The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II
Publication Date: November 25, 2008
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From every “beautiful mornin’” to “some enchanted evening,” the songs of Oscar Hammerstein II are part of our daily lives, his words part of our national fabric.
Born into a theatrical dynasty headed by his grandfather and namesake, Oscar Hammerstein II breathed new life into the moribund art form of operetta by writing lyrics and libretti for such classics as Rose-Marie (music by Rudolf Friml), The Desert Song (Sigmund Romberg), The New Moon (Romberg) and Song of the Flame (George Gershwin). Hammerstein and Jerome Kern wrote eight musicals together, including Sweet Adeline, Music in the Air, and their masterpiece, Show Boat. The vibrant Carmen Jones was Hammerstein’s all-black adaptation of the tragic opera by Georges Bizet.
In 1943, Hammerstein, pioneer in the field of operetta, joined forces with Richard Rodgers, who had for the previous twenty-five years taken great strides in the field of musical comedy with his longtime writing partner, Lorenz Hart. The first Rodgers and Hammerstein work, Oklahoma!, merged the two styles into a completely new genre—the musical play—and simultaneously launched the most successful partnership in American musical theater. Over the next seventeen years, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote eight more Broadway musicals: Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. They also wrote a movie musical (State Fair) and one for television (Cinderella). Collectively their works have earned dozens of awards, including Pulitzers, Tonys, Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys.
Throughout his career, Hammerstein created works of lyrical beauty and universal feeling, and he continually strove—sometimes against fashion—to seek out the good and beautiful in the world. “I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices,” he once said. “But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly . . . I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”
All of his lyrics are here—850, more than a quarter published for the first time—in this sixth book in the indispensable Complete Lyrics series that has also brought us the lyrics of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser. From the young scribe’s earliest attempts to the old master’s final lyric—“Edelweiss”—we can see, read, and, yes, sing the words of a theatrical and lyrical genius.