Candide

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An early draft of "Colloquy in Boston," a piece Bernstein wrote for The New York Times on November 18, 1956. The entire article follows:

Candide or Omnibus?

(The following is a brief colloquy between the author and his Irrepressible Demon, a friendly enemy of long standing. Place: the familiar Boston hotel suite, where final revisions are being made on the new musical play "Candide", soon to open in New York. Time: any one of those Boston nights, all of which merge together in the memory as one long Night of Revision. The Irrepressible Demon (hereinafter referred to as I.D.) makes his appearance at the very moment when the author has crashed into one of the knottiest problems of the score: namely, does this F-sharp sound as though it belongs in a Broadway musical?)

ID: (sneering) Broadway musical! I can but smile. Why do you concern yourself with that pitiful F-sharp? Your problem began long before this, over a month ago, on television. Have you forgotten that in front of millions of Americans viewing "Omnibus" you committed yourself forever to a definition of American musical comedy? Your only problem is that you have basely betrayed your own definition. Now lets have that F-sharp. Goodbye.

LB: Wait. As always you attack me at my weakest moment. But let's be fair. I never actually defined American musical comedy; I was only trying to describe it, and to provoke thought about it by throwing out leading ideas. Personally, I thought I was being very flexible about the whole subject when at the end I disclaimed any intention of prophesying -- nobody's a wizard, after all. I think I said only that the future is wide open, anything can happen --things like that.

ID: Of course you said all that, but only after ninety minutes of examples and discussion designed to show that the whole development of musical comedy in this country is based on its ever-increasing alliance with American elements. American subject-matter, American themes, the American vernacular (that was a much bandied word), and the American musical vernacular, by which it turned out you meant jazz. And then you went on with a whole other catalogue of Americanisms: our tempo, our way of moving, our moral attitudes, our timing, our kind of humor, and all the rest. You certainly don't deny that?

LB: I certainly don't. It's true. I believe it.

ID: Well then, poor fellow, how come that you, of all people, are sitting in this hotel room writing an American musical comedy based on Voltaire's "Candide", that great American classic?

LB: Voltaire's satire is international. It throws light on all the dark places, whether European or American. Of course, it's not an American book, but the matters with which it is concerned are as valid for us as any -- and sometimes I think they are especially valid for us in America. Puritanical snobbery, phony moralism, inquisitorial attacks on the individual, brave-new-world optimism, essential superiority -- aren't these all charges leveled against American society by our best thinkers? And they are also the charges made by Voltaire against his own society.

ID: Yes, I can understand that. But that still won't make your show musical comedy. Perhaps if you were doing it all in modern dress, bringing it all up to the present...

LB: Oh no. That might work in revue, perhaps: not in a work like this one. Our modern dress is much better furnished us by Lillian Hellman, who is not only thoroughly American, but one of our greatest playwrights as well. She has taken Voltaire and done much more than adopt him: she has added, deleted, rewritten, replotted, composed brand new sequences, provided a real ending, and, I feel, made it infinitely more significant for our country and our time. Candide will be American because Miss Hellman is American. It's that simple.

ID: Not so simple. Miss Hellman is only one contributor to the work. What of the score? Can your characters sing lyrics in what you call the vernacular? And how can you possibly have them sing music in the American style?

LB: That's a good question. But the answer is the same. Our lyricist is a brilliant young American poet, Richard Wilbur; and no matter how couched in locutions of the past the lyrics may be, they will be American because he is American. Our other lyricists, Dorothy Parker and John Latouche, also bring their American kind of wit and quality to the score. And I hope I am doing the same for the music. Of course, it isn't jazz I am writing; it couldn't possibly be, when we are concerned with periods ranging from 1750 to 1830. In this show we play hopscotch with periods, jumping around in style just as Oliver Smith does in his scenic design, and as Irene Sharaff does in her costume plan. But as much as we jump, we never approach any contemporary or near contemporary period. The work is international as well as intertemporal. But the American quality is inevitable, given these American collaborators. Don't you see?

ID: I see. I also see that what you're heading for isn't musical comedy at all -- at least not in the sense of what you described in the OMNIBUS program. As I recall, you labored hard and long to make clear the difference between musical comedy and operetta; and CANDIDE is beginning to look to me like a real fine old-fashioned operetta. Or a comic-opera, or an opera-comique, or whatever that list of your was. But not a musical comedy, surely?

LB: My dear ID, who ever said it wasn't an operetta? If that's all you've been worrying about, then our argument is concluded. Of course it's a kind of operetta, or some long version of musical theater that is basically European but which Americans have long accepted and come to love. You remember I said that one of the most obvious attributes of the operetta is the exotic (to Americans) atmosphere in which it exists? Which is why Victor Herbert operettas are operettas, as well as the works of Johann Strauss and Offenbach. Which also explains why SHOW BOAT is an operetta, as well as CAROUSEL and THE KING AND I and FANNY. I guess CANDIDE follows in this tradition, rather than in the pure musical comedy tradition of GUYS AND DOLLS, or WONDERFUL TOWN. As for what it will finally be called -- operetta or comic opera or whatever - we must leave that to be decided by others. The particular mixture of styles and elements that goes into this work makes it perhaps a new kind of show. Maybe it will turn out to be some sort of new form; I don't know. There seems to be no really specific precedent for it in our theater, so time must tell. Again, I must disclaim any intention of prophesying. And now, Demon, I hereby exorcise you, and command you to lie down again in peace, and let me make CANDIDE the best work I can, whatever kind of work it may be. Good night.

ID: (Who always has the last word) Good night. And now, what are you going to do about that F-sharp?





The darkly witty "Syphilis Song," cut from the original production, originated with the two lines of dialogue that Bernstein has circled here.

Candide:
Indeed, master. You were very kind to her.

Pangloss:
She repaid my kindness in a rather unpleasant fashion.

She had it from a tailor, who got it from a sailor, Who had it from a Jap, who got it on the lap of a Lapp.



Here we see the early seeds of "The Best of All Possible Worlds," one of the show's opening numbers. In the margin Bernstein has written: "Possibly a song! after spoken beginning," including the four-note rhythm that would eventually be prevalent in this scene.

Pangloss:
Amo, amas, amat.

Pupils:
Amo, amas, amat.

Pangloss:
Now let us be more affirmative. Amator: thou shalt be loved.



Bernstein's first notations for the famous song "Glitter and Be Gay."

In the left hand margin, he wrote: "Cunegonde's Coloratura number (mirror-jewels)." At the top of the page are notes about the progression of the musical numbers.

The typewritten text is a description of the scene: "The ballroom of a small elegant 18th century house. . . ."




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