Candide: An Operetta for Everyone

What can be said about composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein that hasn’t already been said before? As one of the most prolific figures of the 20th century, the virtuoso has been deemed as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history” by The New York Times. However, for those deeply familiar with his life and work, he’s affectionately known simply as “Lenny.”

Plácido Domingo and Leonard Bernstein (Nov. 14, 1986)

As we approach 2018, we encounter a monumental year for the American musician. Leonard Bernstein’s centennial will be celebrated all over the world, under the label “Bernstein 100”LA Opera will be part of the festivities with his Broadway classic Candide, starring Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer and Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole (January 27 through February 18). Apart from the superstar cast, Candide is a piece that appeals to artists and audiences of all kinds. From writers and readers, to singers and actors, to fans of opera and Broadway, Candide is for everyone.

Candide transcends any singular medium, because it appears in a myriad of different art forms both onstage and in print. Published as Candide, ou l’Optimisme by Voltaire in 1759 all over Europe, the novella remains relevant today, most notably for high school students: Candide is required reading in many high schools across the United States. For those who didn’t read it in their teenage years, the story still resonates, regardless of your age.

In terms of the operetta, the work began as a collaboration between Bernstein and playwright Lillian Hellman. The original script pleased Bernstein so much that he urged Hellman to turn the piece into an operetta. Other lyricists were brought in to assist writing the libretto, such as writers Dorothy Parker and Richard Wilbur. But what makes Candide so unique is that it isn’t strictly opera or musical theater. In fact, the piece is often performed with a mix of both classical and contemporary singers (as is the case with LA Opera’s version). Alongside Grammer and Ebersole, rising tenor Jack Swanson makes his LA Opera debut in the title role alongside soprano Erin Morley as Cunegonde (also in her LAO debut).

A scene from Francesca Zambello’s 2015 production of Candide at the Glimmerglass Festival. (Photo: Karli Cadel)

Though Candide‘s initial Broadway run in 1956 was a box office flop, the work has undergone a number of revisions and is now a vital part of the standard operatic repertoire. LA Opera will present the 1988 Scottish Opera version in a fanciful staging by director Francesca Zambello, first seen at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2015. This production has been hailed as “the best of all possible Candides” (Opera Today), earning special praise for Zambello’s ability to bring “new and lasting insight to a familiar character” (Washington Post).

We hope you’ll join us for this highly entertaining staging of the Bernstein masterpiece, with both seasoned veterans and debuting artists gracing the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The cast is rounded out by LA Opera favorite Peabody Southwell as Paquette, Matthew Scollin as James/Martin, and Domingo-Colburn-Stein young artists Theo Hoffman as Maximilian/Reverend Father, Joshua Wheeker as Cacambo, Brian Michael Moore as Grand Inquisitor/Governor and Taylor Raven as the Baroness/Vanderdendur. Music Director James Conlon conducts.

For more information or to purchase tickets for Candide, click here.

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