March 23, 25, 26, 30, 31, & April 2, 8:30 p.m.
Lowell House Dining Hall
Directed by Erin Huelskamp, Lidiya Yankovskaya & Aram Demirjian
Produced by Anh M. Le ’12, Chappell L. W. Sargent ’12, & Ashley N. Kaupert ’12
“From what I understand, it’s never been performed the same way twice,” says Ashley N. Kaupert, one of the producers of Lowell House Opera’s (LHO) production of “Candide.” The LHO’s rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s comic operetta seeks to continue this tradition of innovation.
The story revolves around18th-century tutor Candide and his pursuit of Cunégonde, the love of his life. Originally based on Voltaire’s satire Candide, ou l’Optimisme, Bernstein’s operetta has been rewritten, rearranged, and reimagined by almost every subsequent director due to its initial Broadway failure in 1956. What has remained, however, is the tongue-in-cheek ridicule of optimism in the face of misfortune. The operetta chronicles a series of unfortunate setbacks to Candide’s efforts to win over Cunégonde—including enslavement, disease, and an unscheduled visit to El Dorado. “’Candide’ is actually a very funny show … it’s one of the most popular college operettas,” says Kaupert.
Harvard is no exception: Dunster House Opera performed “Candide” in 1999 and 2005. Staying true to the tradition of the operetta, this year’s “Candide” staff has opted to take their production in a new direction. Unusually for on-campus shows, this year’s cast will feature current and past Harvard students, as well as individuals from the surrounding community. “I’ve learned so much from the alumni in the show. They give ‘Candide’ diversity, and I think that the show will be better because of it,” says Liv A. Redpath ’14, who will be playing Cunégonde in three of the six performances. In addition, the set will involve rotating mirrors and marionette-like puppet strings, among other quirks. “It isn’t easy to put on a production in a dining hall, but it’s wonderful and magical when it all comes together,” Kaupert says.
These technical choices were made partly in response to the challenges of staging “Candide,” whose plot features a variety of landscapes. “We needed on the order of 200 different outfits. The chorus has to be dramatically different people in dramatically different places from scene to scene as Candide travels, including peasants in Westphalia, inhabitants of Spain, natives of El Dorado, and casino-goers in Venice, and more. We have doctors, judges, soldiers, sailors, penitents, inquisitors, farmers, etc. who sometimes have to change in the blink of an eye,” says Antonia M. Pugliese ’12, the operetta’s costume designer. With its globe-trotting comedy, “Candide” promises to be a lively and colorful production.