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Remembering Maurice Sendak's wild side onstage

May 08, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • A scene from Pacific Northwest Ballet's "The Nutcracker," a collaboration between Maurice Sendak and PNB choreographer Kent Stowell that began in 1981. Sendak said he wanted "find a fresh version that did honor to [E.T.A.] Hoffman, Tchaikovsky, and ourselves."
A scene from Pacific Northwest Ballet's "The Nutcracker,"… (Angela Sterling / Pacific…)

Though best remembered for his childhood-defining work "Where the Wild Things Are," Maurice Sendak's uniquely skewed view will also be missed on stages around the world. The children's book illustrator and author died Tuesday at age 83.

Called upon to design sets for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "The Nutcracker," Sendak's production premiered to raves in 1983 and has been an annual tradition in Seattle. Reception for his other works, however, wasn't always so kind.

The Times' Martin Bernheimer was far from enthused with 1990 production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" at the Music Center, which featured costumes and backgrounds by Sendak.

"[Sendak] is a master of dark-edged humor, and his magical images cast their spell far beyond children's books," Bernheimer wrote. "With "Idomeneo," however, he seems to have strayed into the wrong scenic milieu."

Other productions featuring Sendak's work included Mozart's "The Magic Flute," Sergei Prokofiev's "The Love for Three Oranges," a staging of "Hansel und Gretel" for PBS that featured pears and jelly rolls as part of the design, and "Brundibar," an adaptation of Hans Krasa and Adolf Hoffmeister's opera that was published as a book in 2003 featuring text by Tony Kushner.

Click on the photo gallery at the left to look at a selection of Sendak's contributions to dance and opera. He was never shy about delivering something wild.

ALSO:

Children's Author Maurice Sendak dies at 83

Maurice Sendak picks some of Hanukkah's greatest menorahs

Opera review: Meddling with Mozart: 'Idomeneo' according to Sendak and Corsaro

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