May 28, 2016

Press Release: Portland Opera Presents SWEENEY TODD

The second production of Portland Opera’s 2016 Season, spanning the months of May, June, and July, is Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Keller Auditorium on June 3, 5, 9 and 11.

“Stephen Sondheim is the greatest musical theater composer and lyricist of the 20th century,” says General Director Christopher Mattaliano. And Sweeney Todd is his most operatic work – a musical feast of beautiful arias, duets, quarters, choruses – combined with great characters. It’s one of the 20th century’s towering works, and a perfect blend of music and theater.”

Truly operatic in scope, Sweeney Todd achieves enormous theatrical impact through its powerful music and larger-than-life characters. Seeing and hearing this work with a full chorus and orchestra, and sung by great lyric voices, will be a truly unforgettable experience.

Sweeney Todd is the story of a barber who was unjustly imprisoned by a lecherous old judge, who then had his way with Todd’s wife. Years later, Sweeney returns to London to find his family and exact his revenge. He teams up with Mrs. Lovett, a meat-pie baker, in a diabolical partnership that nearly succeeds in giving him vengeance and making her rich.

While the characters in Sweeney Todd may be shocking, they are also intensely human. Each is seeking love and acceptance in a changing, challenging world. There are the young lovers, Anthony and Johanna; an Italian barber, Pirelli (think of a comic-tenor version of Rossini’s Figaro), Mrs. Lovett, down on her luck and a bit long in the tooth, but ever optimistic that she’ll find love at last; the sinister Judge Turpin; and Todd himself whose single-minded pursuit of revenge leads to heartbreak.

Sweeney Todd was born on Broadway, where it won the 1979 Tony Award for Best in Musical. In the years since, it has migrated to the world’s leading opera companies, including the Royal Opera House in London, the Houston Grand Opera, the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Portland Opera production of Sweeney Todd is based on the highly acclaimed original Broadway production directed by Harold Prince. The production will be conducted by Music Director George Manahan, and feature Portland Opera favorite David Pittsinger in the title role.

David Pittsinger
Sweeney Todd

“His authoritative, passionate delivery provide the perfect mix of romance, passion, and traditional masculine bravado,” wrote the Washington Times of David Pittsinger. Mr. Pittsinger’s recent engagements include Washington National Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. Portland Opera patrons might recognize him for his roles in The Rake’s Progress (2015), Salome (2013); and The Marriage of Figaro (2011). A versatile performer also highly reviewed for his work on Broadway, his Helen Hayes Award-nominated performance as Emile de Becque in South Pacific has been seen at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center Theaters, as well as on an extended national tour.

Susannah Mars
Mrs. Lovett

Susannah Mars made her Portland Opera debut in Show Boat in 2015 as Parthenia Hawks. Based in Portland for the past 25 years, she has appeared in over one hundred productions, concerts, and recordings around the country. She is a resident artist at Artists Repertory Theatre, and also performs with Portland Playhouse and Portland Center Stage. She has won six Portland Drama Critics Awards. She has also appeared on NBC’s Grimm and performed with the Oregon and Seattle Symphonies.

Alexander Elliott
Anthony Hope

Alexander Elliott was a Resident Artist at Portland Opera from 2013-2015. In 2013-14 he appeared as Man with a Shoe Sample Kit in Postcard from Morocco and Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance. Last season he performed Frank in Die Fledermaus and Le Dancaïre in Carmen and Belcore in The Elixir of Love. Yet to come in 2016, he will play the title role in Eugene Onegin.

Katrina Galka

Katrina Galka is a second year Portland Opera Resident Artist. For her portrayal of Adina in The Elixir of Love, The Oregonian wrote, “she thrilled with fine coloratura filigree and pure high notes.”  Other roles during Portland Opera’s 50th anniversary season included Ida in Die Fledermaus, Frasquita in Carmen, and Kim in Show Boat. Yet to come this season, she will perform the role of Elvira in The Italian Girl in Algiers. Over the last year, Katrina was awarded in competitions through the Jensen Foundation, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, National Opera Association, and the Mario Lanza Institute.

Steven Brennfleck
Tobias Ragg

Praised by the New York Times as “dramatically astute” and a “stand out” performer, tenor Steven Brennfleck has been consistently acknowledged for his consummate artistry, vocal flexibility, and moving interpretations on the operatic and concert stage. Mr. Brennfleck made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2012 and returned there in 2015 for a performance with the MET Chamber Ensemble of Charles Wuorinen’s cantata It Happens Like This. Past performances include appearances with American Opera Projects, the Caramoor Festival, Glimmerglass Opera, New York Lyric Opera Theatre, Opera Piccola of San Antonio, and the Tanglewood Festival. A former Portland Opera Resident Artist, he will perform a recital at the Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium on Tuesday, May 17.

Kevin Burdette
Judge Turpin

The San Francisco Chronicle calls Kevin Burdette “a tour de force of vocal splendor and comic timing.” Recent appearances include roles with the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Philadelphia; Dallas Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. An alumnus of the Juilliard Opera Theater, Kevin Burdette is a former member of the Opéra National de Paris Young Artists’ Program and San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Richard F. Gold Career Grant Award awarded by the Shoshana Foundation. Burdette played the Police Sergeant in Portland Opera’s The Pirates of Penzance (2014).

Anne Allgood
Beggar Woman

Anne Allgood appeared on Broadway in The Most Happy Fella, Carousel, The Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast, and Imaginary Friends. She toured the US and Europe in Evita. For Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theatre, she’s sung numerous starring roles – notably the Old Woman in Candide, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, Nettie in Carousel, and the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music.  She sang Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd for Eugene Opera, and also sang Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, and Katisha in The Mikado.

Mark A. Thomsen

The Dallas Morning News describes him as acquiring “…a strong Italianate voice and a physical presence to match” and Opera News says he is “…a winning hero…with pleasing lyrical sweetness and no straining for effect…he played the character convincingly.” He has performed with New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and many more companies throughout the country. European engagements have included the Vienna Volksoper, the Vienna Staatsoper and Opéra de Nantes. With Portland Opera, he has appeared in Roméo et Juliette (1997) and Candide (2012).

Marcus Shelton

Of Marcus Shelton, Opera Now magazine says: “[Marcus] used his ample but suave voice with imagination and versatility.” He has received great acclaim for his athletic and comedic character tenor roles. A resident of Seattle, Shelton has been featured with companies including Opera Philadelphia; Boston Lyric Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Metropolitan Opera, the Spoleto Festival USA, and many more.

Ryan Thorn
Jonas Fogg

Noted critically for the “commanding baritone he wields so effortlessly,” Ryan Thorn is a new member of Portland Opera’s Resident Artists program. His roles with Portland Opera in 2016 include Taddeo in The Italian Girl in Algiers and 1st Priest in The Magic Flute. Thorn’s recent role debuts include Marcello (La Bohème), Mamma Agata (Viva la mamma!), and the Musiklehrer (Ariadne auf Naxos) with Pacific Opera Project. He sang the baritone solo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Music Academy of the West in 2015 and recently performed at Carnegie Hall in an art song masterclass with Sir Thomas Allen.


The “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” reputedly first appeared in an 1846 penny dreadful, the mass-market tabloid of Victorian England.


Conductor                               George Manahan
Original Production                 Hal Prince
Stage Director                         Albert Sherman
Scenic Designer                       Eugene Lee
Costume Designer                   James Scott
Lighting Designer                    Ken Billington
Sound Designer                       Kai Harada


Opera Overtures

These free and informative sessions, led by guest speakers Carl Halvorson  (The Magic Flute and Sweeney Todd) and Hannah Penn (Eugene Onegin and The Italian Girl in Algiers) focus on the music and history behind the evening’s opera, to make each performance even more satisfying. One hour prior to each performance | First Balcony level  |  Free

Back Talk

Immediately after each performance, audiences are invited to join General Director Christopher Mattaliano and guests that will include fresh-from-their-dressing-room performers, directors, and conductors for a 20 to 30-minute Q&A. | Orchestra level | Free


Library Preview

A 50-minute sneak peek at Sweeney Todd, led by Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor Nicholas Fox, with musical examples performed by members of the Resident Artists program.
May 29 at 2pm, Multnomah County Central Library, Free admission


Portland Opera appreciates the continuing support of The James and Marion L. Miller Foundation, The Regional Arts and Culture Council, Work for Art, the Oregon Arts Commission, Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Collins Foundation.


Portland Opera also wishes to thank the following production sponsors: Mentor Graphics, Umpqua Bank, The Oregonian, M&T Bank, and Et Fille.


June 3, 5m, 9 & 11

PRICE: Tickets start at $25
PHONE: 503-241-1802, Toll-free 866-739-6737, M-F, 9-5
Ticketmaster, (800) 982-ARTS (days, evenings, and weekends)
IN-PERSON: Portland Opera, 211 SE Caruthers St. (south of OMSI, east of Water.) M-F, 9-5
All Ticketmaster Outlets
RUSH: Students/Military $10 per ticket, Seniors $20 per ticket, Two hours prior to show, all available unsold seats. One ticket per person, valid ID required.