Leonard Bernstein – Candide
CAST: Candide: Jerry Hadley, Cunegonde: June Anderson, Dr. Pangloss/Martin: Adolph Green, Old Lady: Christa Ludwig, Governor/Vanderdendur/Ragotski: Nicolai Gedda, Paquette: Della Jones, Maximilian/Captain: Kurt Ollmann, Bear-Keeper/Inquisitor/Tsar Ivan: Clive Bayley, Cosmetic Merchant/Inquisitor/Prince Charles Edward: Neil Jenkins, Doctor/Inquisitor/King Stanislaus: Lindsay Benson, Junkman/Inquisitor/King Hermann Augustus: Richard Stuart, Alchemist/Inquisitor/Sultan Achmet/Crook: John Treleaven
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Simon Joly, chorus master
Leonard Bernstein, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 1991
Candide debuted in its original version in 1956, but since then it underwent several changes and modifications: first of all, the libretto, written by Lillian Hellman, was replaced in the Seventies with one by Hugh Wheeler, which is closer to Voltaire’s text, and, in the next decade, its creator, conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, re-examined his work realizing the so-called “final revised version”, which he subsequently recorded at the end of the Eighties.
Candide has many plot flaws that the adjustments did not remove, but it is amazing from the musical point of view.
There is no need to say that listen to the composer himself conducting his own work is always a revelation and a privilege and it is a matter of fact that Bernstein’s conduction is sensational and is one of the main reasons why this Candide is still so popular.
Bernstein’s conduction aims to highlight especially the satirical character of Candide with sudden bursts from the orchestra and the accentuation of the mock-heroic or lamenting character of some scenes, as it happens in Glitter and be gay, where there is a certain condescension towards Cunegonde. This is an effective way to transpose into music the fast-moving plot of this eccentric work, which is characterized also by the incessant stressing of the differences between the various pieces rather than by unity and coherence. Thanks to this care, Candide preserves its variety and presents itself as a “colourful” and gorgeous work.
The ingenious conductor is surrounded by wonderful singers, some of them legends of the opera as Christa Ludwig, who is a histrionic Old Lady, and Nicolai Gedda, who is good form despite his age, together with the elegant Candide of Jerry Hadley, the shining and self-assured June Anderson’s Cunegonde and the grotesque Adolph Green in Words, Words, Words. The singers seem to have great pleasure working together and this add to Candide a “familiar” atmosphere, which stands out from the first quintet, The Best of All Possible Words, sung by Adolph Green, Della Jones, Jerry Hadley, June Anderson and Kurt Ollmann.
I end reminding you that the same conductor and cast recorded together a live performance, now available on DVD, at the Barbican Centre in London in 1989: another occasion to listen to their excellent work.