re: yes and no....
Last Edit: AlanScott 03:51 pm EST 02/11/24
Posted by: AlanScott 03:46 pm EST 02/11/24
In reply to: re: yes and no.... - ryhog 01:34 pm EST 02/11/24

I'll jump in. Even though most or perhaps even all of the keys in which Sondheim wrote the songs were probably changed to what suited the actors, he did write the show with Cariou in mind. Cariou was perhaps more of a bass-baritone than a regular baritone who can pop out Gs and even A flats a bunch of times in a show he has to do eight times a week. There were a few Gs in the keys that were heard on March 2, 1979, but they were short notes, not the big climactic notes. The final note of "Epiphany" was an F. I think there are only two Fs in the score. It rarely went very high.

Anyway, Sondheim probably would have written the music somewhat differently if he'd had a tenor in mind. Just as when Massenet prepared a baritone version of the title role in Werther, he actually rewrote some of the music rather than just changing the keys.

Even if most or all of the keys were adjusted, Sondheim knew the general area in which the role would be sung by Cariou. IIRC, Cariou went over to Sondheim's house early in the writing process, and Sondheim took him through some stuff so he could know the range in which to write the music. The writing leans very heavily on the middle range, which Sondheim must have thought was Cariou's strongest area. Of course, from Night Music, he had some idea of Cariou's best vocal areas, but Cariou was going to have sing more as Sweeney, and it was going to demand a power abd thrust that Fredrik doesn't need.

I would add that the show already has three tenors — Toby, the Beadle, and Pirelli. Of course, keys can be adjusted for those, and in the film, the Beadle and Pirelli were baritones or even basses. The Beadle sang so little in the film that his range hardly mattered. But the high notes and general range of those characters are sort of iconic in the stage show.

And even though Anthony is fairly often cast with a tenor, and that's easy enough as the role doesn't go very low in the 1979 keys, the general range is baritone. Even when "Johanna" and "Ah, Miss" are put in the Groenendaal tour keys, they're not especially out of standard baritone range. And Groenendaal considered himself not so much a tenor as a "baritonish tenor," even though he did sound like a tenor.

So apart from any other possible reasons, I think Sweeney should not be a tenor if only for contrast. Four or possibly even five tenors with just one bass or bass-baritone is lopsided and could leave the audience wanting a bit more contrast somewhere.

For me ideally you want a baritone Anthony, albeit not one with a dark sound, giving the audience three tenors, one baritone, one baritone (with strong low notes) or bass-baritone, and one bass-baritone or bass among the principal male roles.

Even putting "Epiphany" in the Hearn tour keys sounds less effective to me for reasons I'm not sure I can effectively articulate. I don't necessarily agree with the idea that Sweeney shouldn't be a tenor because he is a dark and threatening character who has been through hell. I do think, though, that if he were a tenor, you'd want a tenor with the thrust and power of a Tristan or a Siegmund, which is the type of tenor voice you rarely get on Broadway because, well, there just are never many of them around even in opera, and someone with that kind of voice will probably go into opera. "Epiphany" should not sound sweet.
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