Release date: 8/12/2015
Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical thriller Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street receives its highly anticipated San Francisco Opera premiere in a production featuring a cast of notable operatic stars and performed with Sondheim’s original score for the lyric stage.
Beginning Saturday, September 12 at the War Memorial Opera House, American baritone Brian Mulligan and American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe take on the respective roles of the tortured barber Sweeney Todd and resourceful meat-pie shop proprietor Mrs. Lovett. With San Francisco Opera Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (James Lowe conducts the final performance on September 29), this co-production with Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet and Houston Grand Opera is directed by Lee Blakeley and designed by Tanya McCallin.
“Sondheim’s Grand Guignol masterpiece takes its rightful place on the operatic stage,” said San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley. During his tenure at Houston Grand Opera in the mid-1980s, Gockley mounted a groundbreaking production of Sweeney Todd—the first major opera company to stage the 1979 musical, originally directed for Broadway by Harold Prince and starring Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou. “Sweeney Todd is a piece of genius that deserves the kind of operatic treatment we can give it.”
Boasting unforgettable tunes spanning from the darkly humorous “A Little Priest” and “Worst Pies in London” to the hopeful and romantic “Johanna” and “By the Sea,” Sweeney Todd features a “highly charged, arrestingly detailed score” (The New York Times), comprised of lush orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, as well as a seemingly endless string of hits highlighting every cast member. With a book by Hugh Wheeler, based on an adaptation by Christopher Bond, Sweeney Todd tells the chilling tale of a vindictive 19th-century London barber, wrongly imprisoned by a corrupt judge, who exacts his grisly revenge with the help of a creative culinary accomplice.
Baritone Brian Mulligan, who has won critical praise for Company performances in Nixon in China and The Trojans with his “burnished, pliant sound, and gripping expressive penetration” (Chicago Tribune), will be making his role debut as Sweeney Todd. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe “who boasts one of the most powerful voices in opera … who can do anything” (The New York Times) also performs for the first time the role of Mrs. Lovett. They join a renowned ensemble cast featuring soprano Heidi Stober as Johanna, soprano Elizabeth Futral as the Beggar Woman, baritone Elliot Madore as Anthony, tenor Matthew Grills as Tobias and bass-baritone Wayne Tigges as the despicable Judge Turpin.
Instantly recognized as a landmark in musical theater, praised for its witty interplay of words and music, as well as dazzling ensemble numbers such as “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and the duet “Not When I’m Around,” Sweeney Todd has won a combination of ten Tonys for the original Broadway production and 2005 revival (including Best Musical and Best Original Score in 1979). It has also inspired productions in both theater and opera companies around the world, so much so that New York Times’ theater critic Frank Rich wrote: “[Sondheim] has changed the texture of the musical as radically as Oscar Hammerstein, and may yet leave our theater profoundly altered.”
Director Lee Blakeley’s “brilliant” (The New York Times) production of Sweeney Todd premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 2011 and was staged at Houston Grand Opera last spring. Sung in English with English supertitles, the seven San Francisco Opera performances of Sweeney Todd are scheduled for September 12 (7:30 p.m.), September 15 (7:30 p.m.), September 18 (7:30 p.m.), September 20 (2 p.m.), September 23 (7:30 p.m.), September 26 (7:30 p.m.) and September 29 (7:30 p.m.), 2015.
The San Francisco Opera 2015–16 Season continues with Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (October 8–28), Mozart’s The Magic Flute (October 20–November 20), Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (November 18–December 6), Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (November 25–December 9), the Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy double bill The Fall of the House of Usher (December 8–13),Bizet’s Carmen (May 27–July 3), Verdi’s Don Carlo (June 12–29) and Janáček’s Jenůfa (June 14–July 1). For more information, please visit sfopera.com.
TICKETS AND INFORMATION
Single tickets for Sweeney Todd are priced from $26 to $381 (subject to change) and may be purchased at sfopera.com or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue or by phone at (415) 864-3330. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only.
The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For more public transportation information, visit bart.gov and sfmuni.com.
Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Sweeney Todd and San Francisco Opera’s 2015–16 Season, please visit sfopera.com.
*For the complete press release, casting and calendar listing, please view the attached PDF.