Candide by Washington National Opera

After plucking Voltaire’s Candide to develop as a work of music-theatre, Leonard Bernstein and Co.  wrote and re-wrote a piece not easily defined and one that continues to get re-devised and argued over.  That makes it a marvelous piece for us to wrestle with its knotty problems and bring our own interpretations to the WNO production.





Here are some questions to which you may want to respond:

What are we supposed to make of Voltaire’s child, Candide and his optimism? More importantly, what does Bernstein want us to think of him?

How does Voltaire as a character serve the dramatic story, and does his purpose change over the course of the performance?

Some of our group thought there was a significantly different tone between Acts I and II. Could you share more about that now after reflection?

Some described the structure of this piece as story theater, so how did director Francesca Zambello and choreographer Eric Sean Fogel deal with the challenges of multiple changes of locale, characters, and events?

Characters are created broadly as stereotypes. Does such comedy work today or offend?

Hearing Bernstein’s musical score now, does it feel to you like a satisfying and cohesive whole or problematic?

Now, after you finish answering, you might just want to see  (and respond to) the review Susan wrote following opening night:

1 comment on “Candide by Washington National Opera”

  1. arts connect

    It is striking that in this piece Bernstein takes the nadir of Old World cynicism and improbably draws out an authentic American optimism – not Panglossian but – in this production – diverse and determined.

    The staging and production leans into the rococo storyline by combining a consistent visual language with strong, clear markers of place and mood in the design.

    The production reveals that Candide represents a model for drama that was ahead of its time in combining the carefree vocabulary of music and theatre with a dark work of philosophy and Enlightenment history.

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