Hugh Wheeler (book, adapted from Voltaire), in a new version by John Caird, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein (lyrics), Leonard Bernstein (music) Candide / LAOpera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion / Howard Fox and I attended the work on Sunday, February 11, 2018
Over the years, Bernstein constantly revised it, throwing out songs and adding new ones, and others continued to rewrite it along with him. I saw a failed production of the musical at the Washington, D.C. The Kennedy Center in the 1970s. Even given my desire for the success of the production, I remember it as a failure.
The first act of this opera remains still a remarkable piece of theater, with Bernstein’s amazing overture, the best of almost any opera/theatrical piece—whatever you want to call the work—that has ever existed, and James Conlon, despite the limited acoustics of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, did it justice. I just wish it had sounded as blended as I sure it does up closer.
And I think, in the performance I saw the other night, Bernstein achieved that. I was amazed how the audience, a wide range of individuals, did not suddenly stand in immediate obeisance of what they had just experienced—a standard procedure of LAOpera audiences—but sat in their seats applauding again and again and again in delight for the performances. I think we were all, after the last Mahleresque ballad, which is the true heart of so many Bernstein works, “Make Our Garden Grow,” we were all in tears: