Candide (musical)

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Musical dates
Title: Candide
Original title: Candide
Original language: English
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Book: Hugh Wheeler
Lyrics: Richard Willur, John Latouche, Dorothy Parker and Stephen Sondheim
Literary source: “Candide” by Voltaire
Premiere: Original version:
December 1, 1956,
new version:
March 8, 1974,
Final Revised Version
Place of premiere: New York City
Playing time: about two hours
Place and time of the action: Europe and anywhere in the world around 1750
Roles / people
  • Dr. Voltaire alias Dr. Pangloss / Cacambo / Martin ( baritone )
  • Kunigunde, daughter of the baron ( soprano )
  • Maximilian, son of the baron ( tenor or baritone)
  • Candide, nephew of the baron ( tenor )
  • Paquette, the Baron's maid ( mezzo-soprano )
  • The old lady (mezzo-soprano)
  • The baroness
  • The baron
  • Grand Inquisitor / Governor
  • The cannibal king (in the original version a rich Jew)
  • numerous secondary characters who are played by the actors of the characters mentioned above

Candide is in an operetta by Leonard Bernstein based on the satirical novel Candide or the Optimism of the French philosopher Voltaire .


In the original version, Candide had two acts. The libretto is by Lillian Hellman . The lyrics were contributed by Richard Wilbur , John Latouche and Dorothy Parker . It premiered on December 1, 1956 at the Martin Beck Theater in New York City . The operetta turned out to be a big flop, although it was nominated for five Tony Awards in 1957 . She was canceled after just 73 performances. The failure was not due to Bernstein's music, but to Lillian Hellman's libretto, which in no way lived up to Voltaire's satirical model.

Seventeen years later, in order to save the piece for the stage, Hershy Kay, who had assisted the composer in orchestrating the original version, Hugh Wheeler (completely new libretto) and Stephen Sondheim (additional new vocal texts) turned it into a one-act musical . The 1974 version has been shortened compared to the original, especially in the second half, and has only one act. Hershy Kay took over the music for the musical version almost unchanged from the 1956 operetta. The musical had its world premiere on March 8, 1974 at the Broadway Theater in New York and brought it to 740 performances. It won the 1974 Tony Award / Best Musical Libretto , Best Costume, Best Set and Best Musical Direction, and five Drama Desk Awards .

In 1988, together with John Wells , Bernstein created a revised version, the plot of which largely follows Voltaire. All pieces from the original version have been resumed, but the ending in particular has been extended compared to the 1974 version and the individual pieces have been changed from the original version. The play has two acts again. The characters Cacambo and the pessimist Martin, Pangloss' counterpart, were re-introduced in 1974. This version was first performed in 1988 at the Scottish Opera in Glasgow and under Bernstein's direction with Jerry Hadley as Candide, June Anderson as Kunigunde, Christa Ludwig as Old Lady, Kurt Ollmann as Maximilian, Nicolai Gedda as Governor and Adolph Green as Dr. Pangloss / Martin recorded as a concert performance on December 13, 1989 at the London Barbican Center .

The first performance of Candide in German took place in April 1963 in the large broadcasting hall of the Funkhaus Wien . In the radio adaptation and direction by Marcel Prawy with the orchestra and choir of Radio Wien and the musical direction of Samuel Krachmalnick, Voltaire's novella read among others the castle actors Blanche Aubry , Heinrich Schweiger , Mimi Coertse and Rudolf Christ sang . The first German-language staged performance after the original production of the musical version with German texts by Marcel Prawy took place on August 5, 1976 in the Stadthalle Vienna. The German premiere took place on March 27, 1982 in the Theater in der Kelter of the Heilbronn Theater (director: Klaus Wagner ). R: Maria Becker, ML: Jean Hoffmann, with Colleen Besett, Christoph Herrmann, Franz Lindauer, Wolff von Lindenau u. a. Published by Felix Bloch Erben, Berlin.


place and time

The plot is set in Westphalia , Lisbon , Paris , Spain , Cartagena (Colombia) , Montevideo , the South American jungle, the fictional country Eldorado , Constantinople and an abandoned island in Voltaire's time, i.e. around the middle of the 18th century.

Version from 1974

The young nobleman Candide grows up in the castle of his uncle, Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, in Westphalia. He comes from an affair between the baron's sister and a stranger. Together with Kunigunde and Maximilian, the baron's two teenage children, and the maid Paquette, he is supervised by the private tutor Dr. Pangloss, who makes young people believe that they live in the best of all worlds. He has just finished a lesson and is dismissing his students - except for Paquette. With her he wants to carry out a physics experiment for advanced students. This consists in demonstrating sexual intercourse to her. Kunigunde comes back and watches the two of them doing their thing. She is so delighted with the experiment that she immediately goes to see her cousin Candide and asks him to try the same thing with her. Candide doesn't hesitate and pleases his cousin. The two are surprised by Maximilian. He can think of nothing better than to inform his father. The old baron, however, shows no understanding for such physical experiments and chases Candide out of the castle. On the way he meets a few men who are recruiting volunteers for the Bulgarian army. Candide accepts the offer and becomes a soldier.

The Bulgarian army raids the baron's castle. Almost all residents find death; only Kunigunde, her brother, Paquette and Dr. Survive pangloss. In order to achieve her goal of wealth, Kunigunde sells her body to wealthy men ( Arie Glitter and be gay ). In Lisbon, their love services are generously rewarded alternately by the Grand Inquisitor and a cannibal king.

In the meantime, Candide, who believes Kunigunde dead, has also ended up in Lisbon. There the young man meets his teacher Dr. Pangloss. The city is currently being hit by the severe earthquake . In search of the guilty party, Candide and Dr. Pangloss captured by agents of the High Inquisition . An example should be made of them, in which the punishment is carried out publicly. Kunigunde is among the spectators. She watches Candide get flogged and Dr. Pangloss breathed his life on the gallows.

After Candide has recovered from the hardships suffered, an old lady leads him to Kunigunde. The three of them flee to Spain. There Candide joins a troop of soldiers who are on their way to Montevideo, where he is supposed to protect Jesuit padres from the "natives". Kunigunde and the old lady are allowed to accompany the troop. On the crossing the ship is robbed by pirates. All female passengers are captured by them.

With the last of his strength, Candide manages to penetrate the mission station in Montevideo. In the reception committee he recognizes Paquette and Maximilian. Candide has only one goal in mind: to free Kunigunde and marry her. After Maximilian has had a fatal accident as a result of a chain of adverse circumstances and Candide believes that he is to blame, he and Paquette flee into the jungle. A few weeks later, the two discover the fabulous country Eldorado. Then they make their way to Cartagena, where they learn that Kunigunde was probably kidnapped to Constantinople. In this city they find what they are looking for in a harem and buy it free. When they hear that the wisest man in the world lives in a nearby cave, who knows an answer to all of mankind's burning questions, they seek him out. They experience a miracle, because the wise man is none other than Dr. Pangloss. Candide buys a piece of land and everyone contributes with their modest means to the common life. Let others dream of paradise - but they will cultivate this garden of theirs:

Let dreamers dream what dreams they please.
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers, the finest trees are
grown in solid ground.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good,
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.

Version from 1988

First act:

Candide is raised in a castle in Westphalia together with the baron's children, the self-loving Maximilian and the luxury-addicted Kunigunde, and enjoys life ( Life Is Happiness Indeed ). From the teacher Dr. Pangloss he learns that they live in the best of all possible worlds, in which everything has its meaning ( The Best of All Possible Worlds ). Candide falls in love with Kunigunde. They dream of a future together, although their plans are completely contradicting each other ( Oh, Happy We ). However, the baron is not at all taken with the young love and chases Candide away. While Candide is still meditating that there must be something good about it ( It Must Be So ), Bulgarian soldiers appear and urge him to do military service.

The Bulgarians destroy the castle and allegedly kill all residents. The grieving Candide meets Pangloss, believed dead, who has syphilis but still enjoys his life ( Dear Boy ). They travel to Lisbon, where the great earthquake takes place upon their arrival. Pangloss is hanged as the culprit at an Auto-da-Fé ( What a day ), and Candide is flogged. Candide begins to doubt, but still sticks to Pangloss' teaching ( My master told me )

Candide flees to Paris, where he meets Kunigunde again. In order to fulfill her dream of wealth, she has two wealthy lovers, a cardinal and a rich Jew ( The Paris Waltz ). She laments her life, but at the same time sings about her jewels ( glitter and be gay ). Candide and Kunigunde celebrate their reunion ( You Were Dead, You Know ). The old lady, Kunigunde's companion, warns Candide and Kunigunde about the appearance of the two lovers. Candide accidentally stabs them both with a sword. As they flee together, the old lady tells them her story ( I Am Easily Assimilated ). But they are arrested and Candide is sent to South America as a soldier. The women accompany him.

Second act:

In Montevideo, on the advice of the old lady, Kunigunde becomes the governor's lover ( We Are Women ), who promises to marry her. The old lady convinces Candide that he is still wanted for the murders in Paris. He then flees with Cacambo, his servant, and ends up in a Jesuit camp, where they are soon joined by the Mother Superior and the headmaster. Finally, the headmaster turns out to be Maximilian and the mother superior as Paquette. Candide announces his intention to marry Kunigunde and is turned down by Maximilian. He kills him in an argument. Again he flees. Cacambo leads him to search for Eldorado.

Three years later: Kunigunde and the old lady complain about the boredom in the golden cage ( Quiet ). Candide has meanwhile reached the ideal state of Eldorado, where all people are free and happy. With a rich gift, he leaves this place longing for Kunigunde. He meets Martin, who mocks his optimism ( Words, Words, Words ), and starts the return journey to Europe with him ( Bon Voyage ). However, he lets a deceiver trick him into a leaky ship that sinks for a large part of his treasures. Martin drowns.

The main characters meet again after further wanderings in Venice. On the way, Candide meets five kings who praise the simple life ( The Kings' Barcarolle ). During the carnival, everyone has fun playing games of chance ( money, money, money ). Kunigunde and the old lady entertain the players masked ( What's the Use? ). Pangloss enjoys his luck won at roulette ( The Venice Gavotte ). Kunigunde and the old lady try to talk the still wealthy, also masked Candide money away at the carnival, but they recognize each other again. Candide now realizes that for Kunigunde, material wealth is what counts ( Nothing More Than This ). Taught by the knowledge presented by the choir that life is neither good nor bad, but life ( Universal Good ), he overcomes his disappointment and proposes to Kundígunde in order to lead a simple life with her on a small farm ( Make Our Garden Grow ).


Bernstein used elements from the European musical tradition for Candide : the combat music in the first act is a mazurka , plus the two waltzes The Paris Waltz and What's the Use? , the Flamenco I Am Easily Assimilated , The Venice Gavotte and the Barcarole of Kings. In many places the music sounds very operatic. It is not for nothing that the work is sometimes referred to as a "comic opera". The relationship to opera is most pronounced in Kunigunde's song Glitter And Be Gay / Mich umglitzert Gold , which is already hinted at in the overture and, strictly speaking, is an aria for a coloratura soprano . But the other main roles are so musically demanding that they have to be cast by trained opera singers.

The best-known piece of music from the work, however, is by far the concert version of the overture. Many symphony orchestras have included them in their repertoire. It is therefore often heard in concert halls and on the radio. Otherwise belong to the musical highlights

  • The Best Of All Possible Worlds / The best of all possible worlds (Quintett Pangloss, Kunigunde, Candide, Pasquette and Maximilian)
  • Oh Happy We / We never argue (duet Kunigunde and Candide)
  • Auto Da Fe (Ensemble)
  • Make Our Garden Grow / Until our garden blooms (Sextett Candide, Kunigunde, Alte Dame, Pangloss, Maximilian and a cow)


The old lady calls in her life story as their birthplace Rovno Gubernya that today Rivne , emigrated to the Russian city from Bernstein's parents to America.


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