Rehearsals for Candide by Surrey Opera are now well underway. The scenes are starting to slot together like jigsaw pieces, and I’m looking forward to the coming week to finalise the blocking, (the setting of movements, character’s intentions and gestures) for the last few scenes.
It has been a real joy to explore the arc of Cunegonde’s growth through this process. She begins the operetta as the adolescent school girl, who is the daughter of a Baron and Baroness, she lives in a grand home surrounded by love and the comfort provided by wealth. Cunegonde is taught by Dr. Pangloss that ‘this is the best of all possible worlds’. A philosophy that the play questions dramatically throughout.
After Pangloss’s lesson, Cunegonde experiences the instant chemistry between her and Candide, which begins to bud and blossom into a sweet first love. However, the first love duet is quite humorous as they both list their desires for the future, without really listening to the other. If they had paid attention, they would have realised their dreams were quite dissimilar. If this was a different story, perhaps they would have had a discussion, found a comprise and lived happily ever after.
But sadly, that is not the case, this love story is interrupted by the horrors of war with their lives turned upside down, Cunegonde, now orphaned and without the means to support herself, is taken to Paris where she is shared between two men. Her innocence is quickly stripped away and she must learn how to survive using only her instincts, clouding the emotional heartache with her blinding optimism. These chaotic occurrences are interspersed with moments of hope each time her path crosses again with Candide. Unfortunately, time and time again she has to fend for herself and use her womanly wiles in order to survive.
Jumping to the end, in order to not spoil the plot too much. Just before the finale, Candide finds Cunegonde in a Casino in Venice, attending to the needs of the Male visitors and is appalled by what he sees. He asks in his aria if this is what he’s been fighting for and if her soul is dead. It is a heart-wrenching moment as Cunegonde decides whether to interject or if it’s better to stay silent knowing the awful situations she has lived through in hope that they would meet again and reunite their relationship. It is her strength at this moment that helped me to understand her character more deeply and realise the sincerity of her love for Candide.
It is a very complex story with multiple twist and turns, I do hope that I bring her character to life and do her story justice. I can’t wait to work alongside my brilliants colleagues in the coming weeks as we finally get to perform at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall
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