New York’s Candide – dog’s breakfast, or road-trip farce?

New York’s Candide – dog’s breakfast, or road-trip farce?


norman lebrecht

January 09, 2017

The first two reviews for City Opera’s bold reopening this weekend are something of a let-down.




Christopher Johnson in Zeal NYCEvery decade or so, Harold Prince serves up a dog’s breakfast and calls it Candide. New York City Opera presented the latest such repast last Friday at the Rose Theatre…. The current production only adds to the mayhem. It features a mixed grill of Broadway veterans and conspicuously handsome young opera-singers, all of whom seem to have been coached to perform as if they were hyperkinetic tenth-graders. Deploying a large repertoire of funny voices and ethnic stereotypes, Edelman, Zien, and Ashmanskas turn what is arguably the greatest set of lyrics ever written for the musical theatre into near-gibberish,

Eric C Simpson in New York Classical ReviewCandide, a reasonably faithful adaptation of Voltaire’s classic satire, is a bizarre road-trip farce that drags its principals from Westphalia, to Lisbon, El Dorado, Cadiz, Cartagena, and Constantinople, beset along the way by inquisitors, pirates, and marauding Bulgarians…. Broadway veteran Gregg Edelman led a cast of singers and actors drawn mostly from the New York theater circuit, a casting strategy that led to some mixed results.

More here and here.

The parish sheet has yet to pronounce.


  • Halldor says:

    “arguably the greatest set of lyrics ever written for the musical theatre”

    Pretty arguable, I’d say.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      And which lyrics? Lillian Hellman’s of 1956 (with contributions by eight others) was not so good, perhaps because it needed more wit. Hugh Wheeler’s of circa 1973 went over much better. I don’t know which Johnson is referring to, though ‘greatest’ this or that assertions are always arguable anyway.

      • Divad says:

        Lillian Hellman wrote the libretto, not the lyrics, for the original production. The original lyrics are largely by Richard Wilbur, after the death of John Latouche, with contributions by Dorothy Parker and Bernstein. Hugh Wheeler rewrote the libretto for Prince in 1973, with new lyrics added br Stephen Sondheim.

    • Christopher Johnson says:

      As my review plainly states, I refer to lyrics, mostly by Richard Wilbur, such as the following: “But I never would swindle the humble poor,/For you can’t get a turnip to bleed./When you swindle the rich you get so much more,/Which is why I have swindled Candide./Oh, dear, I fear/He’s going down, he’s going to drown!/Ah, poor Candide!” Surely this worthy of Gilbert or da Ponte? Hellman’s sole lyric, “The Ballad of Eldorado,” is beautiful and shapely, delicately palindromic like the there-and-back-again voyage it recounts, and perfectly gauged to the quiet double epiphany that finally turns Candide into an autonomous adult — something that has no place in Prince and Wheeler’s snickering nihilist scheme.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Why all this fuss about the NYCO production? Francesca Zambello’s Glimmerglass/Toulouse/Bordeaux coproduction was excellent yet it’s been nigh-on impossible to find a review of it here in Europe. It’s currently in rehearsal in the Gironde, having played to full houses in Toulouse over Christmas.

  • Tinkerbell says:

    I saw NYCO 1982 production – loved it then & again on Saturday – lovely music – delightful madcap entertainment.

  • James says:

    The New York Times has just given it a very fine review (“exceptional emotional power…very fine production”)…

  • Tiny Nymph says:

    “Greatest set of lyrics”? Mmmm. I’ll get back to you.