Review Roundup: Harold Prince's CANDIDE at NYC Opera- Updated!

The legendary Broadway visionary Harold Prince returns to New York City Opera to direct a new production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. The production, choreographed by Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated choreographer Patricia Birch, brings together a versatile cast of Broadway veterans and rising opera stars to tell the story of Candide's adventures and tribulations in the "best of all possible worlds." Charles Prince conducts the New York City Opera Orchestra in 10 performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, continuing January 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

Bernstein's comic operetta Candide is based on Voltaire's satirical novella of the same name and follows the naïve Candide as he strives to maintain his optimism while trying to make sense of a chaotic and ruthless world. The score sparkles with some of Bernstein's greatest music for the stage, including Cunegonde's show-stopping "Glitter and Be Gay," the politically charged "Auto-da-fé" scene and the powerful anthem of perseverance "Make Our Garden Grow."

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: The terrific cast is composed of performers who not only do justice to the music, but who also get the cleverness of the lyrics and dialogue. This is especially evident with the romantic leads. Johnson sings the title role with a beautiful, sweetly-voiced tenor and plays the proper degree of straight-man innocence to make it funny. Meghan Picerno's plays Cunégonde with a glittery soprano and bites into the character's lust for bling with crisp comic panache.

Richard Sasanow, BroadwayWorld Opera: With Hal Prince at the helm--for the umpteenth time since his resurrection of CANDIDE in 1973--and choreography by Pat Birch, the show was in very good hands. The playful designs of Clarke Dunham, costumes by Judith Dolan, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by Abe Jacob do all they can to replicate in a proscenium the fun of Prince's original environmental production as done at BAM in Brooklyn and then on Broadway. The orchestra, under Charles Prince, and chorus kept things zipping along.

Anthony Tommasini, NY Times: So for longtime City Opera devotees, this "Candide" will feel like a return to a company milestone. But with Mr. Prince's inventive, reworked staging, some tweaks and trims and other changes, not to mention a winning cast drawn from both theater and opera, this "Candide" represents an encouraging forward step for the reconstituted company.

David PatRick Stearns, Operavore: ...let me say that the City Opera's new incarnation - even in the initially sleepy Saturday matinee I heard - delivers lively, enveloping entertainment, great for a date night with its tuneful score showing Bernstein at his best in a circus-cum-vaudeville style production. It's rich in sight gags that make a more vivid impression in the Rose Theater than at the company's previous (and more cavernous) home at the David Koch Theater. The intelligently chosen cast features operatic voices where needed and big Broadway personalities when not. And not just any Broadway personalities: The 79-year-old Linda Lavin makes a magnetic guest appearance as The Old Lady, performing the showstopper "I Am Easily Assimilated" maybe not with the physical animation of years past, but with the kind of mastery that makes every movement, word and note count.

Eric C. Simpson, NY Classical Review: Broadway veteran Gregg Edelman led a cast of singers and actors drawn mostly from the New York Theater circuit, a casting strategy that led to some mixed results. For his own part, Edelman was brilliant as Voltaire and his various avatars, hamming it up in a slew of lecherous, plot-pushing gag roles, especially as the pompous and devious two-bit philosopher Dr. Pangloss. If he'd had a mustachio to twirl, he'd have twisted it off his lip by the end of the first scene.

James Jorden, Observer: What a marvelous idea it was to program the operetta Candide as the centerpiece of New York City Opera's current season. Leonard Bernstein's most inventive score for the theater, the participation of Broadway legend Hal Prince as director, plus the deeply emotional association of the piece with NYCO's history from 1982 to the present-all this is surely a recipe for a triumph. How sad, then, that the company bungled the project so badly, dishonoring the piece with mostly inadequate performances and a lazy, dated production. Instead of a noble artistic triumph, this Candide felt like a cynical attempt at marketing based on little more than the show's brand name.

Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz

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