60 years ago tonight, this overture brought Broadway to a halt

60 years ago tonight, this overture brought Broadway to a halt


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2016

Leonard Bernstein’s Candide opened on December 1, 1956 and the overture brought the house down.

ZealNYC have put together a pack of interviews with surviving participants, starting with Barbara Cook, who played the role of Cunegonde. She says:

I am extremely proud to have been part of the original cast of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. I have two distinct memories of opening night in New York, December 1, 1956 at the Martin Beck Theatre. First is that the overture stopped the show — people loved it, and to this day it’s one of the most frequently played pieces by symphony orchestras around the world. My second big memory from opening night was Lenny coming backstage to wish me luck. He was just about to leave when he added, “Oh yes, Maria Callas is out front.” I said, “Oh my God, I could have done without knowing that.” Lenny laughed and said “Don’t be ridiculous. She’d kill for your high E-Flats.”

Read the full article here.




  • John Borstlap says:

    It sounds as the only joyful piece by Shostakovich, penned-down after a visit to Rosenkavalier.

    Brilliant piece, though.

    • David Osborne says:

      And of course the slow build with about a minute to go minute is pure Rossini.

    • Brian B says:

      In his “serious” works he had a habit of cribbing from Copland. Imitation that I gather was not appreciated by Aaron C nor that he felt flattered by. That influence is rarely felt in his “popular” scores, certainly not in Candide and its overture. Bernstein’s case was much like that of Sullivan, a genius in his lighter music; but derivative and less striking in his more earnest pieces. A few exceptions (Age of Anxiety or Serenade to name two).

      • Sue says:

        Sadly that seems to have been the case. In his excellent biography of the composer Humphrey Burton discusses at length Bernstein’s regrets at not having spend much more time composing serious works for the concert hall. I gather that posterity seems to have more or less shown that it was the right move for Bernstein to stay with the theatre.

        • William Safford says:

          Hard to say.

          As my piano teacher (who knew Bernstein well) once said to me, Bernstein could have been American’s greatest composer. Or he could have been America’s greatest theater writer. Or he could have been America’s greatest conductor. Or he could have been America’s greatest pianist. Or he could have been America’s greatest music teacher.

          Instead, he tried to do it all.

          (I do enjoy performing the Overture to Candide.)

          • Sue says:

            Excellent points; couldn’t agree more. Still, I tend to think of him foremost as a magnificent pedagogue and conductor and the world is the lesser for his not being here.

  • David Osborne says:

    Absolute killer piece of music. Makes me feel better every time I hear it.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    How can Dick Cavett be 80 if “Candide” is only 60?

  • Joel says:

    The late cymbal crash at 0:56 seems to have Lenny shaking his head at 0:58