The National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts Introduces Taiwan’s First-Ever Full Version of Operetta Candide, ou l'Optimisme on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, 2018
The National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying) introduced Taiwan’s first-ever full version of operetta Candide, ou l'Optimisme (hereafter abbreviated as Candide) on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, 2018. Candide is a satire published by French literary giant Voltaire in 1759. In 1956, Leonard Bernstein, a renowned American composer and conductor, and Lillian Hellman, a playwright, adapted the satire into an operetta; the operetta has since been performed multiple times on Broadway and in world’s major theaters.
Chien Wenpin, the art director of Weiwuying, stated that “We, Weiwuying, adapted the full version of Candide into an operetta and introduced Taiwan’s first-ever full version of said operetta because we wanted to pay a tribute to Bernstein and show the audience how the obstacles faced by Candide (the protagonist of the operetta) mirrored the setbacks and joyful events that we have encountered. Similar to the protagonist’s final realization that the garden of utopia can only be reached through self-cultivation, we learned that we must work hand in hand with our colleagues and partners to thrive and prosper.”
This latest version of Candide employed a light-hearted comedy style to deliver a satirical performance that highlights the ups and downs of life. The performance features director Cai Peifang; conductor Jiang Jingpo; tenor Paul Grove, a singer who has been invited by the New York Philharmonic to deliver various performances; Elena Sancho-Pereg; singers Pei-Chi CHEN, Chueh-Yu LAI, Xu Yisheng, Li Zengming, and Claude Lin; the National Symphony Orchestra; the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus; and the Department of Dance of the Tainan University of Technology.
In recent years, Cai Peifang has dedicated herself to incorporating installation art in dramas, operas, and dances. She divided this latest version of Candide into a three-part performance (i.e., the new world, old world, and underworld), illustrating how Candide transitions from a boy into a man as he undergoes a life of regularity, chaos, and nothingness. Despite being psychologically scarred, he attempts to find new meanings in life, inspiring the audience to do the same.
Being labelled as an individual who was pro-communism, Hellman was blacklisted at the height of the anti-communist McCarthyism in the 1950s (a time when artists considered freedom of speech to be of the highest value). This experience, which resembled the ridiculing of optimism in Europe depicted in Voltaire’s satire, prompted Hellman to adapt the satire into a play in 1956. She requested that Bernstein to compose its music, and Bernstein later convinced by Hellman to do the play as an operetta.
Candide tells the story of Europe in the Age of Enlightenment, where Candide, an illegitimate child born into a noble family and one who grows up to be an optimistic young man, falls in love with his aristocratic cousin Cunégonde, which causes him to be expelled and go into exile. During the exile, he encountered a myriad of natural and man-made disasters, forcing him to go on a never-ending journey of soul-searching. Candide’s journey begins from his hometown and he subsequently travels to the countries/regions of Portugal, France, Uruguay, Argentina, a South American jungle, and El Dorado, and Venice. During this journey, he comes across a series of catastrophes including wars, shipwrecks, volcanic eruptions, religious trials, and becoming a fugitive. Although he always manages to survive from these events, his optimistic belief that “everything serves a positive purpose” is repeatedly challenged.