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Candide


Musique: Leonard Bernstein
Paroles: Richard Wilbur
Livret: Lillian Hellman

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Candide is an operetta with music composed by Leonard Bernstein, based on the novella of the same name by Voltaire. The operetta was first performed in 1956 with a libretto by Lillian Hellman; but since 1974 it has been generally performed with a book by Hugh Wheeler which is more faithful to Voltaire's novel. The primary lyricist was the poet Richard Wilbur. Other contributors to the text were John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, John Mauceri, and John Wells. Maurice Peress and Hershy Kay contributed orchestrations. Although unsuccessful at its premiere, Candide has now overcome the unenthusiastic reaction of early audiences and critics and achieved enormous popularity. It is very popular among major music schools as a student show because of the quality of its music and the opportunities it offers to student singers.

After the overture our fable opens in Westphalia, at Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck.
Candide, illegitimate nephew to the Baron, is scorned by the Baron's son, Maximilian, and loves his beautiful daughter, Cunégonde. Maximilian is in love with the maid, Paquette. The young people are happy because their professor, Doctor Pangloss, instils in them an undiluted optimism - an optimism that is the best of all possible worlds. In the Schloss park, Candide and Cunégonde declare their love. The Baron, however, is outraged at suggestions of their marriage, considering Candide a social inferior. The young man is expelled from the castle and wanders alone, still retaining his ingrained optimism. Though he has lost his love he consols himself with the thought that it must be for a reason.
Candide is press-ganged into the Bulgar army, which attacks and destroys the Schloss. The inhabitants are killed, including Cunégonde who is first raped. Full of sadness, Candide roams on until he comes across the ever-optimistic Pangloss, who has been wounded and now sports a metal nose. With no money, they sail to Lisbon on a merchant ship, where they witness a catastrophic earthquake. Then they are arrested as heretics, Pangloss hanged and Candide flogged. But, still hopeful, Candide travels on.
In Paris, a mysterious beauty has great men fighting over her. Candide recognises Cunégonde who brushes aside her apparent rebirth. Killing the two men who dominate her life, Cunégonde flees to Cadiz with her jewels, Candide and her companion, a game Old Lady. They are robbed and the Old Lady sings for money, telling her listeners how easily she can swap nationalities. Accepting a commission to fight for the Jesuits in South America, the companions set sail.
In Buenos Aires, they are startled to discover Maximilian and Paquette, both apparently risen from the dead, just like Cunégonde. The Governor of Buenos Aires falls for Cunégonde and, again, Maximilian deems Candide unfit for his sister. Inadvertently, Candide stabs Maximilian and flees into the forest. After many adventures, including discovering Eldorado, he sends treasure to buy Cunégonde back from the Governor, and a message for her to meet him in Venice.
Working his way to Italy, in the Dutch colony of Surinam, Candide meets Martin, a professional pessimist. But even Martin's arguments cannot dent the young man's hopeful outlook. To get to Cunégonde. Candide buys a ship from the trader Vanderdendur. The vessel sinks, but Candide is rescued by a raft on which he discovers the miraculously restored Pangloss. Reaching Venice at last, they find that Maximilian has been reanimated for a third time. He is the Prefect of Police there and is under the thumb of crooks. Moreover, Cunégonde. and the Old Lady slave day and night to earn a living in the casino.
Together again, the four attempt to console each other and buy a small farm outside the city to start afresh. Here, Candide considers his life. His illusions have been shattered, especially about the self-seeking Cunégonde. Then it dawns upon him that life is really neither 'good' nor 'bad', but there to be lived and made the best of. He is reconciled to Cunégonde. And his love for her is now on a new, mature basis.

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