Richard, Susan, and I saw *Candide* at the "New York City Opera" on 1/7. It was the Hal Prince production, which I had seen on TV in the 80s and I loved it to death, watched it over and over again, so I was excited to see it onstage. It's a delightful piece, I know it well, and had never seen it onstage.
You may have noticed that I put the words "New York City Opera" in quotes above. That's because I'm not quite sure how I feel about calling this opera company the New York City Opera. The NYCO, as I know it, went under in 2013, filed for bankruptcy and the whole bit. They sort of resurfaced in 2016, some guy who had been on the NYCO board went to the court with a pile of his own money and asked if he could start an opera company with that name, and they said yes. They've been getting mixed reviews, they hadn't done anything yet that really grabbed me, but *Candide* sounded like a good choice. I loved the old NYCO, was sad when they closed, and as you can tell, am a little suspicious of this new brand. We shall see. They're doing an opera version of *Angels in America* later this season, I'll be seeing that, too.
One big overall problem with the show: it needed a little more zip. About ten percent more zip, it was a little sluggish. That bothered me less as the show went on, so either it picked up the pace or I got used to it, but with a frothy musical or operetta you never want to drag.
They had a mixture of musical theatre performers and opera performers in the cast. I'll talk about the musical theatre people first. Linda Lavin was the biggest star, playing The Old Lady. She was marvelous, surprised me with how well she sings. Richard was impressed with her first-rate old Jewish lady accent. She's played a few of those over the course of her career - - have you seen that *Law and Order: Criminal Intent* with her playing the matriarch of a pickle business? Chilling! She was delightful in *Candide,* nearly stopped the show with "I am easily assimilated." Nearly.
Gregg Edelman was Voltaire and many other characters. I love this guy, saw him in *Wonderful Town* and in a great *Law and Order* where he played a guy with some kind of disorder where he has to give things away (pens, statuary, bodily organs). Fabulous! He owned the stage, sounded great, I can't imagine anyone doing better.
Chip Zien and Brooks Ashmanskas played many smaller roles, they were funny, totally chewed up the scenery and mugged up a storm. Which is just what the doctor ordered.
Jay Armstrong Johnson was Candide. I saw him in the NY Phil production of *Sweeney Todd,* he played Antony. He was great in that, less great in this, his voice sounded a little strained. It's a big sing, and not an easy one, not as easy as it might seem. He did OK, but wasn't quite right.
Meghan Picerno played Cunegonde. She sang well, she didn't thrill me, but she did a good job and gave a good performance. It's a fabulous role, so I was looking for something more fabulous, but she was fine. Baritone Keith Phares played Maximillan, and was just fine. Richard rolled his eyes at something in his bio: "Keith Phares is regarded as one of his generation's most versatile artists." Regarded by whom? This led to a story about when I had to write a bio for myself for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, when I was performing my cantata "Women's Shoes" with them. I said, "Christopher Ryan appears as a triple threat this season: singer, composer, and page turner." So then I had to say a little something about each of those three things. I said to Kathy the Mezzo, "Can I call myself 'a noted recitalist?' " She said, "*I* have noted it!"