The Atlanta Opera closes its 2017-18 mainstage season with Stephen Sondheim’s seminal musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This production of Sweeney Todd remains faithful to the original Broadway show and features an all-star cast, including Michael Mayes in his role debut as Sweeney Todd, and Maria Zifchak as Mrs. Lovett. Timothy Myers will conduct in a company debut, and Albert Sherman, who has directed Sweeney Todd under the mentorship of Harold Prince, will serve as production director.
The Atlanta Opera presents five performances of Sweeney Todd on June 9, 12, 15, 16, and 17 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Tickets start at $38 (before tax) and can be purchased at atlantaopera.org or by calling 404-881-8885. The opera will be performed in English with English supertitles.
Based on the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls, this dark and witty tale tells the story of revenge-hungry Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after a long exile. After befriending Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a local pie shop, Sweeney and the baker hatch a plan to save the shop and exact a bloody revenge. Featuring favorites from the Broadway musical canon, including “The Worst Pies in London,” “Johanna,” “Pretty Women,” and “A Little Priest.”
“My job is to stay true to Hal Prince’s vision, which goes back to the original Broadway conception and the National Tour,” said director Albert Sherman, who has directed multiple productions of Sweeney Todd. “The true essence of the story-thanks to Hugh Wheeler’s brilliant dramatic structure-is about survival and fate. It takes place in a factory, essentially, during the Industrial Revolution in London. There was such a strict social stratum at that time; those in power used it to their advantage, and that’s where the story really plays off a ‘man devouring man’ theme, both literally and metaphorically.” Sherman also made the point that “Sweeney Todd is not a musical in the traditional sense. The nature of the story is very dark and operatic in scope, and the music really calls for singers who have the vocal chops.”
Baritone Michael Mayes, a co-creator of The Atlanta Opera’s From Opera to Opry program, makes his company and role debut as Sweeney Todd. He is known for portraying death row inmate Joseph de Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking with multiple companies in the U.S., and recently performed the role at Teatro Real in Madrid to great acclaim, and will return to the role for The Atlanta Opera’s 2018-19 season. Other recent credits include Starbuck in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick with Pittsburgh Opera, Beck Weathers in Everest with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Escamillo in Carmen with Central City Opera.
Mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak makes her role debut as Mrs. Lovett. She was last seen at The Atlanta Opera as Effie Belle Tate in Cold Sassy Tree (2008). Ms. Zifchak and Michael Mayes recently collaborated on a few productions: In addition to her role as Mrs. Lovett to his Sweeney Todd, she performed alongside Mayes at Teatro Real as Mrs. De Rocher in Dead Man Walking in January and February of this year, and will return to the role for The Atlanta Opera’s 2018-19 season. Ms. Zifchak has been praised for her “rich-voiced mezzo-soprano” (New York Times), and has performed extensively at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as other leading U.S. companies including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, among others.
Baritone Tom Fox, last seen at The Atlanta Opera as the French General in Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s Silent Night (2016), will sing the role of Judge Turpin. Fox has performed at most major opera houses in the U.S. and abroad, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Beyerische Staatsoper, L’Opera de Paris, among many others. Recent engagements include the Doctor in Wozzeck and the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte at Grand Theatre de Geneve, and Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson in the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Appomattox at Washington National Opera, for which Broadway World praised his “vibrant portrayal of our 36th president.”
Baritone Joseph Lattanzi, a 2017 Sullivan Foundation Award recipient, will sing the role of Anthony Hope. Lattanzi was last seen at The Atlanta Opera as Yamadori in Madama Butterfly (2014). His recent portrayal of Hawkins Fuller in the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers at Cincinnati Opera garnered him much praise and established him as a young singer to watch. Other recent credits include Sonora in La fanciulla del West and Demetrius in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Virginia Opera, and Hawkins Fuller in Fellow Travelers at the PROTOTYPE Festival and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Soprano Vanessa Becerra makes her company debut as Johanna. A recent graduate of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at Los Angeles Opera, Becerra performed there as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Babarina in Le nozze di Figaro, and Annina in La traviata. Other recent engagements include Miss Lightfoot in Fellow Travelers at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the title role in Deutscher’s Cinderella at Opera San Jose, Sophie in Werther at Opera Delaware, and Laurey Williams in Oklahoma!at the Glimmerglass Festival, for which Opera Today praised her “vibrant presence” and “lilting radiance.”
The Opera will offer 500 free passes to the final dress rehearsal of Sweeney Todd to local barbers and hair stylists. This special invitation is unique for this production, but is in the same vein as other Atlanta Opera new audience initiatives, including the Veterans program, which launched in full this season and welcomes veterans and current active military to attend any performance free of charge, and the student final dress rehearsal program, which invites students and teachers from schools all over the state to attend free of charge. Tickets may be redeemed through Ticketing Services via email at firstname.lastname@example.org through May 31, 2018, and are limited to two per guest.