Mrs. Nellie Lovett is a character in Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd. The role is usually played by a contralto, but mezzos and sopranos have been known to attempt it as well.
In the Musical Edit
In Sweeney Todd itself, Mrs. Lovett is one of the central characters. In her youth, she took a liking to the young barber Benjamin Barker, who was sent to prison on a false charge. When Barker returns as the vengeful Sweeney Todd, he finds Mrs. Lovett in dire straits--her husband, Albert, has died, and her only source of income is her unsuccessful pie shop. Upon meeting Todd and realizing his true identity, she informs him that his wife, Lucy, poisoned herself shortly after he was deported--withholding the fact that the poison took only her mind--and that his daughter, Johanna, is in the hands of the corrupt Judge Turpin. Mrs. Lovett's old fondness for Todd is instantly revived, and she reveals that she hid his razors when the Judge came to seize Johanna.
Todd sets up a barbershop above Mrs. Lovett's pie shop, which is, ironically, where he lived before he was sent away. The two proceed as normal until Todd, after being provoked, kills rival barber Adolfo Pirelli. Mrs. Lovett, after snatching Pirelli's fancy purse, suggests that they use the corpse as filling for her pies, and Todd, highly amused, agrees.
At the opening of Act II, Mrs. Lovett's shop has flourished, and she entertains fantasies of retiring to the seaside with Todd after another year in the baking business. Todd, though repulsed, listens calmly. However, the couple has taken in Pirelli's assistant, Tobias, and he discovers Pirelli's purse in Mrs. Lovett's possession. To distract him, she takes him to her cellar on the pretense of teaching him how she makes her pies, and locks him in. She runs to alert Todd of the boy's revelation, but Todd has other matters on his mind--namely the imminent arrival of Beadle Bamford, one of his intended victims. Mrs. Lovett entertains the Beadle in her parlor until he is taken to Todd's part of the building, killed and sent to the cellar.
In the next pile of corpses in her cellar, Mrs. Lovett finds both Judge Turpin and Lucy, who Todd killed on impulse without looking at her face. The judge is still clinging to life, and grabs at her skirt, causing her to scream and alert Todd upstairs. Alarmed, Todd descends to find her having just finished off the judge. He moves to throw the bodies into her vast oven, and before she can stop him from noticing Lucy, he has seen her and descends upon Mrs. Lovett in a rage. Her pleas for forgiveness are not enough to satisfy Todd, and he throws her into her own oven, closing the doors on her screams.
The Real Mrs. Lovett Edit
In London during the eighteenth century there was a widowed baker, Mrs. Margery Lovett, who was arrested for having served her customers pies made from human flesh. Mrs. Lovett had taken a lover, the barber Sweeney Todd, who apparently supplied her pie filling by killing some of his customers and delivering them to her through a secret passageway that led directly to her basement. The pair were caught by the Bow Street Runners after complaints were filed about the foul smell emitting from the pie shop. Mrs. Lovett, however, seemed to have had a plan. When she was questioned by the police, she confessed every detail of their plot, incriminating both herself and Todd. It was anticipated that they both would be hung for their crimes. One day in December of 1801, Mrs. Lovett had a dress delivered from her home to her jail cell. It appears that before her capture she had hidden a vial of poison in this particular dress for just such an occasion, and the following day she was found dead in her cell--a suicide, perhaps one last laugh at the expense of the London police.