Karen Kamensek: Conducting Candide, WNO

June 8, 2023 by

Karen Kamensek conducts the new Welsh National Opera production of Bernestein’s Candide which plays at Wales Millennium Centre on June 22, 23 and 24 and tours to Truro, Llandudno, Oxford, Birmingham, Brecon until July 15.


What do you think will most appeal to audience members about the opera?

The director James Bonas, and his creative team, have created something which will be visually very engaging! It is an action-packed opera, with many scenes needing to be changed within the shortest amount of time.  I think they’ve come up with fantastic solutions!


What do you think will be the most engaging aspects of the music genre/s for those audiences?

There are so many singable tunes to take home!


There is a warning of anachronistic themes. Have you liaised with the director/ librettist to make sure that if trying to make this more palatable to 21st century sensibilities (of some people) it does not affect how you approach the music? Or has it?

I couldn’t think of a piece that mirrors the struggles, trials and tribulations, ironies, sarcasm, disease, racism, and violence of our times more than Candide.  The human condition doesn’t change much over time, and Voltaire’s story and the lessons within it remain timeless. While certain elements may seem of another period, one can certainly relate them to modern tendencies.  For me, it is the Monty Python, Mel Brooks, or Saturday Night Live of opera.


Have you had to work closely with the singers to manage to embrace musically such vast roller coaster of work in this show for WNO? Have any of them sung their roles before?

One always works closely on the music in any opera, however musical and operatic styles do meet in the middle in Candide.


Do you think the Voltaire novella itself remains the heart of the production?

Bernstein’s piece is pretty faithful to the novella, despite there being several versions of the piece to choose from.


Have you worked with any of the cast or members of the creative team before?

James Bonas and I worked together at the BBC Proms in 2022, and other than that, with the exception of anyone who was in Dead Man Walking with me in 2019 here at WNO, we’re all collaborating for the first time!



Leave a Reply