11817141 10153149157133335 2669602942254783160 nAmanda Williams

Props Master


This is Amanda's first summer as props master(mind) for Chautauqua Opera. We asked her a few questions:

Q: What does a typical day at the “office” look like for you?

AW: No days are "typical". Sometimes I'm out shopping for a prop or driving to every thrift store in a 50 mile radius trying to find some sort of pewter pitcher or a very specific set of chairs a director and a designer have their heart set on. Sometimes I'm making a bloody warrior head. Sometimes I'm scouring the internet for foliage or goblets. That's one of the reasons why I love doing props - my days are never dull. I've yet to find a theatre or opera company that gives me a routine schedule.

Photo by Sarah Cohn

Q: What do you love about opera?

I love the grand scale of show we put on, and I'm constantly in awe of the powerful voices of the performers in the shows I prop. I primarily work in theatre during the rest of the year, so it's interesting to build up to this grand spectacle that only has one or two performances, and to get the vast quantities of props required for the various roles the chorus plays. God bless the chorus members for being able to flit between 3-4 roles in any given show.

It's also interesting because some of the things we do in opera make absolutely no sense for a theatre show; the theatre I work at during August-May has a very small, intimate stage. I am usually having to really polish the fine details of each prop for peak realism. In opera, we won't see those fine details because the closest audience member is still usually 30-40 feet away from the stage, and those details just don't read once you get up into the balcony. So we exaggerate, create items that have high contrast, or sometimes (in the case of the skulls for Macbeth) we add glitter. It's fun to get to do that.




georgiGeorgianna Eberhard

Wig and Makeup Designer


Q: What does a typical day at the “office” look like for you?

GE: Our "typical" day is always different. One day, we are doing wig fittings, where we prepare the artist's hair as if we were doing an actual performance, then try on different "looks" for them. Sometimes, it's just one wig; sometimes it's more than one wig, different hair colors, etc. On men, we sometimes need to match their own hair color to fake mustaches and sideburns. Other days, we are washing 12-20 wigs like human heads-shampoo, shampoo, condition, set, then style! Other days, we are giving makeup classes to staff or young artists. We like to play jazz or blues and keep in a groove!

Photo by Sarah Cohn

Q: What do you love about opera?

EG: I fell in love with opera when I was 11, listening to the Moonstruck recording of La bohème. So, over 50 years of much love and passion to this art form!

I love that it is bigger and grander than life, but reflects all of life's joys and sorrows in such glorious music. It can express the inexpressible-longing, love, hate, devotion, sadness, madness, despair-in a way that one can recognize it immediately.

Some of my favorite operas are Verdi's Otello, Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame, Strauss's Elektra, Salome, and Die Frau Ohne Schatten.





"Supers" (Supernumeraries) are people of all ages who volunteer their time and act as "extras" in Chautauqua Opera productions. Volunteers may perform as waiters, guards, townsfolk, etc. according to the production's needs. We look for enthusiastic and dependable people of all ages and types. 

If a need for Supers in the 2020 season arises, it will be announced in June. If you have a residence in Chautauqua County and would like to be notified when this announcement is made, please email auditions@chautopera.org.

Children's Chorus

For children who sing, the Chautauqua Opera often offers the opportunity to perform throughout the summer season. Under the supervision of Music Administrator/ Chorus Master, Carol Rausch, the children's chorus is exposed to a rich and varied musical experience as well as an authentic theatre environment. The children's chorus will work with directors, singers, actors and musicians. As a result of all these contacts, they can learn teamwork and responsibility as well as respect for their own talents and those of their fellow performers. Many have gone on to further their drama and musical experience; all have deepened their appreciation of the performing arts.

We anticipate a need for a Children's Chorus in the 2020 season. Details will be announced in June. 





(Revised and updated by Jay Lesenger – Chautauqua, July 2018)

No two productions of Bernstein’s Candide have ever been presented the same way since its Broadway premiere in 1956. The book has been changed and musical numbers moved around or, regrettably, omitted, all in the search for the “best of all possible” Candide’s. In its long history of survival there have been two Broadway revivals, numerous opera house productions and staged concerts. The show’s journey has been just as tumultuous as that of the title character!


January - Candide or Optimism, a short novel written in three days by Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) is published. By February of the same year, Candide is printed simultaneously in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Geneva and Brussels.


May - The Vatican places Candide on its index of forbidden books. It is burned in Geneva and banned in Paris. The novel becomes enormously popular.


August - Leonard Bernstein is born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.


Bernstein is appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

November - He gains national prominence when he steps in on very short notice for an ailing Bruno Walter to conduct a live radio broadcast of the Philharmonic. The next day, The New York Times carries the story on the front page. He is 25.

Fall - Novelist and playwright Lillian Hellman suggests to Bernstein the idea of working together on a musical version of Voltaire’s Candide after abandoning the idea of an opera based on the life of Eva Peron.


January - Bernstein writes to his wife Felicia: “I have decided to go along with Lillian on Candide - imagine, after having written her a letter saying no and tearing it up.” Work on Candide is delayed while Bernstein writes the score for Elia Kazan’s film On The Waterfront. June - Bernstein rents a house on Martha’s Vineyard and work on Candide begins in earnest. To a friend he writes, my life is all Lillian Hellman and Candide.” He and Felicia write the lyrics to “I Am Easily Assimilated.” John Latouche is brought in as lyricist, but with only the first act completed by December, Hellman and Bernstein decide to drop him and write the lyrics themselves.


January - Work on the show is at a standstill while Bernstein conducts opera on a four month tour in Italy. 

June - His one act opera, Trouble in Tahiti, written in 1952, has its Broadway premiere. Arthur Laurents approaches Bernstein with an idea for a musical called East Side Story (about conflicts between Jews and Irish Catholics on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan).  Bernstein immediately begins composition and tentative lyrics as well.

July - Tyrone Guthrie agrees to direct Candide.

October - Stephen Sondheim is asked to write lyrics for the Laurents/Bernstein show (now called West Side Story and focusing on the conflict between white and Puerto Rican gangs).

December - Poet Richard Wilbur becomes the new lyricist for Candide. All of Latouche’s contributions are discarded with the exception of “You Were Dead, You Know” and “My Love,” both revised by Wilber.


May - Bernstein, Hellman, Wilbur and Guthrie convene on Martha’s Vineyard to complete work on Candide.

October - Previews for Candide begin at the Colonial Theater in Boston. It runs for three weeks, then moves to New Haven for a week long engagement. 

December 1 - Candide opens on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre. 

December 9 - The original cast album, with Robert Rounseville, Barbara Cook, Max Adrian and Irra Petina is recorded, thus preserving the score for posterity. It becomes a cult album. The Broadway production receives decidedly mixed reviews and closes after 73 performances on February 2, 1957.  Tyrone Guthrie said that his “direction skipped along with the effortless grace of a freight train heavy-laden on a steep gradient....Rossini and Cole Porter seemed to have been rearranging Götterdammerung.”

Fall - Previews for West Side Story begin in Washington.

September 27 - West Side Story opens on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater to rave reviews. It is recognized as a groundbreaking show and score.


Leonard Bernstein is named Music Director of the New York Philharmonic.


September - Michael Stewart stages a concert version of Candide which tours for seven weeks. Robert Rounseville repeats his Broadway role of Candide. 

Fall - Hellman and Stewart work on revisions for the first London production. Hellman writes to Bernstein, “Its only with the greatest tensing of fists that I can bear any more work on Candide.....the trouble with Candide is that it didn’t fail.”


The revised version opens in London, including the newly written duet “We are Women.” It closes after 60 performances.


July - Candide, directed by Gordon Davidson, opens in Los Angeles.


Summer - Second City’s Sheldon Patinkin stages a concert version at Chicago’s Grant Park.


November - Another concert version, adapted by Sheldon Patinkin and Michael Stewart, is presented at Philharmonic Hall, NY, to celebrate Bernstein’s 50th birthday.


July - Patinkin’s fully staged production opens at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. Bernstein composes Martin’s ironic laughing song “Words, Words, Words,” for that production. Plans are made to move it to Broadway, but they never come to pass.

September - Bernstein’s Mass opens the new John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.


March - Producer and director Hal Prince writes to Bernstein: “I am intrigued by the possibility of rethinking Candide in modest terms. To this end I have talked with Hugh Wheeler (book writer of Steven Sondheim’s A Little Night Music) who is in the Caribbean with Lillian’s original script, the published version and Voltaire.” 

December - A new one-act version of Candide, directed by Hal Prince, is produced by the Chelsea Theater Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After 40 performances, it is transferred to the Broadway Theater where it runs for 740 performances.  This “environmental” production, featuring new lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is recorded complete with all music and dialogue. Bernstein is not personally involved with the production.


October - The New York City Opera mounts Candide, directed by Hal Prince and based on his shorter Broadway production. This new two-act version restores the full chorus, orchestrations and many musical numbers that had been previously cut. This version is given 34 performances over the next three seasons. This production is later recorded on disk and broadcast on PBS. Lillian Hellman writes to Bernstein: “You are too unfeeling to know that I could not have wanted a hack like Hugh Wheeler to fool around with my work, and I have never been very fond of the work of Hal Prince.”


June - Lillian Hellman dies.


May - The Scottish Opera mounts a new version of Candide, directed by Johnathan Milller and John Wells and conducted by John Mauceri. This production is also recorded and moves to the Old Vic in London for a limited engagement.


December - Bernstein conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in two concert performances of Candide at the Barbican Centre in London. This version which contains almost all the music he had composed over the years for Candide is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in December.


October - Leonard Bernstein dies. The following year, his “final revised and definitive version” is released to great acclaim and receives the Grammy Award for Classical Album of the Year.


May - The Opera Theater of St. Louis presents the American stage premiere of the “final revised version”.

November - Hal Prince directs the Lyric Opera of Chicago in his version of Candide.


November - Gordon Davidson presents the West Coast premier of the “final revised version” at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.


April - Hal Prince adapts his two-act version for Broadway at the Gershwin Theater. This production plays 103 performances and is also recorded.


February - Yet another new version of Candide adapted by John Caird opens at the Laurence Olivier Theater, London and plays thru January 2000. A cast recording is produced as well.


November - Opera Boston produces the “opera house” version, directed by Bill Fabris, at the Cutler Majestic Theatre; just twenty feet from the stage door of the Colonial Theater where the authors’ entered for the  premiere in 1956 .

May - Actor and director Lonny Price adapts and shapes the Hugh Wheeler “opera house” script for a semi-staged production of Candide. He stages this new version for the New York Philharmonic with Kristin Chenowith as Cunegonde, Patti Lupone as the Old Lady, Thomas Allen as Voltaire/Pangloss and Paul Groves in the title role. This delightful performance is broadcast on PBS and recorded on DVD.


February - Candide has its Palm Beach Opera premiere in the Lonny Price/New York Philharmonic version, in a new staging by Jay Lesenger. This is the first time this adaptation is performed as a fully staged proscenium production.

July­ - This staging has its premiere at Chautauqua Opera.

*Bill Fabris (1959 - 2017) was a well known and much beloved director, choreographer and actor. He was also a beloved member of the Chautauqua Opera community for many seasons. These notes were prepared for his Boston production of Candide in 2004.

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