Sheldon Harnick was born in Chicago in 1924. Following his service in World War II, he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree at Northwestern University, majoring in violin. After working as a professional musician in and around Chicago, he moved to New York in 1950 to pursue a career in the musical theater.
Harnick's first song for a Broadway show was the hilarious “Boston Beguine” for New Faces of 1952. He then contributed songs to the revues Two's Company (starring Bette Davis), John Murray Anderson's Almanac and The Littlest Revue. His collaboration with composer Jerry Bock produced such Broadway classics as Fiorello! (1959): Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award; Tenderloin (1960); She Loves Me (1963): Grammy Award; Fiddler on the Roof (1964) Tony Award; The Apple Tree (1966) and The Rothschilds (1970). Other collaborations include A Christmas Carol with Michel Legrand (1981); Rex with Richard Rodgers (1976); A Wonderful Life with Joe Raposo (1986) and The Phantom Tollbooth with Arnold Black (1995). For Dragons and Malpractice Makes Perfect, he provided book lyrics and music. He has written songs for the films The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and Blame It On Rio (1984), both with music by Cy Coleman; and Aaron's Magic Village (1995) with Michel Legrand.
In the 1970s, Mr. Harnick expanded his field of activities by translating L'Histoire du Soldat (Stravinski), L'Enfant et les Sortileges (Ravel), Bizet's Carmen and Lehar's The Merry Widow. This latter translation was commissioned for the New York City Center production starring Beverly Sills. Ms. Sills' recording won a Grammy Award as the year's best-recorded opera. Mr. Harnick also translated Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy's film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg for the stage.
The 1970s also saw Mr. Harnick's entry into the world of opera. With composer Jack Beeson, he has provided the librettos for Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (1975), Dr. Heidegger's Fountain of Youth (1978) and Cyrano (1994). Other operas include Love in Two Countries with Thomas Shepard (1991) and Coyote Tales with Henry Mollicone (1998).
In 2015, Harbinger Records released Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures. The two-CD set includes more than 50 rare demo recordings written for 17 of his shows, with performances by Harnick and composer Jerry Bock, as well as Audra McDonald, Brian d'Arcy James, Hugh Martin, Margery Gray Harnick and Charlotte Rae, to name a few.
Mr. Harnick has won a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, two New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, three gold records and a platinum record.
In 2016, he received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, the Drama League Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and a Special Lifetime Achievement Award from The Outer Critics Circle.
He and his wife, photographer Margery Gray, have collaborated on two extraordinary picture books, The Outdoor Museum (Not Your Usual Images of New York) and KOI: A Modern Folktale, which features her photographs and his poetry.
In 2019, the first ever Fiddler on the Roof documentary, Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, was released in over 126 movie theaters nationwide, with Sheldon at the forefront as the film's narrator. The film includes tales from incarnation to the most recent Yiddish language production of the iconic musical.
Mr. Harnick and his wife celebrated their 55th Anniversary in 2020; they have two children, Beth and Matthew, and two grandchildren. Mr. Harnick is a longtime member of both the Dramatists Guild and the Songwriters Guild of America.
OPERA America/Opera.ca Grants Awarded
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|GRANT NAME||YEAR||Opera for a New America ||1994||Opera for a New America ||1994||Opera for a New America ||1994||Opera for a New America ||1994|
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