Revenge is a dish best served with meat pies.
After 15 years of unjust imprisonment in a penal colony, the barber Sweeney Todd returns to the gas-lit streets of Victorian London to claim vengeance on those who wronged him. Sondheim’s stunningly inventive score contains intense drama, macabre humor, lyrical purity, and an unforgettable final scene.
Don’t miss this thrilling American masterpiece.
* Madison Opera debut
Conductor: John DeMain
Director: Norma Saldivar*
Sung in English with projected text
Friday, February 6, 2015 | 8pm
Saturday, February 7, 2015 | 8pm
Sunday, February 8, 2015 | 2:30pm
Capitol Theater at Overture Center
Run time: approx. 2 hours 30 minutes, including one intermission
Opera Novice: American Opera vs. Musicals / January 16, 2015
Close: Sweeney Todd preview / February 1, 2015
Opera Talks: Pre-Opera lecture and Post-Opera
The Story of the Opera
London, 19th century.
ACT I. Anthony Hope, a young sailor, arrives at the port of London with Sweeney Todd, who he had rescued at sea. They are accosted by a Beggar Woman, who Sweeney brushes away. He tells Anthony the tragic story of a young barber, his beautiful wife, and the lustful judge who exiled the barber to pursue his wife.
Sweeney goes to Mrs. Nellie Lovett’s pie shop on Fleet Street and asks if he can rent the room over her shop. Mrs. Lovett tells him the place is haunted by the ghosts of the former residents, a barber named Benjamin Barker and his wife. Mrs. Lovett says that the wife, Lucy, was coveted by the evil Judge Turpin, aided by Beadle Bamford. Turpin had Barker arrested and transported to Australia, then raped Lucy at a masked ball. Sweeney cries out, confirming what Mrs. Lovett suspected: he is Benjamin Barker, returned to London. Mrs. Lovett says that Lucy poisoned herself and Johanna is now the ward of Judge Turpin. She returns to Sweeney his razors, which she kept hidden, and gives him the room above her shop so he can become a barber again and plan his revenge.
Johanna appears at a window in Judge Turpin’s house, wondering how a caged bird can still sing sweetly. Anthony passes by and falls in love with her on sight. Judge Turpin and the Beadle warn him off, but Anthony insists that he will rescue and win Johanna.
In a crowded marketplace, renowned Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli and his assistant, Tobias Ragg, pitch a cure-all, Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir. Sweeney challenges Pirelli to a contest to see who can give a closer shave. Beadle Bamford is the judge and pronounces Sweeney the winner. Sweeney invites the Beadle to visit his shop for a free shave.
Several days later, Sweeney awaits the Beadle’s arrival while Mrs. Lovett tells him to be patient. Anthony arrives and tells Sweeney that he has fallen in love with Johanna; Sweeney tells Anthony that he can hide Johanna at the barber-shop when they escape from Turpin. Anthony leaves just as Pirelli arrives with Toby. Alone with Todd, Pirelli drops his accent, reveals he recognized the razors as Benjamin Barker’s, and attempts to blackmail him. Sweeney strangles him and dumps his body into an empty trunk.
Across town, Judge Turpin is tormented by his lust for Johanna and tells her he intends to marry her. Johanna and Anthony plan to elope. The Beadle suggests that Turpin go to Sweeney’s shop to make himself more appealing to Johanna.
Sweeney tells Mrs. Lovett that he killed Pirelli, just as Judge Turpin arrives for a shave. Sweeney prepares for revenge while the Judge contemplates his marriage. Just before Sweeney slashes Turpin’s throat, Anthony bursts in to tell Sweeney about his and Johanna’s plans. Infuriated, the Judge storms out and vows never to return. Sweeney resolves that he will continue to kill until he has his revenge on Judge Turpin. Mrs. Lovett comes up with a practical plan for disposing of Pirelli’s body and future victims: she will cook them into her meat pies, an idea which Todd enthusiastically adopts.
Mrs. Lovett’s pie business is booming and Toby helps wait on the customers. Sweeney receives his custom-made barber chair that allows him to kill someone and then send the body directly down into the pie shop’s bakehouse.
Anthony looks for the now-missing Johanna, while Sweeney also thinks about his daughter as he disposes of customers. Mrs. Lovett daydreams of retirement to a seaside cottage with Sweeney, though he appears uninterested.
Anthony has found Johanna at Fogg’s lunatic asylum, where Judge Turpin had committed her. With Todd’s help, he plans to rescue her by posing as a wigmaker there to purchase inmates’ hair. Sweeney plots to use the situation to trap Judge Turpin, writing to him that Johanna will be at his Fleet Street shop that evening.
Toby is growing fond of Mrs. Lovett and is highly suspicious of Sweeney Todd, particularly when he sees Pirelli’s purse. Mrs. Lovett suggests that Toby be promoted to working in the bakehouse, then locks him in there. Beadle Bamford arrives to investigate the stench coming out of the pie shop’s chimney, and Mrs. Lovett distracts him until Sweeney arrives. Sweeney kills the Beadle and sends him down the chute to the bakehouse, where Toby is standing.
Anthony arrives at the asylum to rescue Johanna. When Fogg attempts to stop them, Anthony cannot bring himself to shoot him, so Johanna does so, and the pair escape. Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett search for the missing Toby. Johanna, disguised as a sailor, waits in the barber shop while Anthony gets a coach. She quickly hides as the Beggar Woman appears. Sweeney, anticipating the Judge’s imminent arrival, slits the Beggar Woman’s throat and sends her down the chute. Judge Turpin arrives looking for Johanna. Sweeney says that Johanna has changed her mind and will now marry him. The Judge sits in the barber chair to prepare for his reunion with Johanna. Sweeney reveals his true identity and slits the Judge’s throat, sending him down the chute. Johanna, who has heard everything, emerges from her hiding place and is also nearly slain by Todd, but Mrs. Lovett’s scream from the bakehouse distracts him and Johanna escapes.
Mrs. Lovett tries to put both Judge Turpin and the Beggar Woman into the oven. Storming into the room, Sweeney recognizes the dead Beggar Woman as his wife, Lucy. He accuses Mrs. Lovett of knowing all along she was alive, but Mrs. Lovett claims she was only protecting him from discovering that his wife had gone insane. Mrs. Lovett tells Sweeney that she loves him. Sweeney feigns forgiveness and waltzes Mrs. Lovett over to the huge oven, hurling her into the fire and slamming the door shut. He sinks to the floor and cradles his deceased wife. Toby appears, his hair white from shock, picks up the nearby razor, and slashes Sweeney’s throat. Johanna, Anthony and the police arrive to find Tobias absentmindedly mimicking the motions of turning a meat grinder.