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glebb

"Candide"

9 posts in this topic

:(

I love listening to my original broadway cast recording CD of "Candide".

Have any of you ever seen a production of this devastatingly beautiful Leonard Bernstein musical?

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Saw and loved the B'way revival in '73 or '74, but don't quiz me on it. :(

I was with a very special companion :wub: , and it felt like the best of all possible worlds. :)

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I saw that production too, glebb, but it must have been one of those trips to NY where I saw too many shows in too short a time, and that one, while I remember that I liked it, has really faded out of memory. Sorry. :(

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Chief recollection: sitting in lighting booth during college production with friend who had had a few too many mint juleps on Derby Day. Got to help set lights (lots of fun). Got to hear director yell at friend over the headset when he missed his cues (also lots of fun). LOVED the music.

Better recollection: A choir singing "Make Our Garden Grow" at the wedding of two friends who had met while singing in the choir.

glebb, your query sent me running for my CD (to which I am listening this minute). I was surprised to see that the book was by Lillian Hellman. THE Lillian Hellman?

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THE Lillian Hellman!

And also dialogue by Betty Comden and Adolph Green!

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I wondered why a show with such glorious music would not be more widely produced. I found the answer in the liner notes to my CD:

Eventually, Bersnstein's enthusiasm translated into one of the strongest scores he ever composed for the stage -- something that did not escape the attention of music-theater fans, who have long known that Candide is a brilliant show that was only the victim of its book and that deserved better than the 73-performance run it achieved on its first go-round.

The question of the book has often been a sore point in the musical theater and the reason behind many failures on the Broadway stage.  The creators of Candide seemed to be plagued by an almost insurmountable task, that of translating the satiric tones and the apparently nonsensical plot of the original work into terms that would be acceptable within the context of a Broadway show.  Try as they might, the many talented people who worked on that aspect of the show (Lillian Hellman, of course, but also the lyricists Richard Wilbur, John Latouche and Dorothy Parker (Dorothy Parker!!! -- T.F.) only rarely struck the right note.

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A little background on Candide: It was 1759, and practically everything was going beautifully in Europe, and the ruling philosophy of an optimistic Enlightenment was "All's for the best in this best of all possible worlds." It was the annus mirabilis. Then two things happened. First, there was a devastating defeat of the French army in America at Quebec. Then a huge earthquake destroyed the city of Lisbon. The intelligentsia were scandalized once again with the problem of theodicy: How can an all-good God allow such bad things to happen to people? The answer was simple: Those people had hidden sins and this was God's Punishment on them. Montcalm had died for his laziness, and the Portuguese were heretics anyway.

Voltaire, famously agnostic and genuinely skeptical, but still a humanist, believing in the perfectability of the human situation, was incensed and wrote a little book about an innocent set loose in the world with the teachings of the Enlightenment from his teacher, Dr. Pangloss, that all's for the best...&c. In covering the world, Candide, our hero, finds good and evil all over the place, and by the end of the story he has reached one conclusion: All we can do is live out our lives, and take one thing at a time, doing the best we know, and controlling our own little part of the world. Do the best you can and if there is an all-good God, he won't hold it against you if you fail. "Nous cultiver notre jardin", as a Hessian general slightly misquoted Voltaire in a journal entry during a spell as a POW of the Continental Army during the American War for Independence.

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To add here: I didn't care much for the 70s revival of the show, as the director Harold Prince had dumbed down the libretto so that it became a little more than a burlesque featuring the versatile talents of Lewis J. Stadlen as Pangloss and an assortment of other characters. Prince said that the original show was killed because it "made people think too hard". :angry:

Bernstein reworked the show once more before he died, and the production by the Chicago Lyric Opera was a model of how good this version could be. I still prefer the original version.

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Thank you Carbro, Victoria, Treefrog and Mel!

I have enjoyed reading your posts on "Candide". :wink:

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