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Friday, Sept. 28, 2012

Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Intimate ‘Candide’

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Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT) kicks off its season with four intimate performances of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. MOT’s production brings opera to a broader audience, as it moves throughout southeastern Wisconsin to a different school venue for each performance.

Catie O’Donnell makes her MOT debut as co-director alongside Jill Anna Ponasik. Music director Adam Baus works with Matthew Ecclestone, Susan Wiedmeyer, Timothy Rebers, Brian Myers, Colleen Brooks, Kerry Hart and an ensemble including UW-Parkside apprentice artists.

O’Donnell and Ponasik take “intimate opera” to another level by staging Bernstein’s masterwork in an ordinary classroom and thoroughly immersing the audience in the action.

Begun in the 1950s and often revised, Bernstein’s Candide has taken on several forms as both opera and Broadway show. MOT will be performing the 1973 Chelsea Theater version of the show in one act, with lyrics by Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim and John La Touche.

Finding it difficult to reconcile natural disaster with an optimistic point of view, Voltaire wrote the 1759 novella Candide as a satire that mocks the “all is for the best” philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Bernstein’s Candide was based on the Voltaire novella. The protagonist stumbles along through a series of zany pursuits, only in the end coming to a new philosophy in which honesty and realism rule over blind optimism.

In addition to the public performances, MOT artists will offer workshops to students at host schools.

“We're bringing opera to new audiences,” says Ponasik, MOT’s artistic director. “Hosting student workshops as well as public performances provides us with fantastic opportunities to connect with students, many of whom may be seeing opera for the first time.”

Performances take place 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at UW-Parkside; Oct. 3 at Pius XI High School; Oct. 5 at UW-Milwaukee; and Oct. 6 at Carroll University.