Congratulations to WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello for her election into the Class of 2018 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This prestigious honor recognizes exceptional scholars, leaders, artists, and innovators, and engages them in sharing knowledge and addressing challenges facing the world. The Academy dedicates itself to “new knowledge” and their projects and publications generate ideas and offer recommendations to advance the public good in the arts, citizenship, education, energy, government, the humanities, international relations, science, and more.
This spring, the Kennedy Center celebrates Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday with a production of Candide, a work with contributions from a veritable gallery of 20th-century masters. In anticipation of this epic theatrical event, you can learn more about the creators of Candide—and the novella and events that inspired them—by exploring some of the recommendations below.
Voltaire’s satirical novella traces the journey of young Candide as he attempts to reconcile his tutor’s philosophy of optimism with the hardship of earthly existence. The Norton Critical Edition of Candide, edited by Nicholas Cronk, includes extensive footnotes for the novella’s many references, as well as a series of essays offering background and criticism. Read more
By Dramaturg Kelley Rourke
Watchmaker, harp teacher, playwright, spy—Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (pictured) was something of a general factotum himself. Today operagoers know him as the man who gave us Figaro (and friends) in a trilogy of plays. Le Barbier de Séville (“The Barber of Seville”), the first, is a light-hearted comedy in which two young people, inspired by love, conspire against those who would prevent them from being together. In the second, La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro (“The Crazy Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”), the high-spirited conspirators of Barber have lost their common cause—and are in danger of losing their youthful affection and regard for one another. This play has more of a political edge, which is even more pronounced in the work that follows: L’Autre Tartuffe, ou La Mère Coupable (“The Other Tartuffe, or The Guilty Mother”).
By Dramaturg Kelley Rourke
When Gioachino Rossini (pictured) brought forth The Barber of Seville in 1816, a few days shy of his 24th birthday, it was an audacious act, since Giovanni Paisiello’s 1782 setting of the same play by Beaumarchais, with a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, still enjoyed widespread popularity. The older work had played in Vienna, Prague, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, New Orleans, Stockholm, and in cities across Italy through the early years of the 19th century, and even held the distinction of being the first opera performed in Italian in Mexico (1806).
In February 2018, WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello directs Leonard Bernstein’s classic musical in a production staged for the unique experience of the Concert Hall, with a full cast of more than 20 dazzling performers including members of WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. NSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke leads the National Symphony Orchestra in the performance.
Today, it seems incredible that Leonard Bernstein could have written West Side Story, an up-to-the-minute commentary on gang warfare in New York City, concurrently with Candide an operetta based on political satire by Voltaire. Yet both pieces, in their way, struggle with timeless ideals that are at the heart of the American project: the idea that we are all created equal, and with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The human struggle to honor these ideals plays out in both pieces. In West Side Story, discord between native-born Americans and recent immigrants leads to tragedy, but its most famous song is an anthem of true optimism, a belief in a world – “Somewhere” – where each person has a place, each person has a home. Later this spring, at Washington National Opera, Candide will ultimately offer a similar message of hope, a message wrapped in a challenge to “Make Our Garden Grow.”
BravO is D.C.’s premier young professional arts-lover program, welcoming those who are interested in opera to connect with one another, WNO, and the productions. Each year, led by the BravO council, this group attends designated, discounted BravO nights at the Opera, networking happy hours, and a variety of other social events that focus on the work on our stages. The council functions much like a Junior Board and is made up of extremely dedicated individuals who meet monthly to make strategic plans for the future of BravO, and more importantly the next generation of Opera fans.
This fall we are thrilled to welcome two new council members, Mattia D’Affuso and Alyssa O’Connor! Read more
Leah was born in Adrian, Michigan and studied vocal performance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. She made her WNO debut as Madame Lidoine in 2015’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.
She returns to WNO in the 2017-2018 season to take on not one but TWO Verdi classics! She made her role debut as Aida in the fall of 2016 with San Francisco Opera opposite Brian Jagde, and her role debut as Elisabeth of Valois in Opera Philadelphia’s 2015 production of Don Carlo, where she sang alongside Eric Owens. Of her performance in Aida, the San Francisco Chronicle raved her singing “emerged with ease and purity…and she could deliver the most crystalline thread of sound with equal mastery.” Philly’s Broad Street Review said Leah “was impressive as Elisabeth with fine-spun Verdian phrasing, haunting pianissimi, and a perfectly-placed high C at the finale.”
Concept designer for Aida.
Born Marquis Lewis in Los Angeles, RETNA drew inspiration for his name from a Wu Tang Clan lyric.
Deriving his style from the influences of illuminated manuscripts and other text-based art forms, RETNA has become an established contemporary street and studio artist.
Tidbit! RETNA has developed a unique constructed script with roots in calligraphy, hieroglyphics, Hebrew, and Native American typographies that is consistently seen throughout much of his work.
Tenor. Radamès in Aida.
Carl was born in Arlington, Virginia and attended Shenandoah Conservatory of Music.
He made his debut as Samson to rave reviews in Washington National Opera’s 2004 production of Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Delilah. Additionally, he has previously sung Radamès with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap’s 2015 concert performance of Aida.
Fun Fact! Carl has worn a huge variety of different hats throughout his career, including but not limited to that of a big rig trucker, bounty hunter, singing waiter, and jewelry designer!
Tenor. Radamès in Aida.
Yonghoon was born in South Korea, and studied at Seoul National University and the Mannes College of Music.
This will be his first time with the Washington National Opera, as well as his first time playing the role of Radamès.
Notable moment: In his first professional appearance as Carmen’s Don José with the Opera Company of Middlebury’s debut production, Yonghoon pulled a banana in lieu of a prop knife due to low funds…to a great audience reception!