CD Review

Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" has had a checkered history from its first Broadway incarnation in 1956. What started as a potentially brilliant satirical romp, with a book by Lillian Hellman, turned quickly into the leaden misfire that lasted only 73 performances on Broadway."Candide" lived on only through the handful of excerpts on the original cast album, a few scattered concert performances, and an attempt to bring it back to Broadway in 1971. In 1973, Hugh Wheeler and director Harold Prince fashioned a trivializing version, discarding the original book, as well as nearly half the music. The next major attempt was at the New York City Opera in 1982. This offered more music, but it stuck to Prince's tone of silly farce. When Bernstein set out to record his problem child, he decided to go back to his original concept, and here we have a "definitive" edition that lives up to the word. From the opening bars of the celebrated overture, a real sense of theatrical event can be felt - a bracing call to the audience to prepare for something brash, funny, wry, yet touching, and this is how this new "Candide" deserves to be received. The music leaps out of the speakers, and the cast abets the conductor/composer all the way. And because the score is finally in the correct order, with most of the forgotten or discarded numbers now included in their correct place, there is a tangible sense of musical and theatrical order never before heard on record. The strengths are numerous - Jerry Hadley's impassioned hero, Adolph Green's enthusiastic Dr. Pangloss, Nicolai Gedda's outrageously funny Governor. There are a few shaky moments, most notably a plodding, charmless "Glitter and be Gay" from June Anderson, and, sadly, veteran mezzo Christa Ludwig is quite out of voice as the Old Lady. But this is Bernstein's show, and the love and passion with which he suffuses this engaging, varied, and moving score, makes this one of the few unforgettable releases of th is or any year.

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