Saturday 29 September, 8pm
Sunday 30 September, 1pm
Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Brett Weymark, Conductor
The Sydney Youth Orchestra featuring Festival Chorus
Voltaire’s devilish 1759 satirical novel Candide is a hand-grenade aimed at puritans, snobs, moralists and, yes, even philosophers (like Voltaire himself). It’s racy, pacey and full of absurd predicaments for its hapless characters. 200 years later, Bernstein discovered that 50’s America was as full of hypocrites, zealots and monsters as Voltaire’s day (and, let’s face it: our day too). Bernstein immediately saw the theatrical potential of ‘Candide’. Our gormless hero and his fiancée Cunegonde are raised by the philosophical windbag Professor Pangloss to believe that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. Disaster, separation, disease, unpleasant journeys and attempted burning at the stake soon follow, until, thoroughly disillusioned, all the characters reunite at home and resolve to make some sense of life. Think of it as the fun-house mirror version of Handel’s Saul, one where tragedy is played as farce – with a happy ending, of course.
From its rollicking overture to its string of affectionate parodies of opera, Gilbert and Sullivan, tango and Broadway glitz, Candide is a delight from start to finish – one that might just make you think. While the overture and showpieces like the bravura ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ have become concert-hall fixtures, the complete Candide is rarely mounted. In celebration of Bernstein’s centenary, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs presents a semi-staged production this witty and moving show, directed by Australian music-theatre power-house Mitchell Butel, in collaboration with Pacific Opera and Sydney Youth Orchestra.
If there’s one thing that drives Bernstein’s work, it’s the belief that while we might be ‘neither pure, nor wise, nor good, we’ll do the best we know.’