Leonard Bernstein

A mad, clever, witty, optimistic riff on the best of humankind

8 July
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Book now


Composer – Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics – Richard Wilbur

Additional Lyrics – John La Touche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim

Book – Hugh Wheeler, after the novel by Voltaire

In concert with

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra


A fun evening with Leonard Bernstein would inevitably lead at some stage to the piano, where the great man would fluently quote from anything from romantic symphonies to South American dances, Beatles songs, G&S, via possibly grand opera and Jewish Tango. But the thing is, he would connect them all up, and bring the whole world of music together in one glorious celebration of humanity. This is what Candide is like: a mad, clever, witty, optimistic riff on the best of humankind. Never has a Broadway show been more worked on and revised, and never has a madder idea been attempted – turning Voltaire’s stinging satire into musical theatre. But what shines through every time is Bernstein’s infectious, outrageous music. Voltaire’s blast against tyranny, snobbery and false moralising  is clearly felt deeply by Bernstein. And he has the genius to keep you pinned to your seat riveted by its brilliance, while your toes will inevitably be wiggling in time with the rhythms.

A star-studded cast from Broadway and the West End will bring it all to life.

“Bernstein elevated musical theatre to a very sophisticated art form and clearly influenced composers like Stephen Sondheim, giving them courage to bridge the ground between it and opera.”

Marin Alsop

Act One

In Westphalia, at Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck, the ancestral home of the Baron, the Baron’s children, Cunegonde and Maximilian, along with their illegitimate cousin, Candide, and the maid, Paquette, are instructed by their tutor, Dr Pangloss, that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”


To the Baron’s dismay, Candide and Cunegonde fall in love, and Candide is banished from Westphalia. Invading Bulgarians abduct Candide and slaughter the rest of the family, except Cunegonde, who is abducted and eventually becomes a popular prostitute.


Despite becoming the mistress of both a wealthy Jew and the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, she still loves Candide.


Candide, rescued by travelling actors, retains his faith in the teachings of Dr Pangloss, whom he encounters by chance. Candide and Dr Pangloss are arrested for their liberal philosophy and dragged off to Lisbon, where the Grand Inquisitor orders Pangloss to be hanged and Candide whipped. A kind, but eccentric Old Lady rescues him and nurses him back to health, and then reunites him with Cunegonde in Paris.


When first the wealthy Jew, and then the Cardinal Archbishop, interrupt the lovers’ reunion, Candide inadvertently kills them. Candide, Cunegonde, and the Old Lady flee Paris for Cadiz and then set sail for the New World.

Act Two

Upon arrival in Montevideo, South America, Paquette and Maximilian are sold into slavery. By chance, Candide, Cunegonde and the Old Lady arrive at the same location, but Candide must flee when the Old Lady convinces him that he is being pursued for the murder of the Jew and Cardinal Archbishop. When Candide swears to marry Cunegonde, Maximilian objects and is accidentally killed by Candide as the two engage in a scuffle.


Candide then escapes into the South American jungle and stumbles upon the fabled city of El Dorado, where all is opulent and perfect. Tiring of paradise, Candide leaves, laden with sheep, gold, and gems, and heads for the Dutch colony of Surinam. There, he learns that pirates have taken Cunegonde to Venice.


Vanderdendur, a Dutch merchant, offers Candide a boat with which to rescue Cunegonde, but Candide soon discovers that the merchant’s generosity was a sham. Candide finds Cunegonde, Paquette, and the Old Lady in Venice. There, Candide uses all their remaining riches to buy the freedom of Cunegonde and Maximilian, who is not dead after all.


Now reunited, Cunegonde, Paquette, Maximilian, the Old, Lady and Dr Pangloss join Candide as he decides to follow his new creed. With his ragtag “family”, he will settle down to a simple farm life and “make our garden grow.”