Kristin Chenoweth, the Tony award-winning star who made her name as Glinda in the original Broadway cast of Wicked, is to make her English National Opera debut in a new co-production, with Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and La Scala in Milan, of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Chenoweth will play the part of Cunegonde in the production which opens at the London Coliseum for a limited season of 13 performances from 23 June.

Candide tells the story of a young man, Candide, who is determined to follow his instructor's creed of mindless optimism. Even after being banished from his homeland, captured by Bulgarians, beaten by the Spanish Inquisition, robbed of everything he owns, and torn repeatedly from the woman he loves, Candide still clings to the philosophy that everything is for the best in this, "the best of all possible worlds." He and his friends eventually find themselves seeking guidance from the Wisest Man in the World - a ghost from their past who has a surprising revelation for them!

Based on Voltaire's novel, Candide first opened on Broadway in 1956 at the Martin Beck Theatre, starring Barbara Cook. Despite the names involved, the musical only ran for 73 performances. A 1997 Broadway revival at the Gershwin Theatre, where Wicked is currently playing, starred Jim Dale and Andrea Martin. The musical features music by Leonard Bernstein, and a book adapted by Hugh Wheeler, then adapted again by Robert Carsden and Ian Burton. The lyrics are by Richard Wilbur with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein.

Candide last appeared in London in a 1999 National Theatre production directed by John Caird. It starred Alex Kelly in Chenoweth’s role and Daniel Evans, star of Menier Chocolate Factory hit Sunday in the Park with George, as the title character. Other names which featured in that particular production included Simon Russell Beale, Simon Day, David Burt and Clive Rowe. A cast recording was released in 2000.

Chenoweth has already previously sung the role of Cunegonde in a New York Philharmonic production of Candide. She has also starred in New York in The Fantasticks, Scapin, Steel Pier, A New Brain, Epic Proportions, Strike Up the Band, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and The Apple Tree. She won a Tony Award for her performance as Sally Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and has recorded two solo albums. She makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in March 2010 as Samira in John Corigliano's The Ghost of Versailles.

Director Robert Carsen, who is responsible for this new adaptation, has already presented his production to audiences at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris back in 2006 and at La Scala in Milan last year. La Scala initially cancelled the run of the piece because it was reportedly not "in line with artistic programming", some suggesting that the portrayal of Silvio Berlusconi, a former Italian prime minister, was too controversial. After changes were made, the production was reinstated at La Scala where it ran over the Summer.

Joining Chenoweth in the cast of this British premiere is Toby Spence in the title role. Full casting is to be announced at a later date. Also making his ENO debut at the London Coliseum is choreographer Rob Ashford, recently acclaimed for his direction of Parade at the Donmar Warehouse. Set designs are by Michael Levine with costumes by Buki Shiff and lighting by Carsen and Peter Van Praet. Rumon Gamba, who recently conducted Candide with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall to great acclaim, will take the same role with the ENO.

Booking for the production is now open.

- by Tom Atkins