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Cunegonde Katrina Galka and Candide Miles Mykkonen [Photo by Tim Trumble]
07 Feb 2018

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Candide at Arizona Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Cunegonde Katrina Galka and Candide Miles Mykkonen [Photo by Tim Trumble]


Bernstein’s wife, Felicia Cohn Montealegre, also worked with him on the text of The Old Lady’s tango, “I Am Easily Assimilated.”

Candide is based on a work by Voltaire, who wrote about the French Enlightenment’s progressive ideas. In his 1759 novel, Candide, he attacked intolerance, corruption, and established religion. Early in the 1950s, playwright Lillian Hellman approached Leonard Bernstein with the idea of making the Voltaire novel into a Broadway play for which Bernstein would supply the incidental music. Bernstein loved the subject and suggested that it be turned into an operetta. With song lyrics by Hellman, Bernstein, Richard Wilbur, and John LaTouche, Candide opened on Broadway on December 1, 1956, and ran for 73 performances. Later versions of the show have had much longer runs.

Although this sprawling work of musical genius takes place in various parts of Europe and South America, director Christopher Mattaliano turned its many wide-ranging scenes into a performable and memorable show. Jerome Sirlin’s projections and Robert Wierzel’s lighting designs turned the scenery into backgrounds that actively suggested the show’s myriad settings. James Scott’s colorful and functional costumes reminded patrons that the story took place in the eighteenth century. Because this work is a modern show rather then an opera, it included sound design by theatrical veteran Lew Mead.

In Phoenix, Miles Mykkanen was Candide, the man who originally believed he lived in the best of all possible worlds. He sang with a pleasant resonant sound and seemed to be enjoying the part immensely. The star of the show was Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Katrina Galka as Cunegonde. Although she is still at the beginning of her career, the charismatic Galka has a silvery voice that maintains its continuity from top to bottom and on Friday evening she seemed to hold the audience in the palm of her hand. Beginning with the sad story of her fall into prostitution, Galka’s Cunegonde showed that she would never allow her situation to dull her sparkling personality. Her aria, “Glitter and Be Gay” was the highlight of the evening.

Curt Olds was a fatherly Pangloss who morphed into multiple smaller parts as called for in the wide spread tale. Catherine Cook, who was scheduled to sing The Old Lady, was ill, so Ann McMahon Quintero was a last minute substitute who sang her Klezmer-infused tango with smoky tones and garnered quite a few laughs with her antics. Her dance to Amy Beth Frankel’s capable choreography was most amusing.

Jarrett Porter was an outstanding Maximilian and a commanding Captain while Stephanie Sanchez was a smooth-toned and sexy Paquette. Anthony Ciaramitaro proved his versatility with capable portryals of the Governor, Vanderdendur, the Grand Inquisitor, and Ragotski. Dale Dreyfoos excelled as the multiple characters of the Baron, the Bulgar King, Don Issachar, and a few more ordinary folks. Thomas Strawser, Kathleen Berger and Studio Artist Zachary Owen all showed their mettle in multiple small parts.

Henri Venanzi’s most excellent choral ensemble easily handled all the varied styles of music that Bernstein chose to write in this fascinating work. Conductor Joseph Colaneri’s tempi propelled the story forward and his wide range of dynamics underscored the dramatic conflicts. His interpretation of the Candide score, which includes everything from Gregorian Chant to tango, was most impressive. It was an unusual production and Arizona Opera made it truly memorable.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Candide, Miles Mykkanen; Pangloss, Voltaire, Cacambo, Martin, Curt Olds; Cunegonde, Katrina Galka; The Old Lady, Ann McMahon Quintero; Maximillian, Captain, Jarett Porter; Governor, Vanderdendur, Grand Inquisitor, Ragotski, Anthony Ciaramitaro; Paquette, Stephanie Sanchez; Baron, Bulgar King, Lisbon Man, Don Issachar, Waiter, Aide, Native, Dale Dreyfoos; Painter, Officer, James, Informer, Waitress, Archbishop, Father Bernard, Native, Sailor, Zachary Owen; Officer, Sailor, Informer, Waiter, Slave Driver, Native, Crook, Attendant, Wise Man, Thomas Strawser; Baroness, Lisbon Woman, Waitress, Guest, Kathleen Berger; Señores, Francisco Renteria and Sergio Celis; Inquisitors, Judges, Dennis Tamblin, Ronald Eldridge, Jeffrey Stevens; Conductor, Joseph Colaneri; Stage Director, Christopher Mattaliano; Chorusmaster, Henri Venanzi; Choreographer, Amy Beth Frankel; Scenery and Projection Designer, Jerome Sirlin; Costume Designer, James Scott; Lighting Designer, Robert Wierzel; Sound Designer, Lew Mead.

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