Bernstein's final word on his beloved musical... Fine DVD fr
dooby | 11/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the historic concert performance of the final operatic version of Bernstein's Candide. It was recorded on December 13, 1989 at the Barbican Centre, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with a stellar cast of operatic stars gracing the solo parts. The programme lasts a full 2hrs 27 mins. It marks the end of a long and tortured journey for the musical/operetta that spent much of its first 35 years as an orphan in the musical wilderness.
Famously Bernstein had never conducted a performance of Candide in all its 30-odd years of existence. This would be his first and final statement on what many look upon as his problem-child. Bernstein is brimming with energy here. And joy. One can see how happy he is; like a proud father showing off his first-born. Just days after this concert, Bernstein would re-record this work in the studio for posterity. That studio recording with the exact same forces would be greeted with great critical acclaim. Despite the polish of the studio version, this live concert recording is for me the preferred choice. Here we can both see and hear the electric intensity that only comes with a live performance. Jerry Hadley with his wide-eyed innocence evokes the quintessential Candide. June Anderson (Cunegonde) also performs far better here than on the studio recording although she and most of the crew including Bernstein were down with the flu epidemic then sweeping London. Christa Ludwig is charming and delightful as the Old Lady. And you even get to see her twirling around with the castanets during her solo. The great Nicolai Gedda, makes a distinguished appearance as the Governor. I felt that Adolph Greene (Dr. Pangloss/Martin) was a little miscast here in this operatic Candide but he brings great showmanship and panache to his part. The LSO and Chorus are splendid throughout. This is late Bernstein and tempi are generally broad though you'd not notice it, such is the intensity the maestro conveys. As several reviewers have noted, the finale, "Make Our Garden Grow," unlike in most productions where it is simply a pleasing number meant to send the audience home humming, is here under Bernstein, glowingly transcendent; almost a spiritual experience, approaching the level of a Wagnerian Opera or a Mahlerian Symphony.
The concert includes all the linking narratives that were omitted from the studio recording. Also missing from the studio recording are the frequent interjections Bernstein himself makes throughout the concert. Act I is preceded by a 5-minute mini-lecture on the history and philosophy behind Voltaire's Candide with Bernstein warning of the danger of religious sectarianism and intolerance. Bernstein begins his short talk with an impish, "Surprise my dear friends... here comes the old Professor to lecture us again..." He continues the lecture in the prelude to Act II where he talks about the relevance of Voltaire's work to the present world, the musical's genesis in the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s and reiterates the dangers of intolerance. In Act I's "I Am Easily Assimilated," he gleefully jumps in to explain that Rovno Gubernya is not found in Voltaire but is a tribute to his own father's birthplace in the Ukraine. The finale brings thunderous applause and whether it is that or, as Bernstein says, the "Royal Flu," one can see that his cheek is streaked with tears as he struggles to thank the cast, the crew and the audience. One would like to think that they were tears of joy that his wayward child had finally found acceptance with his beloved public.
Deutsche Grammophon has finally released this concert on DVD in a fine transfer that preserves the original 1.33:1 aspect (Full screen). Picture quality is good considering that this was recorded on video. The image is acceptably sharp. Colours are strong and natural. Audio is available in the original PCM 2.0 Stereo, or newer DTS and DD 5.0 remixes. Not sure why DG chose the 5.0 (No subwoofer) format but it sounds just fine with the deep bass redirected to the main speakers as in a standard stereo setup. Optional subtitles in English, German and French are also provided. Aside from a few DG trailers, there are no Extras. The DVD comes with a 12-page booklet with a short essay by John Wells who co-authored the Candide narrative with Bernstein, as well as a brief synopsis and track-listing enumerating the 67 individual chapter-stops. The DVD is Region 0 (Playable Worldwide)."
Would rate 5 stars except...
John S. Harris | Memphis, TN | 12/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...that this performance was trumped by the Lincoln Center performances in 2004. I've enjoyed the Berstein/Hadley/Green CD version of this piece IMMENSELY for many years, but as a live performance piece it lacks to pizzazz of the Chenoweth/Lupone version.
IMHO, of course....
But is it worth buying? Oh for God's sake YES!"
An absolute must-have for all Bernstein fans
Peter Hoogenboom | New Zealand | 06/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seeing Bernstein - this great American musical genius - conducting his labour of love not long before his untimely death is an extremely moving experience particularly when he takes a few moments to address the audience at the beginning, middle, and end of the performance.
The reasons for the failure of "Candide" are clear - the story is episodic and just plain silly (staying true to the source novel by Voltaire) and at the end of the opera when the cast sing "Make our Garden Grow", we just don't feel that Candide has made any kind of personal journey.
Despite the serious deficiencies of the story there are many musical highlights to enjoy in "Candide" - the aforementioned "Make our Garden Grow", the Overture, "Oh Happy We", "Glitter and be Gay", "I am Easily Assimilated" to name but a few.
"Candide" places unbelievable demands on the performers and thankfully they are all up to it. Adolph Green is astonishing as Dr Pangloss, so for that matter is June Anderson as Cunegonde, the veterans Nicolai Gedda and Christa Ludwig are both excellent, Jerry Hadley is good if a bit colourless as Candide.
This DVD is an absolute must-have for all admirers of Bernstein."
Bernstein at his very best
holly moors | haren gn, gn Netherlands | 07/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernstein died shortly after this Candide was recorded in London, and it's as if the old master has put everything that made him really good into this - humor (especially the jokes about himself are nice), integrity, and, especially, passion. The music's great too, but the extra treat is the introduction he gives. Absolutely great."
Ms. Jennifer Murray | Melbourne, Australia | 08/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderful and very exciting DVD. Fantastic music and performances especially from Jerry Hadley. The production is so enchanting, you forget there are no costumes and sets. Highly recommended!"