Candide is Dizzy, Fun and Contemporary
05/11/2012 - & May 13, 17, 19, 2012
Leonard Bernstein: Candide
Robert Orth (Voltaire, Pangloss, Cacambo, Martin), Jonathan Boyd (Candide), Jan Powell (Baroness, Waitress, Slave, Guest), Matt Pavik (Baron, Bulgar King, Inquisitor, Archbishop, Wise Man), Andres Chang (Maximilian, Captain), Rachele Gilmore (Cunegonde), Caitlin Mathes (Paquette), Shawn Rogers (1st Officer, James, Don Issachar, Father, Sailor), Nicholas Nelson (multiple roles), Patrick Scofield (Bearkeeper), Paul Wright (Cosmetic Merchant, First Inquisitor), Benjamin Bell (Doctor, Senor #2), Barton Rippe (Junkman, 2nd Inquisitor, Croupier), David Warner (Alchemist, Senor #3), Andre Flynn (3rd Inquisitor), Ann McMahon Quintero (Old Lady), Wade Baker ( Senor #1), Mark A. Thomsen (Governor, Vanderdendur, Ragotski)
Portland Opera Orchestra, Cal Stewart Kellogg (Conductor)
Christopher Mattaliano (Stage Director), Jerome Sirlin (Scenery /Projections Designer), Robert Wierzel (Lighting Designer), James Scott (Costume Designer)
R. Gilmore & J. Boyd (© Cory Weaver/Portland Opera)
Imagine 40-plus scenes (some in 3-D), a jillion characters, actors singing multiple roles, and the inimitable Robert Orth as Voltaire, Pangloss, Cacambo and Martin.
Without Orth, a fabulously versatile actor and competent baritone who never seems to age, Portland Opera’s Candide would have been a hoot -- but not superb. He brought this tough-to-produce piece some well-deserved gravity. His multiple roles serve to narrate the opera, pulling us around the sordid world as Candide stumbles into one disappointment after another.
Certainly tenor Jonathan Boyd pulls off his role as the wide-eyed and slightly goofy Candide who discovers the world is not the best of all possible places, and soprano Rachele Gilmore does a charming job as Cunegonde, Candide’s peripatetic love of his life. (Then again who could come close to filling the stage like Kristin Chenoweth?)
The problem, of course, for Candide Broadway aficionados, who have loved the satiric piece for its operetta leanings, wicked dialog and catchy music, is which version to love. The many versions of the Bernstein score that have undergone numerous librettos, scene and song changes generated by a phalanx of such brilliant writers as Richard Wilbur, Lillian Hellman, Stephen Sondheim, and Dorothy Parker, have changed the piece from 1956 to 1982 (the production staged at the Keller Auditorium in May). Bernstein is likely turning in his grave. Why can’t they get it exactly like I wanted it? (Writers argued that the American composer was a control freak and would have taken control of the libretto if he could have swung it.)
Portland Opera’s director Christopher Mattaliano, who has proved himself a crack stage director, took this one under his wings. He and projection designer Jerome Sirlin put a 3D spin on several scenes, and with the whimsical sets, brought the production a contemporary vibe. Mattaliano milked it and its many songs, including, “I Am Easily Assimilated,” “Glitter and Be Gay” and “Make Our Garden Grow” for hilarity and obvious irony. The cast enjoyed pushing the limits; the audience never stopped laughing.
Maestro Cal Stewart Kellogg, a onetime jazz pianist, understands this mid-20th-century music (he directed Kurt Weil’s Street Scenes for Portland Opera a few years back). These brilliant production artists, as well as the singers and the chorus, pushed Bernstein’s adventurous music to a more audacious place.