"Everything that is, is right." Or so say's Candide's Dr. Pangloss.
Based on Voltaire's 18th century novella Candide ou L'optimisme (Candide: Or Optimism), Leonard Bernstein's operetta Candide lands in Pittsburgh this Saturday as part of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's SummerFest, a three-week celebration of opera, music and live theater.
Director Scott Wise notes that while Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's production has used only the libretto of Candide in production, research on Voltaire's original text – a highly satirical take on contemporary writing and philosophy – has certainly better informed the show's creation.
The operetta follows Candide, a wide-eyed optimist who, once banished from his homeland of Westphalia for "canoodling" with his beloved Cunegonde, travels the world over with a bevy of inimitable companions. The two lovers are eventually reunited and set off on a journey to the New World, satiated by hope and advice from the seemingly wise and all-knowing Dr. Pangloss. Opera Theater's production is distinctive in that it will feature a versatile backdrop of woodcut illustrations designed by Joe Gourley, allowing for action in countless locations throughout Candide's voyage.
"Candide is a not only a work based on Voltaire but is a 20th-century musical created, coincidentally, during the era of McCarthyism. While Leonard Bernstein is well-known, particularly for West Side Story, Candide was created earlier. Bernstein's music is astonishing. The lyrics are witty and bright and full of pathos," says Mr. Wise. "I certainly appreciate the chance to view Voltaire's philosophy in terms of current events."
As for favorite moments in this particular production, Mr. Wise says to look out for Countertenor Andrey Nemzer, who sings the role of The Old Lady, a character who accompanies Candide for much of his journey. "Andrey's unique vocal range is rare for male singers," Wise notes. "It's similar to a mezzo or 'second' soprano – so he's a young man playing a role most often performed by a woman."
In addition to Mr. Wise, who is a faculty member at Point Park University, this Candide boasts a handful of local actors. Pittsburgh natives Daniel Teadt and Abigail Dueppen star as Candide and Cunegonde, respectively.
"Candide is such an unique character in that he is guided by his simple morality without feeling the strains of the world's complexities. He feels, he loves, he lives. As a performer, it is difficult to understand him, but a great challenge to conquer him," Daniel says of the opportunity to play the show's title role. In addition to his pursuits as a performer, Mr. Teadt teaches at Carnegie Mellon School of Music.
Opera Theater's production also features all 27 of its Young Artist Program participants. The Young Artist Program is an endeavor that aims to provide Pittsburgh audiences with the finest performances whilst also allowing singers the opportunity to develop their talents alongside leading industry professionals – giving them an opportunity to thrive in the "best of all possible worlds," just as Candide and company will do as the show takes center stage this Saturday.
Billed as "three weeks of world class opera, music and merriment," Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's SummerFest features three different full-length shows, plus a late-night cabaret series as well as a "Mozart Camp" for adult music enthusiasts. Candide opens Saturday, July 7 at the Rauh E. Rauh Theater at The Hillman Center for Performing Arts with performances July 7, 13, and 15. Tickets for all SummerFest performances are available by calling the SummerFest Box Office at 412-326-9687 or online at www.otsummerfest.org.
Daniel Teadt (Candide) and Abigail Dueppen (Cunegonde)
Photo Credit: Reveal Photography