, noting that "He was literally on his deathbed on the other side of the living-room wall."[1] Guettel later rebelled against his family's musical theater heritage, working in rock and jazz (singing and playing bass) as well as aspiring to be an actor, before realizing "that writing for character and telling stories through music was something that I really loved to do, and that allowed me to express love."[7]


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Adam Guettel. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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