School of the Arts

Fall Opera Gala: Candide

Celebrating Leonard Bernstein with This Year's Fall Opera Gala, "Candide"

Voltaire's "Candide"
CSU, Chico's production of "Candide" will be staged Sept. 22nd

CSU, Chico’s School of the Arts presents a semi-staged concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s comic operetta “Candide” for this year’s Fall Opera Gala.

It will be performed Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre. Tickets are available at the University Box Office, 530-898-6333.

“Candide” was chosen for the Fall Opera Gala in celebration of American composer Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday year.

“I think if you ask, ‘Who is the best American composer?’ people around the world would say Gershwin. And the second would be Bernstein,” said Director Bradley Martin, a faculty member with the Department of Music and Theatre.

A second reason for choosing “Candide” was the uniqueness performing a full operetta would bring to the Fall Opera Gala. Generally, the gala has always been selections from several operas and has been more of an alumni show.

“This year, it’s more community. It’s more guest artists, and more students are involved,” Martin said.

Leonard Bernstein
Chico State's production of "Candide" celebrates the anniversary of the 100th birthday of composer Leonard Bernstein

The title character, Candide, is in love with the Baron of Westphalia’s daughter, Cunegonde. He wishes to marry her but is unable to do so because he is a bastard. Several characters including Candide and Cunegonde believe in Dr. Pangloss’ doctrine that everything that occurs is for the best, no matter what. This doctrine is constantly called into question as Candide is banished and Cunegonde is abducted from Westphalia.

“It’s about Candide’s search for Cunegonde,” said Martin. “And about their moralistic choices during their separation.”

Songs in the operetta include “Make Our Garden Grow,” “Glitter and Be Gay” and the instrumental “Overture.”

“’Candide’ has a great score,” Martin said. “But it is undervalued and underperformed.”

“It’s not like ‘Oklahoma,’ where you have numerous chances to see it or perform it,” Martin said. “You only get a couple of opportunities in your life to see ‘Candide,’ so take advantage of this.”

Tickets for the gala are priced at $20 adults, $18 seniors, and $6 Chico State students and youth. They are available to purchase at CSU, Chico’s University Box Office: 530-898-6333, online at www.csuchico.edu/boxoffice, or at the door prior to the performance.

“Candide” is located at Harlen Adams Theatre (PAC 144). For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website –www.csuchico.edu/soa – and Facebook page – www.facebook.com/ChicoStateSOA.

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Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts publicity assistant


"Candide" will be directed by Bradley Martin, Department of Music and Theatre chair
"Candide" will be directed by Bradley Martin, Department of Music and Theatre chair

CSU, Chico’s School of the Arts presents Leonard Bernstein’s Candide for this year’s Fall Opera Gala. This production takes place Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre. Purchase tickets at the University Box Office or call 530-898-6333.

CSU, Chico’s production will be directed by Bradley Martin.

Candide is a comic operetta conceptualized by Lillian Hellman with music by Bernstein. It has received six Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical. Candide is based on Voltaire’s 1759 novella of the same name that satirized the popular philosophies of his time and the Catholic Church’s Inquisition. The operetta has had several reworkings, so there are five versions available to license.

All versions have the same basic plot. Candide is betrothed to the Baron of Westphalia’s daughter, Cunegonde. Candide and Cunegonde, along with maid Paquette and Cunegonde’s brother Maximilian, believe in Dr. Pangloss’ doctrine that everything that occurs is for the best, no matter what. This doctrine is constantly called into question as Candide is exiled, forced into the Bulgarian army, caught up in the Spanish Inquisition, cheated out of a fortune, shipwrecked on a remote island, and relentlessly torn apart from his love, Cunegonde.

Candide opened on Broadway in December 1956, directed by Tyrone Guthrie. Hellman wrote the book and a libretto, and Bernstein wrote the rest of the music. It was a box office failure, running for two months with 73 performances. Despite this, an original cast album was released, and this was a hit.

The popularity of this album continued people’s interest in Candide. Further productions happened but were rewritten to improve upon the original. A London production debuted in 1959, directed by Robert Lewis and using Hellman’s book with the credit “assisted by Michael Stewart.” It included an additional duet called “We Are Women,” with lyrics by Bernstein and ran for 60 performances. The unsuccessful 1971 Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association production used a complete revision of Hellman’s book by Sheldon Patinkin and substantial shuffling of musical numbers.

Valdis Birznieks
Candide will be played by Valdis Birznieks

Then, a series of Broadway revivals directed by Harold Prince opened in December 1973 at Chelsea Theater Center. This “Chelsea version” used a one-act book by Hugh Wheeler, as Hellman refused to let her work be used in the revival. This shorter version omitted over half of the musical numbers. The set design incorporated platforms designed to change focus and lessen scene changes; these platforms were in front, behind, and in between audience members. The revival moved to Broadway in 1974 and closed in 1976 after 740 performances.

Despite the success of the Chelsea version, opera companies wanted a version of Candide that was closer to the original, so Wheeler expanded his book into a two-act “opera house version” and John Mauceri reinstated most of Bernstein’s music (under Bernstein’s supervision), including songs not in the original production. It was first performed by the New York City Opera in 1982, directed by Prince.

Because of all the different versions available, in 1988, Bernstein worked with Mauceri to produce a version that expressed his final wishes for Candide. Wheeler (writer of the last two books) had passed away, so John Wells helped to produce this version.

Candide continues to be produced. Opening in 1994, Lyric Opera of Chicago had a production at the Civic Opera House directed by Prince. It closely resembled the 1982 Opera House version, but included more lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It was the basis for the 1997 Broadway Revival directed by Prince. In 2004, a semi-staged concert production with the New York Philharmonic and featuring Kristin Chenoweth was broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances. As exemplified above, there is still no one set version for Candide. Ginell of Classical Voice North America said in 2018 “Will the dilemma of which version of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to choose ever be resolved? It doesn’t look like it.”


About the Director

 Bradley Martin, Department of Music and Theatre chair

Bradley Martin completed his Bachelor of Music at University of Western Australia, his Master of Music at University of Michigan, and his doctorate at University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition, he completed four years of post-graduate work in Russia at the Moscow State Conservatory. He has taught and worked at Western Carolina University, Oklahoma City University, Sydney Conservatory, and the Western Australia Conservatory of Music. Working as a repetiteur, he has collaborated with the Western Australia Ballet and Opera companies, the Australian Ballet, and Sydney Dance Company. He is proud to work and collaborate with such talented and dedicated faculty as those in the Department of Music and Theatre at California State University, Chico.