Music by Leonard Bernstein
Original Libretto by Lillian Hellman
Based on French author, Voltaire’s satirical masterpiece, Candide, ou L’optimisme
Premiere Performance: Martin Beck Theater, New York, February 1, 1956
Place and Time: Westphalia and locales around the world, 1700’s
In Westphalia, at Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck, the ancestral home of the Baron, the Baron’s children, Cunegonde and Maximilian, along with their illegitimate cousin, Candide, and the maid, Paquette, are instructed by their tutor, Dr. Pangloss, that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”
To the Baron’s dismay, Candide and Cunegonde fall in love, and Candide is banished from Westphalia. Invading Bulgarians abduct Candide and slaughter the rest of the family, except Cunegonde, who is abducted and eventually becomes a popular prostitute.
Despite becoming the mistress of both a wealthy Jew and the Cardinal Archbishop, she still loves Candide.
Candide, rescued by travelling actors, retains his faith in the teachings of Dr. Pangloss, whom he encounters by chance. Candide and Dr. Pangloss are arrested for their liberal philosophy and dragged off to Lisbon, where the Grand Inquisitor orders Pangloss to be hanged and Candide whipped. A kind, but eccentric Old Lady rescues him and nurses him back to health, and then reunites him with Cunegonde in Paris.
When first the wealthy Jew, and then the Cardinal Archbishop, interrupt the lovers' reunion, they are inadvertently killed by Candide. Candide, Cunegonde, and the Old Lady flee Paris for Cadiz and then set sail for the New World.
Upon arrival in Montevideo, South America, Paquette and Maximilian are sold into slavery. By chance, Candide, Cunegonde and the Old Lady arrive at the same location, but Candide must flee when the Old Lady convinces him that he is being pursued for the murder of the Jew and Cardinal Archbishop. When Candide swears to marry Cunegonde, Maximilian objects and is accidentally killed by Candide as the two engage in a scuffle.
Candide then escapes into the South American jungle and stumbles upon the fabled city of El Dorado, where all is opulent and perfect. Tiring of paradise, Candide leaves, laden with sheep, gold, and gems and heads for the Dutch colony of Surinam. There, he learns that pirates have taken Cunegonde to Venice.
Vanderdendur, a Dutch merchant, offers Candide a boat with which to rescue Cunegonde, but Candide soon discovers that the merchant’s generosity was a sham. Candide finds Cunegonde, Paquette, and the Old Lady in Venice. There, Candide uses all of their remaining riches to buy the freedom of Cunegonde and Maximilian, who is not dead after all.
Now reunited, Cunegonde, Paquette, Maximilian, the Old, Lady and Dr. Pangloss join Candide as he decides to follow his new creed. With his ragtag “family,” he will settle down to a simple farm life and “make his garden grow.”
This map was included in the Candide New York souvenir program. It traces the title character's journey over the course of the story.
Courtesy of Leonardbernstein.com