Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Opera Theatre's `Candide' Has Charm, Conscience

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Opera Theatre's `Candide' Has Charm, Conscience

Article excerpt

For almost 40 years, Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" has provided audiences with such a rollicking good time that its political message - a sharp jab at McCarthy-style bullying - today seems a mere footnote to the operetta's history.

Except through commentaries in the program, Opera Theatre of St. Louis makes no serious attempt to remind patrons of what a weapon Bernstein wanted "Candide" to be. Like most recent productions, the charming one that launched the Opera Theatre season at the Loretto-Hilton Center on Saturday aims more at broad farce than pointed satire. Even the Inquisition episode goes by in a flash, with each strand of dialogue whipping the scene toward the glorious choral number whose memorable first line is "What a day, what a day, for an auto-da-fe!"

It's worth noting, though, that Opera Theatre's "Candide" drew laughs at moments when neither the words nor the action were particularly riotous.

On the surface, "Candide" is about the foolishness of blind optimism. The title character professes that whatever happens, it's for the best. His adventures are fraught with horror, yet Candide persists in his bright outlook. Only at the end is he beaten down enough to accept reality.

The libretto is built around a cliche spouted early in the show by Candide's teacher, Dr. Pangloss. It may be that some folks today really do believe that "this is the best of all possible worlds," but others find that belief to be ludicrous, and not surprisingly, people chuckled every time the famous line came around.

More intriguing, people chuckled as the recurring punch line was being set up. The vivid descriptions of torture that make Pangloss' philosophy such a joke are, of course, too much based in historical fact - and too closely related to what we see on the TV news each night - to be funny.

"Candide" has to do with much more than McCarthyism. …

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