Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd”: Three Operatic Moments

Stephen Sondheim’s grisly 1979 musical thriller, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, tells a story of blood-soaked, all-consuming revenge which ends in self-annihilation. The action is set in 1845, amid the gloom and hellish alienation of rapidly industrializing Victorian London. The barber, Sweeney Todd, has returned to London from exile in Australia. He was sent there on false charges by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who with the help of Beadle Bamford, tormented and raped …

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“Pretty Women”: The Marian McPartland Trio Meets Sondheim

“Pretty Women” comes near the end of the first act of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical thriller, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. On the surface, the song appears to capture an amiable barbershop conversation—as Craig Zadan writes, “a seemingly innocent yet passionate anthem to the virtues of womanhood.” Its comfortably gliding melody soars and then falls back into contentment. In context, it becomes spine chilling. It is Sweeney Todd’s calculating way of distracting Judge …

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