A civilian response to Candide

Candide, Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein’s music for Candide is delicious. If only the work had a more disciplined and rewarding libretto.

Before I start spouting off about the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of Candide, allow me to apologize for my lack of qualifications for doing so.

In my book, critical opinion should be informed by knowledge and experience. This criterion work in my favour when I’m reviewing theatre—including musical theatre—for the Georgia Straight. I’ve been paying serious attention to theatre for almost 50 years now and reviewing it for 30.

But I have no specialized knowledge of music, and the VSO’s oratorio-style presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is primarily musical. So this isn’t an informed review: it’s an honest reaction from a guy who was very glad to get a free ticket.

Got it? Okay, good.

In my experience, Leonard Bernstein’s music is is dizzying combination of beauty, wit, and accessibility; listening to the song “It Must Be So” in Act 1, I got the same lovely ache in my heart that I get when I start to tear up at Theatre Under the Stars: it’s just so damn pretty. The orchestra, under Bramwell Tovey’s direction, impressed me with its precision. And, to my untrained ear, the lushness and variety of the music was almost overwhelming. Many of the performers in this mounting are terrific.  [Read more…]