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The Orion

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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

‘Candide’ delivers opera full of laughs and heart

Candide (Valdis Birznick) singing during a musical number. Photo credit: Alex Coba

The accessibility of comedy and the sophistication of opera came together seamlessly at the Department of Music and Theater’s fall opera production of “Candide: An Absurd Musical Comedy”.

Candide is one of those weird plays that you think,“this can’t possibly good.” Going into the play I definitely thought that this would be an unusual one to see. I am happy to say that not once did I have to look away or shield my eyes. This play, by far, blew my expectations.

The play revolves around Candide (Valdis Birznicks). Candide is in love with Cunegonde (Lauren Sutton Beatie), the daughter of the Baroness (Joyce Christensen). War takes place and soon Maximilian (Christian Harrington), Candide, Cunegonde and Paquette (Bana Greenberg) are constantly split apart, then subsequently brought back together all while trying to find their happiness in life.

Candide (Valdis Birznick) (Left) and Cunegonde (Lauren Sutton Beattie) (Right) during a musical number. Photo credit: Alex Coba

The play is full of twists and turns and convenient plot points that add to the charm of the play. However, I found myself lost at times during the play just because there was so much happening all at once. You can easily forget that a character died earlier in the play, only for them to reappear later on. It gets a bit confusing, but I found myself just going with it.

Candide is a ridiculous play, to say the least, and the added confusion is part of the experience. There was no shortage of laughs during the show as the performers had the audience in stitches with musical numbers that had an incredible amount of humor. The show took full advantage of the fact that it was indeed an opera with musical numbers, utilizing the (at times) ridiculous nature of the genre.

The orchestra was amazing as a whole. The arrangements played beautifully alongside the actors and, while it was a bit hard to hear the actors sing at times, there was no denying that those beautiful melodies really rounded out the show. I enjoyed the fact that even the orchestra was a part of the main narrative at times – at one point the conductor interjected during a conversation between two characters.

Candide (Valdis Birznick) singing during a musical number. Photo credit: Alex Coba
The Governor (Mark Metzger) (Right) and Maximilian (Christian Harrington) (Left) singing during a musical number. Photo credit: Alex Coba
Candide (Valdis Birznick) and Pangloss/Voltaire (John Mahoney) singing during a musical number. Photo credit: Alex Coba

The play runs around three and a half hours in total, yet the audience was kept engaged. I enjoyed Valdis Birznick’s portrayal of Candide as he brought the innocence of the character to the foreground. Watching Candide react to sticky situations was a big highlight because you could tell that he is trying to be a genuinely good person, but when he accidentally murders three people, for example, one can’t help but say “Oh, Candide”.

Lauren Sutton Beattie’s portrayal of Cunegronde was a big stand-out as well. Beattie really brought out the ridiculousness of Cunegroud, who is definitely one of the more out-there characters, and Beattie captured that nicely. The pair has great chemistry with a back and forth that was very entertaining to watch. Some parts in particular that stood out to me were when Cuneground finished a musical number and Candide comes in with the line, “I just heard an E-flat, is that Cuneground.”

The cast as a whole was great. I especially appreciated Mark Metzger, who played several characters in the play, which itself was quite comical.

The night ended with a standing ovation from the audience. Reactions toward the play were very positive. Attendee Michael Lang said he came with a low expectation but left really enjoying the play as well as having a few laughs.

Another attendee, Connie Asquith, appreciated the dedication the performers had for the play.

“The craziness of the story was just so interesting and (with) the quality of the singers and the performances it was just great,” said Asquith.

The next opera planned will be Ned Rorem’s “Our Town” and will take place Jan. 25-26 in 2019. Keep an eye out for more performances on campus!

Alex Coba can be reached at [email protected] or @ThatOneGuyCoba on Twitter.

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    Astra Birznieks // Jan 7, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    You spellled our last name wrong it’s Birznieks