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an exceptional evening in which there is first-rate singing from Katie Hall as Johanna, Matthew Seadon-Young as her ardent wooer and Philip Quast as the villainous Judge Turpin who, we are left in no doubt, achieves a sexual climax during his self-flagellation. The chorus is also in fine voice and the orchestra, conducted by David Charles Abell, captures the rich texture of Sondheim’s harmonies. I’d still prefer the full Sweeney but this version shows that Sondheim’s musical thriller more than justifies its place in the opera house.
Terfel’s Demon Barber may be a familiar quantity in London, but he continues to command the role with a laconic intensity which makes Todd’s monomania all the more mesmerising. Singing with steely restraint and a welcome lack of rasp or rant, he portrays a Byronic wanderer, with a tormented inner life. An even bigger pleasure was provided by Emma Thompson...she makes a terrific Mrs Lovett, hitting just the right balance between endearing naivete and ruthless amorality, as well as singing meticulously and without affectation. Her flights of fancy in “By the sea” become irresistible a comic tour de force.
Sweeney Todd is one of the most thrilling works of musical theatre, and it’s a treat to hear Stephen Sondheim’s infectious, varied score performed by a 58-piece orchestra. This is a staging that fulfills director Lonny Price’s promise of something “big and loud and scary: a large scream on a large canvas”.