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A Cameo For Voltaire

actor playing Voltaire

The IU Opera Theater presents Leonard Bernstein’s opera about that eternally innocent optimist Candide. The guest director is actor, singer, dancer and stage director Candace Evans.

When we talked on a lovely spring day, Evans commented on the weather and the beauty of the IU campus with a quip based on the philosophy parodies in opera, “It’s the best of all possible campuses.”

The Strength

Candide is a perennial favorite, agreed Evans, and she went on to talk about its central strength. “First of all you have Voltaire’s exemplary book, a book written by an absolutely amazing man. The predicating event was a tremendous earthquake in Lisbon. Thirty thousand people were killed, most of them while at mass on Sunday morning. Voltaire read about this and said, ‘for heaven’s sake what are we doing, in saying the world is so perfect’ because in his day the philosophical feeling was that everything is lovely and everything is there for a reason. While he was a God fearing man, Voltaire was not into religion, per se structured religion, he had his own point of view.”

A Difficulty, And A Solution

But she adds that it’s a delicate opera to stage. “The difficulty in staging Candide is the rapid changes of location. It’s easy in a book to simply write that you are now in say Cadiz, but much more difficult on stage. I’ve taken a little extra liberty in that I’ve established a little area down stage right that is constant throughout with a desk for Voltaire. So he will be there throughout the piece, writing the book. It’s something upon which I’ve hung the entire piece.”

Working With  Students

As you’ve worked with the students what’s been the most fun part. “The students, I know that sounds glib, but I really mean it. They are astonishing and I know I sound like I’m buttering the bread of the IU faculty, but I mean this very sincerely. They are astonishing singers and people. I have a double cast and I’ve done that in professional houses and it is a bit like lining cats up next to each other and saying ‘get along dears’ And that’s not what’s happening here at all. They’re amazingly supportive of each other and they share thoughts they develop theroles together I see no gibberish backstage like 'mmm now she’s not doing that very well.' It’s lovely, it’s the best of all possible rehearsals. I make a joke, but I really mean it, the spirit in the room is very precious.”

The IU Opera Theatre's production of Candide with stage direction by Candace Evans will conducted by Kevin Noe. Sets and costumes are by C. David Higgins.

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