The staging by director Robert Carsen, a co-production between La Scala, the Th_ê¢tre du Chê¢telet in Paris and English National Opera in London, has been thoroughly updated, with visual and verbal references to contemporary American and world politics as well as completely new dialogue. La Scala general and artistic director St_phane Lissner saw the production at the Chê¢telet last Tuesday (Dec. 26) and had decided by Thursday to cancel its Italian run, saying that the staging was "not in line with La Scala's artistic program." The opera house made its decision public on Friday (Dec. 29).
The change of mind came following a telephone conversation between Carsen and Lissner Friday night.
"I urged him to reconsider, and that's what he's done," Carsen told Bloomberg News. "I told him that I was absolutely convinced that this piece could work extremely well at La Scala, in the theater and for the audience ... We discussed in no detail what might or might not be changed. We just discussed that we need to have a version of this that works."
Asked why Lissner initially scrapped the show, Carsen said he did not know. Lissner's concerns seemed to be about "the mixture of spoken dialogue and singing.'' (La Scala's spokesperson had indicated last week that the new version had strayed too far from Bernstein's original — though the show was revamped more than once during the composer's lifetime.)
"Since I myself want to make certain changes," Carsen continued, "I don't have a problem.''
This story has attracted considerable attention from the general news media because of a scene — irresistible to headline writers — depicting George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi singing and dancing on an oil-slicked beach in swimsuits (often described in reports as underwear).
"Nobody to this day has asked me to get rid of that scene," Carsen told Bloomberg News — though he did observe that, by the time the production reaches Milan next June, Blair and Chirac might no longer be in power. (Berlusconi left office last April.)
"Everyone's going to sit back and think about this," the director said "I'm interested in making sure we have the best of all possible Candides at La Scala.''