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Friday, December 31, 2010

Librettist? Ah, Pathetic!

Screenwriter legend William Goldman states in his cranky classic, "The Season": If you actually think of yourself as a writer, writing a musical comedy book is degrading... You are just not going to find any writer of genuine talent making a career in this field. Well, I don't love to degrade myself, but I understand Goldman's point. I may lack genuine talent, but at least I love what I'm doing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Benefit

There is no guarantee that you will live longer if you never spoil yourself with those tempting unhealthy treats. But life will no doubt feel longer.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Artist's Compass

I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings. 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jorinda and Jorindel



There was once an old castle, that stood in the middle of a deep gloomy wood, and in the castle lived an old fairy. Now this fairy could take any shape she pleased. All the day long she flew about in the form of an owl, or crept about the country like a cat; but at night she always became an old woman again. When any young man came within a hundred paces of her castle, he became quite fixed, and could not move a step till she came and set him free; which she would not do till he had given her his word never to come there again: but when any pretty maiden came within that space she was changed into a bird, and the fairy put her into a cage, and hung her up in a chamber in the castle. There were seven hundred of these cages hanging in the castle, and all with beautiful birds in them. Now there was once a maiden whose name was Jorinda. She was prettier than all the pretty girls that ever were seen before, and a shepherd lad, whose name was Jorindel, was very fond of her, and they were soon to be married. One day they went to walk in the wood, that they might be alone; and Jorindel said, 'We must take care that we don't go too near to the fairy's castle.' It was a beautiful evening; the last rays of the setting sun shone bright through the long stems of the trees upon the green underwood beneath, and the turtle-doves sang from the tall birches. Jorinda sat down to gaze upon the sun; Jorindel sat by her side; and both felt sad, they knew not why; but it seemed as if they were to be parted from one another for ever. They had wandered a long way; and when they looked to see which way they should go home, they found themselves at a loss to know what path to take. The sun was setting fast, and already half of its circle had sunk behind the hill: Jorindel on a sudden looked behind him, and saw through the bushes that they had, without knowing it, sat down close under the old walls of the castle. Then he shrank for fear, turned pale, and trembled. Jorinda was just singing,
'The ring-dove sang from the willow spray,
He mourn'd for the fate of his darling mate, when her song stopped suddenly. Jorindel turned to see the reason, and beheld his Jorinda changed into a nightingale, so that her song ended with a mournful _jug, jug_. An owl with fiery eyes flew three times round them, and three times screamed:
'Tu whu! Tu whu! Tu whu!'
There stay! Oh, stay!
Hie away! away!'
Jorindel could not move; he stood fixed as a stone, and could neither weep, nor speak, nor stir hand or foot. And now the sun went quite down; the gloomy night came; the owl flew into a bush; and a moment after the old fairy came forth pale and meagre, with staring eyes, and a nose and chin that almost met one another. She mumbled something to herself, seized the nightingale, and went away with it in her hand. Poor Jorindel saw the nightingale was gone--but what could he do? He could not speak, he could not move from the spot where he stood. At last the fairy came back and sang with a hoarse voice:
'Till the prisoner is fast,
And her doom is cast,
When the charm is around her,
And the spell has bound her,
On a sudden Jorindel found himself free. Then he fell on his knees before the fairy, and prayed her to give him back his dear Jorinda: but she laughed at him, and said he should never see her again; then she
went her way. He prayed, he wept, he sorrowed, but all in vain. 'Alas!' he said, 'what will become of me?' He could not go back to his own home, so he went to a strange village, and employed himself in keeping sheep. Many a time did he walk round and round as near to the hated castle as he dared go, but all in vain; he heard or saw nothing of Jorinda. At last he dreamt one night that he found a beautiful purple flower, and that in the middle of it lay a costly pearl; and he dreamt that he plucked the flower, and went with it in his hand into the castle, and that everything he touched with it was disenchanted, and that there he found his Jorinda again.
In the morning when he awoke, he began to search over hill and dale for this pretty flower; and eight long days he sought for it in vain: but on the ninth day, early in the morning, he found the beautiful purple flower; and in the middle of it was a large dewdrop, as big as a costly pearl. Then he plucked the flower, and set out and travelled day and night, till he came again to the castle. He walked nearer than a hundred paces to it, and yet he did not become fixed as before, but found that he could go quite close up to the door. Jorindel was very glad indeed to see this. Then he touched the door with the flower, and it sprang open; so that he went in through the court, and listened when he heard so many birds singing. At last he came to the chamber where the fairy sat, with the seven hundred birds singing in the seven hundred cages. When she saw Jorindel she was very angry, and screamed with rage; but she could not come within two yards of him, for the flower he held in his hand was his safeguard. He looked around at the birds, but alas! there were many, many nightingales, and how then should he find out which was his Jorinda? While he was thinking what to do, he saw the fairy had taken down one of the cages, and was making the best of her way off through the door. He ran or flew after her, touched the cage with the flower, and Jorinda stood before him, and threw her arms round his neck looking as beautiful as ever, as beautiful as when they walked together in the wood.
Then he touched all the other birds with the flower, so that they all took their old forms again; and he took Jorinda home, where they were married, and lived happily together many years: and so did a good many other lads, whose maidens had been forced to sing in the old fairy's cages by themselves, much longer than they liked.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shuttlecock

"It's advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at only one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends."
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Don't Forget!

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh (A. A. Milne, 1882-1956)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Message

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”
Taylor Caldwell

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Morning

“There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”
Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Berlioz


"Berlioz says nothing in his music, but he says it magnificently."
James Gibbons Huneker

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wealth



"There is no wealth but life."
John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sensitivity

An American producer had commissioned Igor Stravinsky to compose a ballet. After the opening in Philadelphia, the producer sent Stravinsky a telegram which read: Your music great success Stop Could be sensational success if you would authorize Robert Russell Bennett retouch orchestration Stop Bennett orchestrates even the works of Cole Porter Stop. Stravinsky wired back: Satisfied with great success Stop.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wrong Priority

"Men take only their needs into consideration - never their abilities."
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great Heretics

"For you are not to suppose, brethren, that heresies could be produced through any little souls. None save great men have been the authors of heresies."
Saint Augustine (354-430)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Character

"Integrity has no need of rules."
Albert Camus

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Greatness

In his novel Lotte in Weimar, Thomas Mann lets Goethe make a remarkable statement: "People forget that you must first be a great man before you can be a great poet." I think Mann/Goethe is absolutely right, and not only with respect to poets. You cannot be great in anything without being a great human being. We should revise our education system from this perspective.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Writer's Fate

Why is it that even successful writers are often too modest to demand their share of credit and respect? It has to do with our profession. As writers, we're always starting all over again. Being a playwright, you have to live with despair, resentment, rejection and failure. Whenever you deserve praise, there are many others to take it away.  If what you wrote is a success, it's the director's merit; if it's a flop, you get all the blame. Take it and live with it, or try to find another line of work. You can always become a director.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dispraise

"People are never more ready to believe you as when you say things in dispraise of yourself; and you are never so much annoyed as when they take you at your word."
Somerset Maugham

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life

"Life is like a blanket too short.  You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night."  
Marion Howard

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Defuse Hatred!

"Hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love."
Liu Xiaobo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coincidence?

A motorist caught speeding in London two years ago moved to New Zealand only to be booked by the same police officer for again exceeding the limit, reports said Wednesday.
Former London bobby Andy Flitton ticketed the man in Britain two years ago, shortly before migrating to New Zealand -- then caught him again in September on a highway in the South Island, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Flitton, who now works for the New Zealand traffic police, said he had forgotten about the original booking until the man approached him while he was writing out the ticket.
"He asked if I had worked in London, I said 'yes'. He asked if I used to operate the laser gun on the A5 in North London, I said 'yes'," Flitton told the newspaper.
"And he said 'I thought it was you, you gave me my last speeding ticket there two years ago'."
Flitton said the man told him he had moved to New Zealand two weeks before his latest booking, unaware his nemesis was also in the same country.
"We must have some sort of connection," he said. "He only ever broke the law twice and both times I was the one to give him a ticket... it just shows what a small world it really is."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Revelation

"Those who belong to the orthodox faiths claim that the authority of their faith rests on revelation, and that revelation is given in the pages of books and accounts of miracles and wonders whose nature is supernatural. But those of us who have long discarded the belief in the supernatural still are in the presence of revelations which are the foundation of faith. We too have our revealed religion. We have looked upon the face of men and women that can be to us the symbols of that which is holy. We have heard words of sacred wisdom and truth spoken in the human voice. Out of the universe there have come to us these experience which, when accepted, give to us revelations, not of supernatural religion, but of a natural and inevitable faith in the spiritual powers that animate and dwell in the center of [a person's] being."

John Lovejoy Elliott (1868-1942)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Memorial










"This would have been the 70th birthday year for John if only he was here. But people are not questioning if he is here or not. They just love him and are keeping him alive with their love. I’ve received notes from people in all corners of the world letting me know that they were celebrating this year to thank John for having given us so much in his 40 short years on earth."
Yoko Ono

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wonder Drug

New research shows that taking one Aspirin per day reduces the risk of tumor cancer. From two groups of people the one that took Aspirin over a ten year period developed 21% less cancer, reports the New York Times in yesterday's edition.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Too Late

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Illiterates

"Musicals continue to be the only art form, popular or otherwise, that is publicly critcized by illiterates."
Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Three Pianos



"An evening based on Schubert’s “Winterreise” seems an unlikely antidepressant. But Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy give this gloomy song cycle an amusing theatrical makeover in Three Pianos ...in the scrappy and surreal piece, the 24-part song cycle unfolds amid cleverly constructed mayhem, with Mr. Duffy, Mr. Malloy and Mr. Burkhardt metamorphosing among characters and centuries. Scenes shift with dizzying speed…they leap among pianos and pound out the songs with irreverent twists…Like the drama, the pianos are never static — energetically pushed and pulled around the set as giant props. Liquor was plentiful on set and off; bottles of wine and cups were distributed among the audience, which seemed thoroughly entertained by the trio’s goofy and touching musings about love, life and art."
Helen Shaw, Time Out New York

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Good Reason For A Trip To London

The well-reviewed Broadway production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Academy Award winner Al Pacino, could possibly cross the Atlantic for a London run, according to the Daily Mail. British producers Duncan C. Weldon and Paul Elliott are reportedly in talks with the Public Theater and the Merchant producing team about bringing the production to the West End. There has also been speculation that The Merchant of Venice will likely extend its Broadway engagement, which is currently scheduled to conclude its limited, 78-performance run Jan. 9, 2011.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Musical Boom On Broadway

It's hard to recall a Broadway season full of so many expensive musicals like the upcoming first half of 2011. One, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” with its record-setting price tag of $65 million, has disproportionately skewed the shows’ total costs of more than $135 million, in their Broadway debuts. Among the other coming big-budget musicals are “Wonderland,” at a cost of $15 million and featuring music by Frank Wildhorn, who works regularly on Broadway (“Dracula, the Musical,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel”); “Catch Me” at $13 million, featuring music by the Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Hairspray”); “Sister Act” (with music by Glenn Slater and the Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken) and “Priscilla” at about $10 million apiece; and “The Book of Mormon,” whose cost has not been disclosed but is likely to total at least several million dollars. The “Mormon” music is by another new team, Robert Lopez of “Avenue Q” and Trey Parker and Matt Stone of the television series “South Park.” One reason for the bounty of new musicals is ready money. The stock and bond markets remain uncertain investments, but there is still plenty of investor money sloshing around, as record-setting art auctions have shown. While only 25 to 30 percent of Broadway shows make back their investments each year, a hit musical has been an abiding dream for generations of investors, and taking a chance on Broadway can be considerably more fun than watching stock tickers, producers say.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

About Failure

In choosing the perfect project to work on, all artists must follow their creative conscience and their instincts. There is no such thing as a certified success.  There is nothing wrong with falling, as long as you don't fall from the lowest rung of the ladder. It's better to be proud of a gem that failed than to be ashamed of some successful trash.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Skins

A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don't know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox's or bear's, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there. 
Meister Eckhart 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Islands

The advice I am giving always to all my students is above all to study the music profoundly... music is like the ocean, and the instruments are little or bigger islands, very beautiful for the flowers and trees. 
Andres Segovia 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. 
Dag Hammarskjold 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Expensive Ambition

Turning the cartoon series Spiderman into a musical has so enraptured the director, Julie Taymor, and the composers, Bono and the Edge, of U2, that they have built a $70 million  show around him, replete with perspective-skewing scenery and flying sequences that are unprecedented for Broadway. That's a high goal, but the creators want even more. Being artists who dream big they compare the show’s themes to great literature and philosophy. “We’re wrestling with the same stuff as Rilke, Blake, ‘Wings of Desire,’ Roy Lichtenstein, the Ramones — the cost of feeling feelings, the desire for connections when you’re separate from others,” said Bono in an interview. “If the only wows you get from ‘Spider-Man’ are visual, special-effect, spectacular-type wows, and not wows from the soul or the heart, we will all think that we’ve failed.” Spider-Man, the musical, is scheduled to open on January 11th at the Foxwoods Theatre.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Favorite iPhone Apps



I've been asked which iPhone Apps I actually use. Well, for a start, here's my top ten:

1) WordBook. English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Excellent. As good as any printed dictionary.

2) Wikipanion. Shortest way to gather infos on the road.

3) Shazam. I hold this app up to a song on the radio, and Shazam gives me all the information I need and even shows me the CD cover.

4) DocsToGo. This app allows me to carry and read important pdf-docs on my iPhone.

5) BrainTuner. Great little app to avoid getting nervous while waiting for a belated train or plane.

6) RadioBox. Best internet radio receiver I know.

7) Gorillacam. This photography app has a lot of great functions; I only use its Self Timer, and this alone is worth much more than the zero bucks they charge.

8) YouTube. Works really everywhere. Gives me the chance to check back on songs and even shows I wish to refer to.

9) 7 Chords. Whenever a need to know how one of these unusual chords are played on the guitar, I just look it up.

10) Things. A great organizing tool. Helps me to remember my daily tasks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Good Season For Babies

According to Harvard University researchers, Babies born in October and November have the longest life expectancy and best chance of good health. If you're born at this time of year you have a better chance than others to become a professional footballer or an Olympic athlete. Also, Babies born between December and February grow into taller, brighter and more successful adults than their summer counterparts. They are also less likely to need strong spectacles. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why-Musicals

Mary Rodgers defines the "Why-Musical" as a perfectly respectable show based on a perfectly respectable source, that has no reason for being. Why-Musicals usually come from successful novels, movies or plays. Their authors, blinded by the proven potential of the source material, never question the need to turn it into a musical. They never ask themselves what music and songs will do for the story that hasn't already been accomplished by the original work. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Responsibility

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say. 
Martin Luther 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Know What You Eat!

Sunday's New York Times reports that a slaughterhouse in Queens/New York committed to the idea that people should know where their food comes from. It lets customers select and kill animals of their choosing. They are allowed to witness the slaughter and even, for those so inclined, to wield the sharpened knife. Allegedly it’s all part of the broader cultural effort to escape the climate-controlled, linoleum-lined artificiality of supermarket shopping, in which meat magically appears all ready for your oven and animals are characters in children’s storybooks. Reading this I remembered a scene in a Woody Allan film the title of which I forgot. He sits in a restaurant and the waiter shows him various kinds of fresh fish to choose from. "Don't tell me their names," Woody says. "I don't care to be introduced to my dinner."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Only In New York

Last week at a New York department store. I took the elevator to the fifth floor. The car was packed. Among some twenty people in the car was a sturdy man in his fifties holding a big dog on a leash. Grumpily he demanded a young Asian woman to step back to allow his dog to sit. The Asian woman said, she couldn't possibly step further back because of the people standing behind her. This answer made the man hiss at her: "Why don't you go back to China!" Immediately all the other people in the car responded. "How dare you!" – "Racist!" – "Get out of here!" – "You ought to be ashamed!". The man with the dog had no choice but to leave the elevator at the next stop. And I thought, this is why I love New Yorkers. They take a stand.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Toddlers Make Fair Judges

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany report that children as young as 3 are less likely to help a person after they have seen them harm someone else — in this case adult actors tearing up or breaking another adult’s drawing or clay bird. More intriguing is that the toddlers judged a person’s intention. When one person tried to harm someone else but did not succeed, the youngsters were less likely to help that person at a later time. But when they observed a person accidentally cause harm to another, they were more willing to help that person.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Careful With Wagner

I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.
Woody Allen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Hit The Ball!

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.
Arthur Ashe

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mean Prayer

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it.
Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Change

Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Method

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting Old

You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there.
George Burns (1896 - 1996)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Humble

There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.
Gore Vidal

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ambitious Beginning

As a young aspiring actor Peter O'Toole was overjoyed to have landed a bit part as a Georgian peasant in a Chekhov play. Although the script simply called for him to come on stage, announce, "Dr. Ostroff, the horses are ready," and exit, the ambitious O'Toole conceived of the peasant as a boy of steel, the future Stalin.He perfected Stalin's minor limp, made himself up to look like him, and carefully rehearsed the line, imbuing it with a subtle nuance of proletarian resentment... On opening night, the excited audience was duly intrigued by the entry of the angry peasant - who, turning to Dr. Ostroff, suddenly announced: "Dr. Horsey, the Ostroffs are ready."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Good For The Mind

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
Christopher Morley

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Theater


In the theater, while you recognized that you were looking at a house, it was a house in quotation marks. On screen, the quotation marks tend to be blotted out by the camera. 
Arthur Miller 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Deadly Vanity

The Weasels and the Mice waged a perpetual war with each other, in which much blood was shed. The Weasels were always the victors. The Mice thought that the cause of their frequent defeats was that they had no leaders set apart from the general army to command them, and that they were exposed to dangers from lack of discipline. They therefore chose as leaders Mice that were most renowned for their family descent, strength, and counsel, as well as those most noted for their courage in the fight, so that they might be better marshaled in battle array and formed into troops, regiments, and battalions. When all this was done, and the army disciplined, and the herald Mouse had duly proclaimed war by challenging the Weasels, the newly chosen generals bound their heads with straws, that they might be more conspicuous to all their troops. Scarcely had the battle begun, when a great rout overwhelmed the Mice, who scampered off as fast as they could to their holes. The generals, not being able to get in on account of the ornaments on their heads, were all captured and eaten by the Weasels.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Challenge

“Maintaining our standard; that's our challenge day-in and day-out.”
 Tim Rice

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Don't Act, Dammit!

In the 50s and 60s, Ethel Merman was one of the greatest Broadway stars. After a performance of the 1966 revival of Annie Get Your Gun, she summoned Jerry Orbach, one of the supporting actors, to her dressing room. She was upset. "What were you doing during my speech in the boat scene," she demanded. "Nothing, Miss Merman," Jerry said, baffled. "Yes, you were; you were doing something," she insisted, "I saw it out of the corner of my eye."- "I was only reacting to your speech," he replied, "I acted."- "Look," she snapped, "you don't act when I talk. Don't you ever react to my lines, I don't react to yours, okay?"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hit or Flop

You write a hit the same way you write a flop. 
Alan Jay Lerner 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dramatic Themes

"The theatre is supremely fitted to say: 'Behold! These things are.' Yet most dramatists employ it to say: 'This moral truth can be learned from beholding this action.' "
Thornton Wilder 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hero's Hero

"DuBose Heyward has gone largely unrecognized as the author of the finest set of lyrics in the history of the American musical theater - namely, those of Porgy and Bess. There are two reasons for this, and they are connected. First, he was primarily a poet and novelist, and his only song lyrics were those that he wrote for Porgy. Second, some of them were written in collaboration with Ira Gershwin, a full-time lyricist, whose reputation in the musical theater was firmly established before the opera was written. But most of the lyrics in Porgy - and all of the distinguished ones - are by Heyward. I admire his theater songs for their deeply felt poetic style and their insight into character. It's a pity he didn't write any others. His work is sung, but he is unsung." 
Stephen Sondheim