Long Beach Opera opens 2016 season with Bernstein’s ‘Candide’

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[Press release]

“Glitter and Be Gay”
CANDIDE
A Journey through “The Best of All Possible Worlds”

Long Beach, CA, December 18, 2015―On January 23 and 30, 2016, Long Beach Opera (LBO) presents composer Leonard Bernstein’s satiric romp Candide at the Center Theater in Long Beach, CA. The eclectic score mixes everything from Viennese waltzes to soaring arias to Latin tangos. Filled with unforgettable songs such as “Glitter and be Gay, “Oh, Happy We,” “I Am Easily Assimilated” and “Make Your Garden Grow,” Candide was called by Bernstein his “personal love letter to European music.” Adapted from Voltaire’s novel, the operetta takes aim at political excess, social traditions and superstitions with an underlying warning against unfettered optimism. While beset by one calamity after another, including an earthquake, exile, war, slavery, robbery and even the Spanish Inquisition, the show’s hero Candide and his true love Cunegonde cling to the belief that they live in “the best of all possible worlds.” Candide’s tuneful score and recognizable characters have made it an irresistible draw for audiences around the world. David Schweizer and his creative team will put a unique LBO spin on this all-time favorite.

As a young boy, David Schweizer first saw Candide on Broadway and immediately became an admirer. “I fell madly in love with the score and the ideas of the story – wild, fanciful, surprising, ultimately heartfelt.” When he finally met Leonard Bernstein many years later, David recalls, “I yammered on and on about how brilliant I thought Candide was until Lenny [Bernstein] finally said, “And what about the rest of my work?”

David Schweizer comments that he and scenic designer Sean T. Cawelti, artistic director of the Rogue Artists Ensemble, are “creating the world of the story using resourcefulness and spur-of-the-moment invention, evoking, by the simplest of means, a special magic that only live theater can provide.”

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About Candide

Adapted from Voltaire’s 1759 satiric novella and composed by Leonard Bernstein, Candide is an operetta told in a series of episodes. Bernstein mixes a variety of musical styles with bows to Gilbert & Sullivan, Offenbach, Bellini, Herbert, and many others, to create one of the most popular Broadway scores ever written.

The idea for the show originally came from playwright Lillian Hellman in 1953. She saw parallels between Voltaire’s biting criticism of political and religious persecution in the 18th century, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition, with the US House of Representatives Un- American Activities Committee Hearings of the 1950s.

Bernstein was intrigued by Hellman’s idea. He later wrote, “Voltaire’s Candide premiered on Broadway in 1956 with an original book by Lillian Hellman. Since 1974, it has been primarily performed with the book by Hugh Wheeler. It throws light on all the dark places, whether European or American. Of course, it’s not an American book, but the matters with which it is concerned are as valid for us as any satire is international — and sometimes I think they are especially valid for us in America. Puritanical snobbery, phony moralism, inquisitorial attacks on the individual, brave-new-world optimism, essential superiority — aren’t these all charges leveled against American society by our best thinkers? And they are also the charges made by Voltaire against his own society.”

In 1990, during a memorial concert for Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic paid tribute to their Laureate Conductor by performing the overture to Candide without a conductor. The gesture proved so moving, it became an orchestra tradition.

Synopsis

The ever-hopeful Dr. Pangloss teaches his pupils – the innocent Candide, the beautiful self-promoting Cunegonde, the vain Maximilian, and the promiscuous Paquette – that, no matter what happens, this is “the best of all possible worlds.” Candide is subsequently separated from his true love Cunegonde, exiled, conscripted into the Bulgarian Army, beset by storms and swindlers, even brought before the Spanish Inquisition; while Cunegonde rises above her desperate circumstances by becoming a prostitute and a thief. The unlikely hero and heroine eventually reunite and find contentment in a less than perfect world.

Composer: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Richard Wilbur with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and John Latouche
Book: Hugh Wheeler, adapted from the 1759 novella by Voltaire

Venue: Center Theater, 300 Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90802
Dates: Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm
Runtime: One act, 110 minutes, no intermission
Sung in English

Opera Talks: One hour before performances with Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek and special guests. Stage director David Schweizer will participate in the talk on opening night.

Tickets: Single tickets range from $29 to $137. Reduced prices are offered to subscribers. First-time subscribers receive a 50% discount. Students see performances for $15 with ID. Tickets can be purchased by calling LBO Box Office Services at 562-432-5934 or by going online to LBO’s website: www.longbeachopera.org/tickets

Production and Cast Credits

Conductor: Krystof Van Grysperre
Stage Director: David Schweizer
Scenic Designer: Sean T. Cawelti Costume Designer: Lori Meeker Costume Designer: Lori Meeker
Assistant Stage Director: Cynthia Marino

CAST

Todd Strange   –  Candide
Jamie Chamberlin   –  Cunegonde
Suzan Hanson  –   Old Woman/Baroness
Danielle Marcelle Bond   –   Paquette
Roberto Perlas Gomez  –   Maximilian (except final scene), Cacambo, Invalid, Señor, The Figure
Zeffin Quinn Hollis   –   Governor, Minister, Marin, Invalid, Man, Inquisitor/Judge 
Robin Buck   –   Voltaire, Pangloss, The Figure 
Arnold Geis   –   Baron, James, Invalid, First Agent, Don Issacar, Senor, Vanderdendur, King, Maximilian (final scene) 

Conductor: Kristof Van Grysperre

Kristof Van Grysperre, a native of Belgium, most recently conducted LBO’s Hydrogen Jukebox, An American Soldier’s Tale/A Fiddler’s Tale and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field. Hailed by the Orange County Register as “gifted and stylistically impeccable” and as “a conductor with pugilistic power and sensitivity,” he has an international career as conductor, pianist, chamber musician and vocal coach. With a repertoire of over 50 operas, Van Grysperre has conducted performances for Opera Pacific, Baltimore Opera Studio, Intimate Opera Company, SongFest and USC Opera. He has collaborated with leading instrumentalists and singers, such as Maria Newman, Philip Webb and Susan Mohini Kane, and is the founder and artistic director of Angels Vocal Art.

Stage Director: David Schweizer

David Schweizer emerged from Yale at the age of 24 to make his New York debut directing Troilus and Cressida at Lincoln Center. His extensive work in Southern California includes world premieres at the Geffen Playhouse and Mark Taper Forum, along with work at companies like The Actors’ Gang and his own Modern Artists. Among his notable work directing operas are Britten’s Albert Herring (Gotham Opera), Hartke’s The Greater Good (Glimmerglass Festival), Bennett’s The Mines of Sulphur (NYC Opera), Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco (COT) and Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis (Boston Lyric Opera). At LBO, David most recently directed Hydrogen Jukebox (Glass/Ginsberg) in June 2015 and An American Soldier’s Tale/A Fiddler’s Tale (Stravinsky/ Marsalis) in May 2014. His other directing work at LBO includes Ades’ Powder Her Face, Vivaldi’s Motezuma and Purcell’s La Indian Queen.

Scenic Designer: Sean T. Cawelti

Sean T. Cawelti is the artistic director and an active member of Rogue Artists Ensemble, a collective group of artists dedicated to Hyper-theater, a hybrid of theater traditions dedicated to expanding the boundaries of contemporary American theater. He has designed puppets, masks, props and video for theater, music videos, museums, concerts and arena tours for which he has won multiple awards both as a designer and a playwright. Several of his puppet creations and videos were part of LBO’s 2008 production of Hans Gruber’s Frankenstein!! starring British-American actor Michael York. His work has also been seen locally at the Geffen Playhouse, Getty Villa, South Coast Repertory, and Segerstrom Center for the Arts, among others.

Todd Strange: Candide

Tenor Todd Strange made his LBO debut in the June 2015 production of Hydrogen Jukebox. He has been praised as having a “glorious voice” that “is strong and clear and his acting is on point.” Comfortable in both leading man and character roles, Todd sings a variety of repertoire. Career highlights include Remendado in Carmen (Arizona Opera), Tobias in Sweeney Todd (Arizona Opera), Basilio/Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro (Opera Santa Barbara), the title role in Lehar’s The Czarevitch (Ohio Light Opera), the Captain in Simon Boccanegra (LA Opera), and Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Bakersfield Symphony).

Jamie Chamberlin: Cunegonde

Soprano Jamie Chamberlin returns to LBO after appearing in the ensemble cast of Hydrogen Jukebox, co-starring as Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn Forever, and singing Lucy in Moscow, Cherry Town. Chamberlin made her LA Philharmonic debut in Salonen’s Wing On Wing. Her LA Opera roles include the Cretan Woman (Idomeneo) and High Priestess (Aida). She has also sung with the Pasadena Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Opera Santa Barbara, Fort Collins Symphony and Opera UCLA. She can be heard on the CD, Terrain of the Heart: Song Cycles of Mark Abel.

Composer: Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Leonard Bernstein was a world-renowned conductor and composer and one of classical music’s icons of the 20th century. He was Musical Director of the New York Philharmonic and conducted the world’s major orchestras, leaving behind an enormous legacy of audio and video recordings. His books, as well as the much-beloved televised Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, established him as a leading educator. His orchestral and choral works include three symphonies (No.1 Jeremiah, No.2 Age of Anxiety, and No. 3 Kaddish), Serenade, Mass, Chichester Psalms, Songfest, Divertiment for Orchestra, Arias and Barcarolles and Concerto for Orchestra. Bernstein’s works for the Broadway stage include On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide and the immensely popular West Side Story. In addition to the West Side Story collaboration, Mr. Bernstein worked with choreographer Jerome Robbins on three major ballets: Fancy Free, Facsimile and Dybbuk. Mr. Bernstein was the recipient of many honors, including eleven Emmy Awards, one Tony Award, the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors.

(excerpted from LeonardBernstein.com)

Voltaire

Voltaire: (1694-1778) François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment Freemason, writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.

(excerpted from Wikipedia)

Upcoming 2016 Season Productions

FALLUJAH – **World premiere** by Tobin Stokes/Heather Raffo
March 12-20, 2016
“7 Performances in the National Guard Armory, Long Beach

LA VOIX HUMAINE (THE HUMAN VOICE) by Francis Poulenc
April 8-17, 2016
7 Performances in the Federal Bar, Long Beach

THE NEWS by Jacob TV and the news of the day
June 19, 25, & 26, 2016
Broad Theater, Santa Monica

About Long Beach Opera

Long Beach Opera (LBO) explores the edges of the opera experience. Founded in 1979, LBO is the oldest professional opera company in the metropolitan Los Angeles/Orange County region. Its success helped provide the stimulus for the subsequent founding of other opera companies in the area. Internationally known for cutting-edge interpretations of unconventional repertoire, LBO creates immediate, inventive, and often boldly avant-garde productions for an adventurous audience and stands apart from most other companies in the number of its world, American, and West Coast premieres. Its performance history includes well over 100 operas, ranging from the earliest works of the 17th century to the new operas of the 21st. LBO is a recognized member of the American opera community, enjoying funding from many sources including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Long Beach.

Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek

For more information, visit the company’s website at www.longbeachopera.org


UPDATED 1/19/16 with a more complete cast list

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