In addition to theatrical fare at more traditional venues, this week's big opening sees musicals storming the main stage at Covent Garden's Royal Opera House (pictured), where a new production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd opened last night, Monday 15 December 2003 (See News, 3 Apr 2003).

ROH music director Antonio Pappano has previously been quoted as saying he was a big fan of musical theatre and that he saw his role to expand the remit of the Opera House, which is often accused of being rather stuffy and expensive.

In the introduction to the season last April, Pappano admitted that Sweeney Todd, Sondheim's 1979 Victorian bloodbath about the demon barber of Fleet Street, is a "surprising but welcome addition to our repertory". Describing it as a "fantastic piece of music theatre", he says "I have always been in awe of its power to mesmerise audiences".

A co-production with the Lyric Opera in Chicago, where it opened in November 2002, Sweeney Todd runs in repertory at ROH until 1 January 2004. It's directed by Neil Armfield, designed by Brian Thomson and conducted by Paul Gemignani. The cast features Thomas Allen as Sweeney and Felicity Palmer as his pie-making partner in crime, Mrs Lovett.

The Sondheim revival marks the first time that a musical has ever been presented on the main stage at the Royal Opera House, which opened in 1892.

- by Terri Paddock