City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Opening Concert: Candide

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 15 August 2007

Show details
The Usher Hall
Music: Leonard Bernstein; Libretto: Lillian Hellman based on novel by Voltaire
Matthew Polenzani (Candide); Laura Aikin (Cunegonde); Thomas Allen (Dr Pangloss/Martin); Kathryn Harries (Old Lady); Jennifer Johnston (Paquette); Tim Mirfin (Bearkeeper, Inquisitor); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano (Conductor)

The Opening Concert of the EIF 2007 was a truly sparkling occasion. It was
preceded by a proud and passionate speech by Jonathan Mills, the new Festival
Director to celebrate the festival's 60th birthday.

The choice of Candide,
a humorous, happy go lucky tale set in a fantasy world was perfect for this
first night birthday treat.

Matthew Polenzani

"Once upon a time in the province of Westphalia, at the castle of his lordship,
the Baron von Thunder ten Tronckh, there lived a boy of very sweet disposition.
His mind could be read in his face......... His outlook was one of utter simplicity.
Probably this was why he acquired the name of Candide." Based on Voltaire's
satirical, philosophical novel, Bernstein's operetta, was first performed in
1956 on Broadway, but reviewed the next day as "a spectacular disaster".
It survived however, through adaptations and revisions over the years, especially
due to the new complete version by John Mauceri, the musical director of the
outstanding 1988 production by Scottish Opera.

Robert Spano

The story begins in Westphalia where the narrator (Voltaire) introduces the
principal characters: Cunegonde, the Baron's innocent virgin daughter, Maximilian,
their handsome son, Candide, their handsome bastard nephew, and Paquette, the
Baroness' buxom serving maid. They are all beautiful and, aware of their perfection,
supremely happy, for they have been taught to be so by their tutor, Dr. Pangloss,
who preaches the philosophy that all is for the best in "The Best of All
Possible Worlds." Candide declares his love for Cunegonde, but as a social
inferior is expelled from Westpahlia. So begins a series of disastrous misadventures
on a fantastic odyssey for Candide, Cunegonde and the incurable optimist, Dr.


From the opening bars of the joyous overture, conductor Robert Spano (Music
Director of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), throws himself into the effervescent
score. At times Spano seems to dance on the podium, in tune to the strident
rhythms. Thomas Allan, veteran operatic star, as Narrator and Dr. Pangloss,
proclaims with clarity and Noel Cowardly debonair style. The ensemble cast capture
the characterisation of each role with subtle wit, sensitivity and romanticism.
Highlights of the evening include such classic Broadway show stoppers as: "Glitter
and be Gay," " We are Women", "Make Our Garden Grow,"
and "Oh, Happy We." Happy Birthday Edinburgh Festival!

© Vivien Devlin. 10 August 2007. First published on