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Candide  

Jon Alan Conrad

Comic operetta in two acts by Leonard Bernstein to a libretto by Lillian Hellman after Voltaire, with lyrics by Richard Wilbur, John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Hellman and Bernstein, orchestrated by Bernstein and Hershy Kay; Boston, 29 October 1956 (New York, Martin Beck Theatre, 1 December 1956; revised in one act to a libretto by Hugh Callingham Wheeler, with lyrics by Wilbur, Latouche, Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, orchestrated by Kay, Brooklyn, New York, Chelsea Theater Center, 20 December 1973).

Candide (tenor), a Westphalian youth who believes fervently in the teaching of his tutor, Pangloss (baritone), that everything that happens must be for the best, plunges into travel and experiences an endless series of disasters, including the apparent death of the woman he loves, Cunegonde (soprano), and the execution of Pangloss in the Spanish Inquisition. Candide’s travels take him to the New World in the company of an Old Lady (mezzo-soprano) and the miraculously saved Cunegonde, to the fabled land of Eldorado, back to Europe surviving a shipwreck and eventually back to Westphalia. Here Candide finally repudiates Pangloss’s philosophy and resolves to try and build a good, honest life for himself and his companions....

Article

Jon Alan Conrad

Opera in one act by Leonard Bernstein to a libretto by Stephen Wadsworth ; Houston, Jones Hall, 17 June 1983 (revised in three acts, incorporating Trouble in Tahiti; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 19 June 1984).

An estranged family reunites for the first time in 20 years at the funeral of the mother, Dinah, killed in a car accident and survived by her husband Sam (baritone). Their son Junior (baritone) and daughter Dede (soprano) arrive from Canada, with Dede’s husband François (tenor), who used to be Junior’s lover. Confrontations give way to an outburst from Junior, a sign of his longstanding mental disturbance. At home that night, the four of them recall their history with each other and with Dinah. The next morning, after breakfast and games in the garden – Dinah’s ‘quiet place’ – their anger with each other finally gives way to reconciliation. A Quiet Place was jointly commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, the Kennedy Center and La Scala, Milan. Its reception at the Houston première was largely hostile, and this, together with the authors’ dissatisfaction, led to a revision for the Milan performances....

Article

Jon Alan Conrad

Musical in two acts by Leonard Bernstein to a libretto by Arthur Laurents after William Shakespeare , from a conception by Jerome Robbins , with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim ; Washington, DC, National Theatre, 19 August 1957 (New York, Winter Garden, 26 September 1957).

The idea of telling the Romeo and Juliet story in terms specific to New York City and its tensions had been discussed since 1949 by the choreographer Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Leonard Bernstein. The three collaborators kept changing their minds as to the proper social identity of the rival groups, but the work finally took shape, with Stephen Sondheim added to the team. Bernstein produced his own orchestrations, with Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal. After a mixed critical reception, the musical proved only moderately successful during its initial Broadway run.

The story is set among two rival youth gangs in New York City in the 1950s, the longer-established Jets, led by Riff, and the Puerto Rican newcomers, the Sharks, led by Bernardo. Riff intends to meet Bernardo at a community dance – neutral territory – and challenge him to a fight for control of the neighbourhood. Tony (tenor), a former Jet and Riff’s best friend, meets Maria (soprano), Bernardo’s sister, at the dance, and they fall immediately in love. They meet that night on her fire escape, and again the next day at the shop where she works, where they enact a mock wedding ceremony. Tony tries to intervene at the rumble but succeeds only in accidentally permitting Bernardo to kill Riff; in a rage, Tony himself kills Bernardo. Maria manages to forgive him and they decide to run away together. She sends a message to Tony who is in hiding with the Jets, by Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita, but the gang so abuse her that she angrily tells them Maria is dead. Tony, in despair, runs through the streets begging to be killed; he discovers that Maria is alive just as a Shark shoots him. Maria in her grief manages to persuade everyone to let the retaliation stop, giving a hint of hope for reconciliation as the play ends....