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THE SCOOP | Joel Ivany Writes Touching Review For Edmonton Opera’s Candide That Never Was

By Anya Wassenberg on March 18, 2020

Edmonton Opera’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ (Photo: Nanc Price)
Edmonton Opera’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ (Photo: Nanc Price)

Like all other arts organizations in North America, Edmonton Opera was faced with a gruelling decision earlier this week. On March 12, the company cancelled all three performances of its upcoming production of Candide.

Candide would have been a company premiere for Edmonton Opera, with performances slated for March 14, 17 and 20. The cast included Adam Fisher in the role of Candide, with Caitlin Wood as Cunegonde, John Ullyatt as Dr. Pangloss/Governor and Krista de Silva at Paquette.

The production would have been a rare showcase for the Bernstein opera, with Against the Grain Theatre’s Joel Ivany stepping in as director. In a Facebook video, Ivany talks about his vision for the brand new production, with detailed costuming and scenery by designer Camellia Koo.

Sadly, along with so many other performances worldwide, it was not to be. Ivany shared a video of the cast performing excerpts from the opera at the airport on the way home.

Once he got home, Ivany went a step further, and wrote a review of the show that never happened, sharing it on his Facebook page on March 15 as a love letter to the cast and crew. The text of his post follows below the image.

Edmonton Opera’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ (Photo: Nanc Price)
Edmonton Opera’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ (Photo: Nanc Price)

With all the cancellations dominating our feeds, I wanted to share a recap of what could and would have been a fabulous review of our Candide that should have happened last night.

Everyone worked so hard and rarely do we truly get to read and say what we feel. So here we go:

CANDIDE SOARS!

EDMONTON, AB — Last night Edmonton Opera would have presented the company premiere of Candide.

Leonard Bernstein, composer of Westside Story, had his Candide open on Broadway in 1956. It failed miserably. Since Lillian Hellman’s original libretto, the story has been re-worked by as many as seven writers over the decades, with one its more successful versions arriving on Broadway in 1974, now known as the “Chelsea” version. It was this version that would have played last night to close Edmonton Opera’s 19/20 season. Under the creative hand of director Joel Ivany (BAM), Edmonton Opera’s new production mixed incredible opera singers with gifted local actors and musical theatre performers (to much awesome success).

Set and costume designer (and national treasure) Ku Camie Roo had placed the action in a turn-of-the-century (1900s) Victorian operating theatre. Her designs were simple and powerfully effective. Noah Feaver’s rad and fun lighting created the perfect mood for this opera to unfold.

This production was gifted with talented leads. Hosting us throughout the evening and production was John Ullyatt as Voltaire and Dr. Pangloss. A gifted actor and beautiful singer, he is the perfect Voltaire. Adam Fisher, singing the role of Candide, was innocent, vulnerable and heartbreaking. One believed his journey and his voice was naturally suited to sing Candide. The role of Cunegonde was masterfully performed by Cait Wood. She sings the hell out of “Glitter and Be Gay” and is an incredibly hilarious actor. Her pairing with Fisher is believable and the two have electric chemistry.

Edmonton Opera’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ (Photo: Nanc Price)
Edmonton Opera’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ (Photo: Nanc Price)

Beste Kalender’s Old Lady doesn’t arrive til midway through the show, but would have been well worth it. Her clacking castanets and rich warm mezzo light up her “Easily Assimilated” and she is a rock throughout the evening.

In the roles of Maximillian and Paquette, Ron Long and Krista de Silva are both independently strong and mesh with the ensemble seamlessly (that means they’re both really good). It’s clear they care about the people they are performing with.

The Ensemble is filled with many hilarious and touching performances. One can’t say enough about Jesse Gervais. A comedic master as both the Baron and Grand Inquisitor, the production was fortunate to have someone of his skill.

As the three Don’s (as well as many other side-splitting roles), Luc Tellier (courage like a lion), Nelson Bettencourt (ideal judge) and Andrew MacDonald-Smith (knows how to cook a mean bird al fresco) would nearly have stolen the show with their cafe tables and chairs (on wheels) zig-zagging all over the stage. This scene was only one of many choreographed by the ever talented and kind Laura Krewski.

As Baroness and Sheep 1, Cathy Derkach brings her humour, sensitivity and musical skill to her many roles. We are left in stitches and in tears all at the same time. Her partner in crime, Kristi Hansen (Sheep 2) was a light in every scene she appeared in.

Martin Galba rocked every role that he was in (and can he ever dance). The casting in this production was spot on.

The cast and company perform “Make Our Garden Grow” at dress rehearsal

The Edmonton Opera Chorus and Supers were the foundation of this production. They would have been very funny and above all, they are pretty pretty pretty fine musicians.

Maestro Peter Dala brought out every nuance and flavour out of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and one could tell that they were all having quite a bit of fun (especially Leanne Regehr). Holding it all together was the exceptional stage management team, led by Ha Neul Kim.

It’s easy to see why Edmonton Opera programmed this piece. It’s fun, musical and disturbingly relevant.

Candide can be a complicated story, but essentially is based on the philosophy that everything happens for the best, in this best of all possible worlds. Whether you believe that or not, it’s certainly hard to ignore the message.

Candide sums up the experience beautifully to Cunegonde and to us at the end of the show, “You’ve been a fool and so have I, but come and be my wife. And let us try, before we die, to make some sense of life. We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good, we’ll do the best we know. We’ll build our house and chop our wood and make our garden grow…and make our garden grow.”

There would have been two more chances to see this very special production. (Joel Ivany)

Ivany’s post ends there, but as he put it in an earlier Facebook post, “We will get through this. There will be a ripple of this experience for the rest of our lives, but we are resilient people, especially the artists. We have been gritting away and surviving for our entire careers and will continue to do so. We need music, we need art and we need healing.”

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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
Follow me
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