Harold Prince casts Jay Armstrong Johnson as “Candide” for NYC Opera

January 2017 will mark the return of the legendary Broadway visionary Harold Prince to New York City Opera to direct a new production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. The production, choreographed by Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated choreographer Patricia Birch, brings together a versatile cast of Broadway veterans and rising opera stars to tell the story of Candide’s adventures and tribulations in the “best of all possible worlds.” Charles Prince will conduct the New York City Opera Orchestra in 10 performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater on January 6, 8, 11, 12, 13 and 15 with two performances each on Saturday, January 7 and Saturday, January 14.

Jay Armstrong Johnson will play the title role.

“Ever since Harold Prince adapted it for New York City Opera in 1982, Bernstein’s Candide has been an audience favorite, and remains the most successful show in the company’s history,” said Michael Capasso, General Director, New York City Opera. “I am delighted to be bringing back this iconic work as the centerpiece of this pivotal City Opera season.”

Bernstein’s comic operetta Candide is based on Voltaire’s satirical novella of the same name and follows the naïve Candide as he strives to maintain his optimism while trying to make sense of a chaotic and ruthless world. The score sparkles with some of Bernstein’s greatest music for the stage, including Cunegonde’s show-stopping “Glitter and Be Gay,” the politically charged “Auto-da-fé” scene and the powerful anthem of perseverance “Make Our Garden Grow.”

“What I have discerned from my studies on Voltaire as a writer and human and activist and philosopher is that we are not far off from the world he so adamantly and satirically opposed with his writing. The lessons it teaches feel more important now than maybe they ever have. I am honored and thrilled and nervous as I anticipate this journey called Candide. I will try with all of my heart and soul and strength to do it justice.”- Jay Armstrong Johnson

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of its world premiere this year, Bernstein’s Candide premiered on Broadway on December 1, 1956. In 1973, Harold Prince and Hugh Wheeler devised a new, one-act version of Candide, which ran on Broadway for 740 performances. Known as the “Chelsea” version, it served as the basis for New York City Opera’s “opera house version” which the company premiered under the General Directorship of Beverly Sills in 1982. The production received 34 performances over two seasons and solidified Candide’s place as an opera house standard.

Producer and director Harold Prince has been one of the most influential figures in American musical theater for six decades. He has directed the original Broadway productions of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita and The Phantom of the Opera and Stephen Sondheim’s Company, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along. His work in opera includes the original opera house version of Candide at City Opera in 1982 and 2008, and a production of Puccini’s Turandot at the Vienna State Opera in 1983 starring Eva Martón and Jose Carreras.

New York City Opera’s new production of Candide reunites him with the Emmy Award®-winning and Tony Award®-nominated American choreographer Patricia Birch, whose original choreography for Prince’s 1974 Broadway production of Candide earned her a Drama Desk Award. Birch has choreographed the original Broadway productions of A Little Night Music, Grease, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Pacific Overtures and Parade, among others. Her film credits include choreographing Grease, Grease II, The First Wives Club and The Stepford Wives. Birch returns to New York City Opera having choreographed Street Scene for the company in 1978 and the original opera house version of Candide in 1982 and 2008.

The creative team also includes scenic designer Clarke Dunham, costume designer Judith Dolan, lighting designer Ken Billington, and sound designer Abe Jacob.

For Prince’s new production of Candide for New York City Opera, an exciting cast from the worlds of Broadway, opera, television and film has been assembled.

Most notable among them is tenor Jay Armstrong Johnson who is making his New York City Opera debut starring in the title role. Johnson is well known to Berkshire audiences as one of the stars of On the Town which went from Barrington Stage Company to Broadway a couple of years ago. He also appeared in the title role of the Nikos Tsakalakos and Janet Allard musical Pool Boy as part of that company’s Musical Theatre Lab. He also made quite a splash as Anthony Hope opposite Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson in the New York Philharmonic’s production of Sweeney Todd which was also telecast on PBS. Most recently he has appeared on the TV series, Quantico.

Tony Award®-nominated Broadway veteran Gregg Edelman (original Broadway casts of City of Angels and Passion, Broadway revival of Into the Woods) makes his New York City Opera debut narrating Candide’s adventures as Voltaire in addition to portraying the philosopher Dr. Pangloss, Governor, Businessman, Police Chief, 2nd Gambler and Wisest Man.

Rising coloratura soprano Meghan Picerno makes her New York City Opera debut as Candide’s diamond-obsessed love-interest, Cunegonde. The versatile American baritone Keith Phares (The Barber of Seville, Washington National Opera; Les pêcheurs de perles, Seattle Opera; Mourning Becomes Electra, Florida Grand Opera; The Little Prince, New York City Opera) will sing the role of Cunegonde’s brother, Maximilian. Singing-actress Jessica Tyler Wright (War Horse, Sweeney Todd (revival), Broadway; Allegro, Classic Stage Company) returns to New York City Opera to reprise her role as Cunegonde’s maid Paquette, a role she first performed with the company in 2008.

Guest starring and making their New York City Opera debuts as the various characters encountered by Candide on his whirlwind quest for “the best of all possible worlds” are Chip Zien, who created the role of The Baker in the original production of Into the Woods, as Max’s Servant (Hugo), Radu (1st Bulgarian), Judge, Father Bernard, Rich Jew (Issachar), First Gambler, and Brooks Ashmanskas, who most recently appeared in the Broadway production of Shuffle Along!, as Pasha-Prefect, Baron, Grand Inquisitor and Slave Driver.

Making her New York City Opera debut in the role of the Old Lady is Linda Lavin, the television, stage and cabaret star and Tony Award®-winning actress best known for playing the title role in the television series Alice.

Shortly after announcing the original run, New York City Opera added an additional four performances and will now run for 10 performances from January 6 through January 15, at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.

For more information visit: www.nycopera.com


Dr. Voltaire, a traveling showman, narrates the marvelous adventures of the legendary hero, Candide. His fantastic tale begins in Westphalia where four young people: Cunegonde, the Baron’s beautiful daughter; Maximilian, the Baron’s equally beautiful son; Paquette, the comely serving maid; and Candide, the bastard cousin are taught by their instructor Dr. Pangloss that they live in the best of all possible worlds, and that everything that happens in it happens for the best. Their utopian life is suddenly shattered when Candide and Cunegonde fall in love and the Baron summarily exiles Candide for having the audacity to ask for her hand in marriage.

Abandoned outside the city, Candide is quickly duped into joining the invading Bulgarian army, which soon besieges the castle, slaughters the Baron and his family, and abducts Cunegonde. The four young people, along with their newfound friend the Old Lady, endure a fantastical series of adventures, mishaps, separations, and reunions that take them from Lisbon, to Spain, across the sea to the New World, and back across the sea to Turkey, experiencing the very worst that humanity has to offer. When they finally find themselves outside of Constantinople, penniless, desperate and still searching vainly for happiness, the Old Lady leads them to the cave of the Wisest Man in the World to learn a new, wiser philosophy than that which had guided them theretofore.

Performances at the Rose Theater

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall
Time Warner Center, New York, NY

Friday, January 6, 2017, 7:30PM
Saturday, January 7, 2017, 2:00PM
Saturday, January 7, 2017, 8:00PM
Sunday, January 8, 2017, 4:00PM
Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 7:30PM
Thursday, January 12, 2017, 7:30PM
Friday, January 13, 2017, 7:30PM
Saturday, January 14, 2017, 2:00PM
Saturday, January 14, 2017, 8:00PM
Sunday, January 15, 2017, 4:00PM

For tickets, please visit or contact:
Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office
Broadway at 60th Street, Ground Floor
Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Sunday, 12:00PM – 6:00PM
CenterCharge: (212) 721-6500

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