While Saturday Night Live fans partied with "Wayne's World," and Andrew Wyeth absorbed himself into "Christina's World," 35,000 Germans have partaken in Sophie's World, a musical based on a million-selling, 1991 novel by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder.
The musical's world premiere opened in Ettlingen, Germany June 12, 1998 and played there through August 23, 1998. That was followed by the release of the CD, "Songs From Sophie's World - The Musical," in Germany and Scandinavia. Sophie's World features a score by Gisle Kverndokk and libretto by Oystein Wiik.
Apparently, the production and disk were so well-received, Sophie's World will now get its homeland premiere, opening Sept. 30, 1999 in Oslo. A Universal Music Norway press release notes that the show requires such a big venue, Sirkus A.S. are building a 2,500-seat theatre in an old airport hangar to house the piece.
October will also bring Sophie to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it later will be seen in Sao Paulo and on a national tour. Producers also plan to bring the musical back to venues in Germany, Holland, Denmark and Sweden.
The novel and musical both deal with a 14-year-old Oslo girl who receives anonymous letters questioning her heritage. She is soon introduced to theories of the great philosophers -- only we soon realize that she and her philosopher friend Alberto are actually fictional characters in a book given to another young girl by her father. Ultimately, the fictional characters try to make their real mark on history and philosophy. According to the show's website (http://www.sophiesmusic.com), the novel was originally written by Gaarder for 13-14 year olds, hoping to introduce them to philosophical constructs in a way that wasn't dry and textbookish.
Composer Kverndokk wrote about his part in the process, "Many people have asked me if it is possible to write "philosophical music." I don't know what "philosophical music" is; what I do know is that you can write music to anything. There is music in everything, and only our imagination imposes limits as to how one can experience music... When you write a musical, you often tend to write the best music when you are impulsive and go with your wild ideas. This is how I have worked with Sophie's World."
A 1994 Master's graduate of the Norwegian State Academy of Music, Kverndokk went on to study at Juilliard with John Corigliano and David Diamond. His specialty has been orchestra works, specifically for woodwind instruments.
Librettist Wiik, who also starred as Alberto in Sophie's world premiere, was a member of Det Norske Teatret in Oslo when he came to the attention of producer Cameron Mackintosh, who cast him as Jean Valjean in the Vienna and London Les Miserables. Other roles include playing Sweeney Todd in Oslo, Judas in a German Jesus Christ Superstar, and the lead in the 1993 Danish musical Tordenskiold.
Songs in Sophie's World include "Planetary Tango," "Libido," "Give Me An Answer," "On The Wings Of Love," "History's Flow" and "Who Knows?"
-- By David Lefkowitz