In 2003, Boston Conservatory did the best production I've ever seen of Leonard Bernstein's Candide, the musical with the greatest afterlife of any Broadway flop. The score owes something to every composer from Gioacchino Rossini to Arthur Sullivan to Aaron Copland, and yet it comes together as pure Bernstein: memorably tuneful, hilariously parodic, and, yes, moving. Stephen Lord, Boston Lyric Opera's former music director, who has returned to Boston as head of the New England Conservatory Opera Department, led a sweeping, teasing, breezy, colorful performance, smartly "semi-staged" by Seán Curran, with a student cast and orchestra who were talented but — except for the refined Candide and the uninhibited Cunegonde (who mugged too much and forgot some of the wittiest lines in her big aria, "Glitter and Be Gay") — not quite ready for prime time. The expert professional ringers — Luretta Bybee (Old Lady) and Ron Raines (Pangloss/Narrator) — walked away with the honors.
At a mainly student recital at Boston Conservatory celebrating Liszt's bicentennial, virtuoso pianist (and faculty member) Janice Weber played a real rarity: Lenore, a "melodrama" in which the piano accompanies, like a soundtrack, a gothic ballad by German poet Gottfried Bürger about a young woman whose lover returns from war and carries her away — only he happens to be dead. Sir Walter Scott's rhyming translation was read with a delicious sense of both the poem's intensity and its ludicrousness by former Boston Globe classical-music critic Richard Dyer. Nice to know there's life after reviewing.
After 12 years of visiting, Teatro Lirico d'Europa brought an excellent La traviata for its final Boston appearance at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. An all-Bulgarian cast featured the accomplished and moving Violetta of soprano Snejana Dramcheva and the engaged conducting of Christian Deliso. The audience wouldn't let them go, and there were cheers when artistic director Giorgio Lalov announced over the PA system: "So long — we will be back!" Soon, I hope.
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