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WNO Presents Leonard Bernstein's Piercing Satire CANDIDE at the Kennedy Center

WNO Presents Leonard Bernstein's Piercing Satire CANDIDE at the Kennedy Center

Washington National Opera concludes its 2017-2018 season with the company premiere of Leonard Bernstein's biting satire Candide, May 5-26, 2018, in the Kennedy Center Opera House. Candide is one of Bernstein's most popular and enduring works, blurring the lines between opera and musical theater. Heading the all-American cast are three powerhouses from the world of opera: tenor Alek Shrader in his WNO debut in the title role, soprano Kathryn Lewek as his forlorn love interest Cunegonde, and WNO audience favorite and local legend Denyce Graves as the Old Lady. This new-to-Washington production, the centerpiece of the Kennedy Center's season-long Leonard Bernstein at 100 celebration, is directed by WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and conducted by Nicole Paiement.

When young Candide's marriage proposal to a baron's daughter doesn't quite go as planned, this naïve student of optimism is thrust into an eye-opening odyssey across lands near and far, discovering the horrors of existence at every turn, from war and earthquakes to slavery and disease. Very bad things happen to very good people (and plenty of bad ones, too) as the ensemble cast quick-changes its way through dozens of colorful characters, performing Bernstein's witty and effervescent score. Featuring such classic tunes as "Glitter and Be Gay," "The Best of All Possible Worlds," and "Make Our Garden Grow," Bernstein's funny, philosophical, and fast-paced take on Voltaire's novella finds a way to move and inspire with life-affirming lessons that still ring true today.

The ensemble cast is led by a trio of stars. Tenor Alek Shrader, the breakout star of the 2009 opera documentary The Audition and a grand finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, sings the title role in his WNO debut. Kathryn Lewek, whose impeccable high notes mesmerized WNO audiences as the Queen of the Night in 2014's The Magic Flute, returns to sing the role of Cunegonde, whose high-flying aria "Glitter and Be Gay" is one of the most thrilling and difficult challenges in all of vocal music. Singing the role of the Old Lady is renowned mezzo-soprano and WNO favorite Denyce Graves, who was seen as Emelda Griffith in last season's production of Champion. An alumna of D.C.'s Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Graves has a long and celebrated history with WNO, including memorable appearances in her signature roles of Carmen and Dalila.

The cast also features Wynn Harmon (Lost in the Stars and Show Boat) in the dual role of Voltaire and Candide's tutor Dr. Pangloss. Two dynamic rising artists make their WNO debuts: baritone Edward Nelson is Maximilian and bass-baritone Matthew Scollin sings the roles of James and Martin. WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is well represented in the cast of Candide. Tenor Frederick Ballentine is Cacambo, mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonet is Paquette, and tenor Alexander McKissick is the Grand Inquisitor and the Governor. Soprano Kerriann Otaño, an alumna of the program, sings the roles of the Baroness and Vanderdendur. A talented ensemble of soloists performs Candide's many character roles: Tom Berklund, Jaely Chamberlin, Andrew Harper, Katherine Henley, Michael Hewitt, Nicholas Houhoulis, Jarrod Lee, Andrea Beasom Lindgren, Danny Lindgren, Alison Mixon, Ameerah Sabreen, and Louisa Waycott.

Marshalling all of these talents is WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, who directed this production's premiere at The Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York, where she serves as General and Artistic Director. Earlier this season, Zambello directed WNO productions of Aida and The Little Prince; next season she will direct a new production of La traviata and a revival of her world-premiere production of The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me.

Leading the WNO Orchestra in interpreting Bernstein's rollicking score is Nicole Paiement, who has previously appeared at WNO conducting the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's The Dictator's Wife in 2017 and The Little Prince in 2014. Paiement, who also serves as Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle in San Francisco and as Principal Guest Conductor of The Dallas Opera, will return next season to conduct WNO's company premiere of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell's Silent Night.

The creative team also includes associate director and choreographer Eric Sean Fogel, associate director E. Loren Meeker, scenic designer James Noone, costume designer Jennifer Moeller, lighting designer Mark McCullough, hair and makeup designer David C. Zimmerman, and sound designer G. Thomas Clark for GTC Sound Design. Candide opens on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 7 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Opera House and runs for nine performances, including May 9, 12, 14, 18, 20, 22, 24, and 26. The opera's running time is two hours and 50 minutes, including one 25-minute intermission. Candide is performed in English with projected English titles. Visit WNO's website for complete production details and casting information.

Washington National Opera's 2017-2018 season also includes Rossini's charming romantic comedy The Barber of Seville. The 2018-2019 season includes a new WNO production of Verdi's classic romantic drama La traviata, the company premiere of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell's Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night, Tchaikovsky's legendary epic Eugene Onegin, Gounod's devilishly entertaining Faust, and Puccini's towering masterpiece Tosca. The season also features the return of Mars, Incorporated Opera in the Outfield and the American Opera Initiative Festival; a revival of WNO's hit world-premiere holiday family opera The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me; a special Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist performance of La traviata; and other exciting vocal events. Tickets are available now.

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