Four Questions with ‘Candide’ Director Francesca Zambello

Renowned director Francesca Zambello brings her fanciful production of Candide to Los Angeles for the first time. First seen at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2015, with subsequent performances in Bordeaux and Toulouse, Zambello’s staging has been praised by Opera Today as “likely the best of all possible Candides.” And though the production is new to the company, Zambello is no stranger to Los Angeles: this is her seventh production with LA Opera.

American director Francesca Zambello

American director Francesca Zambello

Zambello had the opportunity to answer some questions for us in anticipation for opening night. Before you see Candide, here are four things she wants audiences to know.

Since the premiere of this production at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2015, has your understanding and interpretation of Candide evolved?
I don’t really think so. Perhaps my appreciation for the wit, circumstance and characters has grown, coupled with a deeper love for the breadth of the styles of music. Perhaps the satire spoken by Voltaire seems every more prescient than before?
Though the titular character is male, your production seems to focus on the strength of its female characters. One notable aspect of the production is your staging of Cunegonde’s big song, “Glitter and Be Gay.” One critic found that you had “stripped it of its coy cuteness and found the rage and pain of a woman forced to be a mistress to two powerful men.” Why is it important to show different layers to these sometimes one-dimensional characters?

Any great work can bear the test of time by speaking to audiences in meaningful ways to in their own time. Thinking of the characters of Cunegonde and the Old Lady as survivors is powerful. They have made it through life by conquering everything, which is seen right now with the #MeToo movement.

Music Director James Conlon and stage director Francesca Zambello during a rehearsal for LA Opera's 2018 production of "Candide." (Photo: Ken Howard)

Music Director James Conlon and stage director Francesca Zambello during a rehearsal for LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Candide.” (Photo: Ken Howard)

In addition to your work as Artistic Director of Washington National Opera, you are committed to fostering the next generations of opera through young artist programs at Glimmerglass. Can you describe the importance of paying special attention to younger singers?
There so many young people who want to write opera, perform opera, study opera or direct opera. Clearly the future of something I love so dearly is rooted in the new ways the next generations will interpret it.
As a director, what sort of shows are you drawn to? What process do you go through in choosing a show?
I am most interested in any show with strong characters, deep plot and powerful music. I love music from baroque to contemporary so I am always seeking new challenges, but I also love revisiting certain classic works.

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

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