Madison, Wis. – Madison Opera presents its first-ever production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on February 6, 7, and 8 in the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center for the Arts. The company is building a new production of this thrilling American masterpiece, and the powerhouse cast, Madison Opera Chorus, and Madison Symphony Orchestra will bring this most operatic of theatre scores to life.

The show tells of the barber Sweeney Todd, who returns to the gas-lit streets of Victorian London after 15 years of unjust imprisonment to claim vengeance on those who wronged him. He is aided in his murderous activities by Mrs. Lovett, maker of some rather tasty meat pies. One of Sondheim’s most renowned works, Sweeney Todd has a stunningly inventive score containing drama, macabre humor, lyrical purity, and an unforgettable final scene.

“I love this piece,” says Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera’s general director. “It’s a true American classic, with a story that is simultaneously dark and comic, and music that ranges from beautifully lyric songs like ‘Not While I’m Around’ to vaudevillian turns like ‘A Little Priest,’ all with some of the wittiest lyrics ever written.”

Although it premiered on Broadway in 1979 – winning eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical – Sweeney Todd has been a staple of opera companies since 1984, when Houston Grand Opera first staged it, followed a few months later by New York City Opera. With a score that is almost entirely sung, it has been described by Sondheim as a “dark operetta.”

That first Houston Grand Opera production was conducted by John DeMain, Madison Opera’s artistic director, who will conduct these performances. “For me, it is a brilliantly-composed work for the musical theater that has marvelous melodies, incredible lyrics, a unique and thrillingly fascinating story, and a climax that is the stuff of grand opera,” says DeMain. “I can’t wait to conduct our stunning cast in this masterwork for the lyric stage.”

Corey Crider and Meredith Arwady make their Madison Opera debuts as the vengeful barber and the ever-practical Mrs. Lovett. Crider has sung leading roles with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Arizona Opera, and the Castleton Festival. Arwady has sung leading roles with San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. In the role of the mysterious Beggar Woman, Emily Pulley makes her Madison Opera debut after recent performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Central City Opera, and Opera Theater of St. Louis.

Returning to Madison Opera are former Madison Opera Studio Artist Jeni Houser as Johanna, Sweeney’s daughter; Daniel Shirley as the young sailor Anthony Hope; and Thomas Forde as the evil Judge Turpin. Three tenors round out the cast. Joshua Sanders, who has been singing with Madison Opera since high school, plays the innocent Tobias Ragg. Jared Rogers makes his debut as the menacing Beadle Bamford. Robert Goderich, a local theatre and opera favorite, plays Sweeney’s rival barber, Adolfo Pirelli.

Madison Opera is building a new production for the Capitol Theater. Stage director Norma Saldivar, set designer Joseph Varga, costume designer Karen Brown-Larimore, and lighting designer Hideaki Tsutsui are creating a world set in an Industrial-age factory, with the orchestra on stage to bring the action even closer to the audience.

“Building a new production allows us to take advantage of the Capitol Theater,” says Smith. “The gorgeous venue is ideally suited to this piece and it is exciting to create something new.”

The public has many ways to find out more about Sweeney Todd, starting with free one-hour previews at the public libraries in Sun Prairie, Fitchburg, Waunakee, and Madison Central. Opera Novice offers a free presentation on American musicals and American operas, while the Opera Up Close series provides an in-depth discussion of the piece, including a roundtable with Sweeney Todd artists.

Performances:
Friday, February 6, 2015 • 8pm
Saturday, February 7, 2015 • 8pm
Sunday, February 8, 2015 • 2:30pm
Capitol Theater at Overture Center
Sung in English with projected text
Box Office:
201 State St., Madison, WI
(608) 258-4141
www.madisonopera.org
Tickets:
$25 – $110
Group discounts available

CAST AND PRODUCTION TEAM
Sweeney Todd ………………………………….. Corey Crider*
Mrs. Lovett ……………………………….. Meredith Arwady*
Johanna ………………………………………………. Jeni Houser
Beggar Woman ………………………………… Emily Pulley*
Judge Turpin …………………………………… Thomas Forde
Anthony Hope …………………………………. Daniel Shirley
Tobias Ragg …………………………………… Joshua Sanders
Beadle Bamford ……………………………….. Jared Rogers*
Adolfo Pirelli ……………………………….. Robert Goderich
Conductor …………………………………………. John DeMain
Stage Director ……………………………… Norma Saldivar*
Chorus Master …………………………………… Anthony Cao
Scenic Designer ………………………………. Joseph Varga*
Costume Designer ……………….. Karen Brown-Larimore
Lighting Designer ………………………… Hideaki Tsutsui*
Wig and Make-Up Designer ……………………… Jan Ross
Choreographer………………………………..Maureen Janson
Fight Director ………………………………………. Jeff Skubal
Sound Designer ………………………………… Buzz Kemper
*Madison Opera debut

Library Previews
Sun Prairie Public Library: Tuesday, January 13, 6:30-7:30pm
Central Public Library: Wednesday, January 21, 7-8pm
Waunakee Public Library: Tuesday, January 27, 7-8pm
Fitchburg Public Library: Wednesday, January 28, 6:30-7:30pm
FREE and open to the public

Join a Madison Opera staff member for a multimedia look at the history of Sweeney Todd, from its 19th century Victorian origins to Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning classic, and some insights into Madison Opera’s production.

Opera Novice: American Operas vs. American Musicals
Friday, January 16, 2015, 6-7pm, The Margaret C. Winston Madison Opera Center
FREE and open to the public

First-time opera-goer? Join Madison Opera for a short, fun, and informative evening examining the relationship between American operas and American musicals. More information available at www.madisonopera.org.

Opera Up Close: The Sweeney Todd Preview Sunday, February 1, 2015, 1-3pm, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
$20 general admission Join Madison Opera for a behind-the-scenes exploration of Sweeney Todd, including a multimedia look at Sondheim’s works and Madison Opera’s new production, hosted by Kathryn Smith with commentary from stage director Norma Saldivar, conductor John DeMain, and members of the cast.

Pre-Opera Talks
Friday, February 6 at 7pm, Saturday, February 7 at 7pm, and Sunday, February 8 at 1:30pm
Wisconsin Studio at Overture Center, free to ticket holders
Attend an entertaining introduction to Sweeney Todd one hour prior to curtain.