Yup, I said opera. I was an opera virgin until last night, and after the hilarious, resplendent performance of Candide, I can’t truly say I’ve been to the opera per se – but the New York City Opera’s staging sure was a treat.
The show itself is an operetta – more like a “musical-plus” rather than an opera. Written in English with a score by Leonard Bernstein, this two-week engagement was produced by the legendary Harold Prince. And oh, what a glorious production. It was lush and cheeky and teeming with Vaudevillian charm. Daniel Reichard (who originated the role of Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys) sang the title role with soulful optimism, and Richard Kind (Dr. Pangloss and others) and Judith Blazar (The Old Lady) provided innumerable laugh-out-loud moments. Prince used the whole opera house, with characters shimmying through orchestra-level rows, and a sidesplitting interaction near the end between Candide and his posse and Richard Kind as the sage, perched upon the first ring. The set and costumes were a symphony of colors, and the libretto featured more than a handful of snarky winks, which the audience wholeheartedly appreciated. Some of the lyrics had an almost Gilbert and Sullivan-esque quality, and a few of the staged moments were all-out expertly-executed slapstick. A silhouetted dance scene in the backdrop quickly turned into the farcical main stage feature when the audience discovered that the male dancers had been minueting with stuffed dummies all along, and proceeded to toss their floppy partners around and spin them overhead. Cute.
It was light and lively, an excellent introduction to the genre. Next I’d like to wade in knee-deep, and make it to the Met. Inspired by one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies—Moonstruck—perhaps La Bohème will fit the bill. The teardrop that rolls down Cher’s cheek gets me every time.