Where does Candide fit into the Orchestra’s Bernstein centenary celebration?
As we have explored over the last three seasons many of Bernstein’s orchestral and theatrical works, I think we all got to know in a deeper way the messages going through his music. MASS had to do with spirituality. West Side Story had a different kind of take on society. Candide has the appearance of something lighter and funnier. Nonetheless it’s as powerful and meaningful in its message to our society today. Every Bernstein work is extremely relevant not only to his own time but also to our time.
What’s the inspiration for how Candide will be presented by the Orchestra?
Candide is a coming-of-age story. With Voltaire it was a way to be rebellious toward, and critical of, in a very subtle and clever way, the Catholic Church. For Bernstein it was also an irreverent piece and a critique of the trials and the communism in America at the time, and a criticism of authority. Today we also have a lot to say about society and the truth and lies and pretensions. This is why [stage director] Kevin Newbury and I came up with the idea of staging the story at the time when we were both teenagers: 1980s or early ’90s. Something that resembles The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, movies that were really cult films in our youth, which will help get the message across that this is a time when we are at our most true to our beliefs and when we see the world in a very immediate way. This is also how Bernstein was able to get back in that youthful mind while writing Candide.
Tell us a little about the cast you’ve put together.
Candide can be considered equally an opera, a play, and a musical. This is not new for Bernstein. This was his point all his life, to blend these genres. I’m so proud that we could assemble a cast of many of the people I now consider our company at The Philadelphia Orchestra, people who collaborated with us in West Side Story and MASS. But there are also some new faces, great operatic stars like Denyce Graves and Erin Morley. As usual we bring to Philadelphia the best talent that we have in our country and in the world to serve Bernstein’s music.
Bernstein’s Candide will be performed June 20–22. For more information, visit philorch.org.