Saturday, July 4, 2009


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 5th of July 2009 at
3 - 6.10 pm

OVERVIEW (Wikipedia)
PREVIEW (with audio-visual trailer)
REVIEW (with photographs)

BERNSTEIN: Candide, an operetta in two acts
Candide............................................. Toby Spence
Pangloss............................................. Alex Jennings
Cunégonde......................................... Marnie Breckenridge
Old Lady............................................ Beverley Klein
Voltaire.............................................. Alex Jennings
Paquette............................................. Mairéad Buicke
Maximilian.......................................... Mark Stone
Cacambo........................................... Ferlyn Brass
Baron/Informer/Inquisitor/Steward...... James Glenister
Sailor/Inquisitor/Steward/Evangelist..... Simon Butteriss
Officer/Inquisitor/Don Cardinale.......... Graeme Danby
Officer/James the Anabaptist............... Philip Sheffield
Baroness............................................ Claire Mitcher
English National Opera Chorus & Orch/Rumon Gamba
(recorded at the
London Coliseum by the BBC)

Leonard Bernstein's Candide is a comedy with a happy ending but tragic events at every turn; terrible things happen to the optimistic characters, including death, but they always bounce back and get over it, regularly being resurrected, in fact (or fantasy). The work is not a 'musical' (play), like his West Side Story, and is not an opera, like his Trouble in Tahiti, but is classed as an operetta; though the composer's 'final revised version' (1989), performed in a concert, is something like an oratorietta.

This production by Robert Carsen (2006) updates it to the 20th century, with Westphalia saying West-failure. It will be good to hear the dialogue in between the singing, and hear if not see the dancing. This looks like the one with visual features that should be seen: Cunégonde as Marilyn Monroe, for example. But the Preview and the Review give us samples (moving and still). The introduction of Voltaire himself (with a wavy wig) is a novelty.

Leonard Bernstein, a musical genius, was born in 1918, died too soon in 1990 (I blame cigarettes and whisky), but was still alive in 1989 when his recording of Candide was made. Candide was based on the novel (or novella) by Voltaire (1759), 86 pages in the modern edition I have in my hand; I remember reading it in French when I was at school, finding that Voltaire’s style and language is so clear. It is subtitled L’Optimisme, and it pursues the philosophical thought that this is “the best of all possible worlds”.

For Lenny Bernstein, Candide was always a work in progress, constantly being revised. He conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, in a defiitive concert performance, available on audio disc and video disc. Bernstein and Adolph Green tell us what is going on. Watch for Jerry Hadley (Candide, but in real life Jerry got weighed down with troubles and shot himself), June Anderson (Cunégonde) Christa Ludwig (Old Lady), Della Jones (Paquette), Kurt Ollmann (Maximilian), and eventually Nicolai Gedda (three roles in Act 2).

Candide, or Optimism (MDCCLIX). Reading Voltaire’s novella again in the original French (on the title page he jokes that it was translated from German, then believed to be the least harmonious of all the European languages) I have been amused (and appalled) by his satire on the beliefs and practices and events of his own time (the horrendous Lisbon earthquake; the burning alive of alleged heretics; the execution of an English admiral for not winning a victory over his French opponent; Italian opera has lousy librettos and bad actors).

[1] The busy-busy overture. Candide will roam over Europe and America.
[1a] Westphalia Chorale, “All hail Westphalia”, and that is where Candide hails from.
[2] "Life is happiness indeed". Candide is the illegitimate nephew of a Baron, whose castle he lives in, with the Baroness and her son Maximilian, who both look down on him as their inferior, but the sweet daughter Cunégonde loves him, and he is very happy.
[3] He is ‘optimistic’, because his teacher Pangloss has taught him that this is "the best of all possible worlds", in which everything is wisely planned, and is right and good.
The maid Paquette gets along well with the tutor Pangloss, who gives her lessons in elementary physics, in the bushes.
[4] "Oh, Happy We". C and C both agree, life together will be lovely:
HE: Soon, when we think we can afford it, we’ll build a modest little farm.
SHE: We’ll buy a yacht and live aboard it, rolling in luxury and stylish charm. //Cows and chickens / Social whirls //Peas and cabbage / Ropes of pearls //Smiling babies /Marble halls // Sunday picnics / Costume balls.
For his presumption in reaching above his station, Candide is expelled from the Schloss.
[5] "It must be so": My world is dust now, and all I loved is dead, Oh, let me trust now in what my master said: ‘There is a sweetness in every woe’, it must be so.
[6] "Sieg Heil Westphalia". Candide is press-ganged into the army of the brutal Bulgars (the Prussians are meant); they slaughter everyone in his Schloss.
[7] Candide’s lament. Cunégonde was reportedly raped and ripped (but she will be resurrected, though in the book she reveals later that she was saved by an officer); Maximilian will return as a Jesuit, and Pangloss will be revived in a mortuary.
[8] When Pangloss meets Candide again he tells how he contracted syphilis, but he is not complaining. "Dear boy, you will not hear me speak with sorrow or with rancor of what has shrivelled up my cheek, and blasted it with canker."
They sail with a merchant to Lisbon, see a volcano explode, and thirty thousand people killed in an earthquake; but Pangloss argues it must be for the best. They are arrested as heretics.
[9] What a day for an auto-da-fé. Pangloss continues his long account of how syphilis (allegedly introduced by Columbus) passed from person to person and to Paquette and himself.
He is hanged. Candide is flogged, and he resumes his travels.
[10] "It must be me." Candide is apparently seeing unkindness and darkness everywhere, but he presumes it must be his own blindness hiding the kindness and sunlight.
[11] The Paris Waltz. Cunégonde has turned up in Paris, the shared mistress of a Jew (Don Issachar) and a Christian prelate (the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris). The Jew has her on Tuesday, Thursday, and his Sabbath (Saturday); the Christian has access on Wedensday (or Wenzdey), Friday, and his Sabbath (Sunday); disputes may occur about Friday and Saturday night (the beginning and end of the Jewish Sabbath).
[12] Cunégonde laments. "Glitter and be gay, that's the role I play; forced to bend my soul to a sordid role." Nevertheless the trinkets that go with the job (for example, a twenty-carat earring) are very endearing; if she's not pure, at least her jewels are; observe how bravely she conceals the dreadful shame she feels.
[13] "You were dead you know." Candide is astonished when he discovers Cunégonde. He reminds her that she was shot and bayoneted. True, but love finds a way, and she changes the subject. They are now reunited after so much pain.
Unfortunately, and inadvertently, Candide stabs the Jew and the Cardinal to death. They flee to Cadiz, together with Cunégonde's jewels and the old lady who has been guarding her. She tells them her life story (through the mouth of the narrator): daughter of a Polish Pope, abducted by a pirate, enslaved by Turks, and in a siege one of her buttocks was used as emergency rations (more details in [20] below). As they listen intently, their goods are stolen. She offers to sing for their supper.
[14] The Old Lady's Tango. "I am easily assimilated." She starts speaking Spanish immediately.
[15] Quartet Finale. The French police are in pursuit, so Candide accepts a commission to fight for the Jesuits in South America. "Once again we must be gone, moving onward to the New world.... Farewell to the Old! We're bound for the realms of Gold!"

[16] Universal Good: “Have we learned and understood, everything that is, is good; everything that is, is planned, is wisely planned, is right and good?”
After that lesson in “Intelligent Design”, we resume the picaresque tale of Candide the optimist.
By chance, the whole family arrives in Buenos Aires at the same time. Maximilian and Paquette (the walking dead) are disguised as slave-girls. Don Fernando (et cetera, a list of names longer than his moustache) the Governor (Nicolai Gedda, in Bernstein's recording) is attracted to Maximilian, but settles for Cunégonde, and woos her with a serenade.
[17] “Poets have said love is undying; don’t be misled, they were all lying.... Why talk of morals when springtime is flying? Why end in quarrels, reproaches, and sighing, crying for love, my love?.... [But] since you’re so pure. I shall betroth you, my love, though I feel sure I’ll come to loathe you, my love....”
Max is taken away by an amorous Jesuit father.
The old woman tells Candide the police are pursuing him, and he flees into the jungle.
[18] The two ladies celebrate their conquest of the Governor: “We are women.... Every male I meet must acclaim for weeks my twinkling thighs my flaxen cheeks, my memorable mammaries like Alpine peaks, high above a wine-dark sea....”
[19] Pilgrim’s procession, including Maximilian (now a Jesuit father) and Paquette (Jesuit abbess):
“Come, heathen of America! Come , see the new domains of God! Ye who in darkness plod, come and dwell where Satan’s hoof has never trod.... in this new Eden Garden”.
Candide is joyfully reunited with them, and he tells Maximilian that Cunégonde is also miraculously alive, and he intends to marry her; but Max is outraged at the the thought of his sister marrying a social inferior, and he attacks Candide, who accidentally kills him, and must flee back into the jungle.
Three years have passed; in the Governor’s palace the two ladies are suffering the miseries of the rich and idle.
[20] Quiet! (the governor repeatedly interjects). Lady: “... I have suffered a lot and I’m certainly not unaware that this life has its black side; I have starved in a ditch, I’ve been burned for a witch, and I’m missing one half of my backside. I’ve been beaten and whipped, and repeatedly stripped, and forced into all kinds of whoredom; but I’m finding of late that the very worst fate is to perish of comfort and boredom.... But I’d far rather be in a tempest at sea, or a bloody North African riot, than to sit in this dump on what’s left of my rump and put up with this terrible quiet!
[21] Orchestral interlude. Candide and Cacambo (who?) take to a boat and drift into a dark cavern, and the stream leads them to El Dorado.
[22] Candide’s ballad of Eldorado: “a land of happy people, just and kind and bold and free...They have no words for fear and greed, for lies and war, revenge and rage”.
Yet they have untold wealth! Candide must drag himself away from this American Shangri-la to find his beloved. He is given numerous golden sheep (with golden fleeces?), but only two survive the hazardous journey. He sends Cacambo off to ransom Cunégonde with one of the sheep, and to take her to Venice.
In Surinam Candide meets Martin, a professional pessimist, whose philosophy is the opposite of Pangloss (remember Pangloss?).
[23] Martin’s laughing song: Words, words, words, words. “... Absurd ... Nothing to trust in this worst of all possible worlds...”
[24] Bon voyage. Candide is innocently optimistic again, when he acquires a ship going to Venice; but he has been ‘fleeced’ of his last precious sheep in exchange for “a perfect wreck of a boat”. Vanderdendur, the Dutchman who gave it to him, bids him farewell and bon voyage; he acknowledges to himself that he is bad, for deceiving this fine lad, he is a cad, and it makes him sad.
The ship sinks; Martin drowns; and the same fate subsequently befalls Vanderdendur; the golden sheep floats in the sea, and Candide shares a raft with it and five dethroned kings, and also a galley-slave; it is the long-lost Pangloss, and he leads the kings in a repentance session.
[25] The Kings’ Barcarolle: “Yo-ho for the Simple Life”
They arrive in Venice at carnival time, and every one is masked. The Casino is the centre of attraction; the kings go in to pursue the simple life of baccarat and roulette; Cunégonde and the Dame are employed to encourage the gamblers; Paquette is the reigning courtesan; Maximilian is the corrupt Prefect of Police.
[26] Venice gambling scene: “Money, money, money”.
[27] “What’s the use? There’s no use in cheating, it’s all so defeating, and wrong, oh so wrong, if you just have to pass it along!” (Old Lady, Ragotski [casino owner], Maximilian, a Crook)
[28] The Venice Gavotte: “It’s a very moving tale” (Candide and the company). Pangloss breaks the bank, and ladies flock around him.
When the masks fall C and C recognize each other; Candide is shocked into silence, but first sings his lament!
[29] Nothing more than this?
He rebukes His beloved for her love of luxury. They all retire to a farm, but are not happy.
[30] Universal Good: “Life is neither good nor bad”.
[31] Make our garden grow: “You’ve been a fool and so have I .... We’ll build our house, and chop our wood, and make our garden grow”.
Pangloss has the last say: "Any questions?"

In the video version of Bernstein's recording, the white-haired man we see as narrator, and Pangloss, and Martin, is Adolph Green; he and his partner, Betty Comden, have written such classics as On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain.

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