Friday, October 19, 2012

Candide, Can Do

Although Georges Bizet was only 17 when he wrote his Symphony in C, he never heard it performed in his lifetime. It was a composition assignment from his days studying with Charles Gounod, written in the spring of 1855. The manuscript lay in a pile of archivables until a French musicologist discovered it in 1933, at which point its success was immediate and deserved. The oboe lines in the adagio are drop-dead gorgeous, and many older composers failed to achieve such a calm, simple beauty. The other three movements, especially the zingarese finale, crackle with an energy that rivals Beethoven’s first couple of symphonies and most of Schubert’s.

Before I go any further, I have to remind everyone that the concerts start at 7:30 this Thursday and Friday. The opening gala concert always did start earlier, but now every Masterworks show is at 7:30. This reminder is largely for my own benefit. There. Now I’ve told myself.

It must be stated, I suppose, that we are not performing the entirety of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, but a  suite therefrom. Of course we have performed the Overture to Candide many times; it is an effervescent and uniquely American work. I have enjoyed hearing the rest of the opera, and rediscovering how the themes in the overture are used in the opera. The Best of All Possible Worlds, Oh, Happy We, Glitter and Be Gay and the Battle Scene all draw their themes from the overture. Glitter is a complete vocal workout for the soprano, and Amy Maples is nailing it! If you miss this, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My first and only other time playing Candide was at the Lake George Opera Festival (now known as Opera Saratoga) up in Saratoga Springs, NY. My family and I had a great time staying there from 1995 to 2004.  My last season we played Candide at the Little Theatre of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Cunegonde was played by Knoxville’s own Jami Rogers! Who knew that I would finally meet her there, 1,000 miles from home. Her dad James Rogers, a major force in church music in Knoxville, came to visit. As many times as I’d seen Jim in Knoxville, seeing them so far from home was off the chain. It wasn’t long after that Jami would be my son Thomas’ voice teacher. As if that wasn’t enough, when the famed “Scottish Opera version” (the last of many “builds” of the work that Bernstein approved) had its American premier in St. Louis. Jami’s husband Kevin Anderson had a role in it, and the understudy for Cunegonde? Jami Rogers.

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