Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Candide, The Best of All Possible Operettas?

Hello People of the Interwebs!

This week, I'll be reviewing two related things! Candide, the novella by Voltaire, and Candide, the operetta by Leonard Bernstein. Let's dive into the book!

Image Credit to Wikipedia 
Title: Candide, or Optimism

The story of the novella follows a young lad named Candide. He goes on many adventures. In each of the 30 chapters, a mini story unfolds, each leading to the next part of the story, which then becomes its own story. To get the basic story across. though: Candide is kicked out of Westphalia for falling in love with the Baron's daughter, Cunegonde. After the family is killed by Bulgarians, Candide is heartbroken. He travels with his mentor to Lisbon, where the mentor is killed, and Candide finds Cunegonde. They travel to Montevideo, in the New World. Candide loses Cunegonde, and finds paradise on Earth in the country of El Dorado. So much more happens, as Candide journeys to find the oft promised "best of all possible worlds".

Voltaire wrote the first draft in 3 days in an angry outburst. Back during that time, the world was falling apart, especially with... the philosophy. Which philosophy? Why, the best of all possible philosophies! Gottfried Leibniz coined the phrase "best of all possible worlds", to describe his new philosophy. Voltaire hated this, and thus satirized it in his novella. That's one of the many things that I love about this book. Voltaire perfectly satirizes history, philosophy, and religion. It's subtle, clever, and hilarious.

Now, onto the operetta!

Image Credit to Wikipedia

The story of the operetta is similar. Actually, besides a random change of city from Lisbon to Paris (which makes no sense, by the way), the first act of the operetta incredibly copies the first 10 chapters of the novella. However, that's only the first third of the book. The second act (which is 10 minutes shorter than the first act) covers the last 20 chapters. Needless to say they cut some story. Actually, in a surprising twist, they in fact ADD an additional character that never existed in the book. While that is a familiar tactic in adaptation, it's really a big shame. Voltaire's Candide is gift wrapped perfection, where there wasn't really any need to add in new characters. But that's just one of my problems with it.

My other main problem is how the humor is changed. The jokes are obvious. Way too obvious. Voltaire's comedy is subtle. It's clever. But with the operetta, they lose that subtlety. Sigh.

However, the operetta has one big plus side. The music. Leonard Bernstein's score is very good. The music is beautiful, and the lyrics, which were supplemented by Stephen Sondheim, are clever. The lyrics are actually better than the libretto, at least in subtle satire. I think that's what makes the operetta for me.

To surmise. The novella is a beautifully written satirical book. The operetta is a bad adaptation of the novella, but considering the music and ignoring the source text, it's a good operetta. And on that note...

I'm actually in a production of the operetta! The cast is fantastic. My good friend, Sydney Harris, plays Cunegonde. She's one of the most talented singers that I've ever had the honor of watching perform, let alone work with. The production has one official showing this Friday night, at 7:30. However, there is a final dress rehearsal open to the public on Wednesday, also at 7:30. All that information and more can be found at the official blog, here. Admission is free, but we do suggest that you donate to the church that we're performing in. Please come and support this production! Also, all of the money from concessions is going to help fund two young teens, my friend and my sister, in a venture to be a part of the Narni Festival this summer. It's a piano intensive, and is going to be a great experience for the both of them. You can donate directly to their fundraisers at the following links: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/0zvc6 and https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/7zxo8

This is the Teenage Critic, signing off!

Like The Teenage Critic on Facebook here. You can email the Teenage Critic at criticteen1@gmail.com. Feel free to send me your suggestions for movies to review, or just to send me your opinions and fan mail. Follow me on Twitter, @Thomas_Pflanz

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