'Candide' wins top honor in national competition

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‘Candide’ wins top honor in national competition

UNL's production of "Candide" took first place in its division in the National Opera Association's Competition.
Doug Smith | Courtesy
UNL's production of "Candide" took first place in its division in the National Opera Association's Competition.

The Glenn Korff School of Music and Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film’s collaborative, large-scale musical production, “Candide” was awarded first prize in Division IV of the 2012-2013 Opera Production Competition sponsored by the National Opera Association.

The award will be presented to “Candide’s” director Alisa Belflower at the NOA national convention in New York City on Jan. 11.

The NOA, founded in 1955, seeks to promote a greater appreciation of opera and music theatre, to enhance pedagogy and performing activities and to increase performance opportunities by supporting projects that improve the scope and quality of opera. The competition is judged by a panel of professional directors of staged productions.

Typically there are four to six divisions in this competition annually. Division IV was defined by the size of the production’s budget and the fact that the cast included both graduate and undergraduate students. A total of 18 awards in six divisions were given in this year’s NOA competition.

Belflower, coordinator of UNL’s musical theatre studies, said the recognition was well earned.

The performance marked the first staged production with full orchestra of Mary Zimmerman’s new adaptation of the Bernstein opera. Belflower said UNL negotiated for six months with Zimmerman and the Bernstein estate to secure the rights to the production.

The Bernstein estate also vetted Belflower to be certain of her qualifications to take on the project.

The production finally took to the stage in February 2013 after five months of pre-production development, nearly seven weeks of rehearsals and an opening night cancellation due to a snowstorm. In total, more than 150 students were involved.

“It is a distinct and hard-earned honor to be awarded first prize in a national production competition,” Belflower said. “This production was potentially the largest fully staged production in our college’s history of collaborative musical productions and a shining example of what artistic collaboration can create and achieve”

The cast was made up entirely of UNL students. Tyler White, professor and director of orchestras, conducted the student orchestra. The production was sponsored by the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

“Candide” is the fourth UNL opera production to receive first-place honors in its division at the NOA competition in the last 15 years. The other three award-winning productions, all directed by William Shomos, director of opera, are “Dead Man Walking” in 2008; “Street Scene” in 2001; and “Cosi fan Tutte” in 1998.

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