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Leonard Bernstein’s Candide premiered on Broadway in 1956, the same year Elvis’ first record hit the charts and Eisenhower successfully won reelection as our 34th president. In 1956, the world was grappling with monumental change: cultural norms were shifting, technology was advancing, and economies were transforming; McCarthyism was raging in Washington D.C. and the Soviet Union was testing its nuclear arsenal. It was hardly “the best of all possible worlds.”
Within the dimly lit ballroom of the Corsi Palace, a small group of Florentine musicians, poets, and intellectuals of the late Renaissance—the Florentine Camerata—filed into their seats to conduct an experiment: Can the catharsis of ancient Greek theater be recreated by adding music to classical drama? These Renaissance men hoped to recreate the profundity of Grecian theater, just as their colleagues in the fine arts resurrected the grace of Greek statuary from blocks of modern marble. After years of research, analysis, and a little guesswork, the Camerata unearthed the essential ingredient that would elevate their performances to the altar of Dionysus. They concluded that music was required to bind the paradoxical worlds of antiquity—the sacred and profane—into one cohesive experience. Their experiment was narrow in its scope, but the results were momentous. Instead of simply mimicking the glory of the past, the Camerata created an art form of the future: opera.
Voltaire’s Candide is a philosophical satire. As such, it directs very specific criticism at the period and culture in which it was written. In order to better understand what Voltaire so deftly critiques in his seminal novella, it is helpful to be familiar with three aspects of the book’s context:
In anticipation of Jennifer Johnson Cano’s upcoming performance for the Tucson Desert Song Festival, we asked her a few questions so you can get to know her better!
In anticipation of Lisette Oropesa’s upcoming performance for the Tucson Desert Song Festival, we asked her a few questions so you can get to know her better!
Have you always known that you wanted to be an opera singer or did the interest develop over time?
In the rich music, bold scenes and riveting action of Tosca, composer Giacomo Puccini plays on the appealing conceit of an operatic diva singing the role of...an operatic diva. Even 117 years after its premiere in Rome the potent, iconic work is still easy to love, says AZO president and general director Joseph Specter. “When people think, ‘I want to take someone very special to the opera for the first time,’ Tosca says ‘Welcome to opera.’”
Arizona Opera gives residency to our Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio artists every year. This week, just in time for Tosca to hit the stage, we’re giving brief residency to our most famous singer yet -- world-renowned operatic baritone Sherrill Milnes.
Arizona Opera’s season opens with Hercules vs Vampires, promising all the fun of an iconic Italian B-movie adventure combined with fresh live music in a compact 74-minute package. Singers, orchestra and conductor synchronize a newly-composed score from Patrick Morganelli with the 1961 film Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della terra/Hercules in the Center of the Earth). The movie features Reg Park and Christopher Lee in a fine sword-and-sandal tribute to mythology.
Recently I attended Opera Philadelphia’s inspiring O17 festival. Executed at a very high level, O17 was a phenomenal demonstration of the renaissance of innovation and audience engagement that opera is experiencing today. Increasingly, US opera companies are taking advantage of a range of opportunities to deliver the art form in compelling and unexpected ways, from using state-of-the-art technology to enhance the storytelling and leveraging multiple performance venues in order to create a variety of audience experiences. Opera Philadelphia’s O17 Festival availed itself of all of these opportunities.
Katrina Galka a second year Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist, and will appear as Medea, as well as Zarathusa, Chained Woman, and Helena in our new cutting-edge performace Hercules vs Vampires. We asked her a few questions about her upcoming roles and thoughts on the production.