Leonard Bernstein's Candide (Great Performances) (2005) Review
(More customer reviews)This is a splendid performance of Candide. But before you go any further, you should realise that this is a concert performance, not a full scale operatic staging of the work. That said, the singing is glorious and the acting, despite this being a concert performance is outstanding. It is driven to milk all the comic elements out of the play. It all works delightfully. It is so brimful of joie de vivre, it leaves you smiling and humming all day. I must disagree with a previous reviewer who said, Bernstein wouldn't be amused. This is precisely what he would have wanted to achieve.
Sir Thomas Allen is superb as Dr. Pangloss who doubles as the narrator of the concert. Paul Groves and Patti LuPone are both excellent. But the star of this Candide is surely the lovely Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde, who in addition to having a magnificient voice shows that she is a natural comedienne and actress. This recording of Candide immediately goes to the top of the list. Now, if only we could have Bernstein's own production of Candide recorded live at the Barbican Theatre in London. That recording under the Deutsche Grammophon label is yet to appear on DVD.
I should comment on the camerawork which received criticism from a previous reviewer. It is a mark of the electric quality of this bravura performance that most viewers don't even notice the occasionally almost amateurish shakiness of the camera. The cameraman was shaky at times and faces occasionally went in and out of focus but a large part of what I initially attributed to poor camerawork was in fact artificially introduced motion artifacts. This is a problem with the DVD encoding and not the camera. These cause apparent jumps in the picture. But this is present only in DVD players with low end video processors. Switching to a better DVD player or processor solves the problem.
The DVD by Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen (anamorphic enhancement). Picture quality is very good, clear, sharp and with rich natural colors. The picture is flawless provided you play it on a good DVD player. It comes with 3 audio tracks, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround 5.1 and Dolby Stereo. Excellent immersive sound. It would have been good if they had included an uncompressed PCM track as well but I suppose that's asking a bit much. All in all, an outstanding concert and one to be forever treasured.Technical note: As noted above I noticed a strange problem with this particular DVD. It seems to play quite flawlessly on certain systems, yet throw up irritating problems on others. On one set-up I noticed numerous motion artifacts and lots of combing issues. Motion appears jerky and horizontal scan lines appear whenever fast movements occur or rapid scene changes take place. I'm not quite sure why they should be there but I attibute it to faulty encoding or improper flagging. No other DVD exhibits these errors on this particular system. I believe what one of the previous reviewers complained about could be due to this. The problem goes away when switching to an alternate system with a better deinterlacer / video processor. However that does not absolve Image Entertainment from responsibility for producing a sub-standard DVD which requires high end equipment to compensate for its deficiencies.
P.S. Bernstein's Candide can be interpreted in many ways. Some approach it as serious opera, others as light operetta, still others as a Broadway musical or even farce. Liking or disliking a particular production is very subjective. If you adhere to Bernstein's final vision of this work, enshrined in his by now legendary Barbican performance (Final, revised edition, first premiered 1988 by Scottish Opera and later performed with the LSO at the Barbican in 1989 with high powered opera stars singing all the roles), then you will tend to view this more as Opera and consequently your attitude to any performance that detracts from that operatic image (like this one) will be very negative. But you must remember that for many years, and for most Americans, Candide was considered a Broadway musical and at most a comic operetta. The two contrasting visions are equally valid and are a testament to Bernstein's genius and Candide's status as a true masterpiece.
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Leonard Bernstein's brilliant comic operetta comes to dazzling new life under theguidance of director Lonny Price (A Class Act). Based on the classic Voltaire tale of an innocent young man's journey through a life filled with colorful characters and unexpected life lessons, this tune-filled frolic features Tony Award©-winners Patti LuPone and Kristin Chenoweth heading a dazzling cast with Paul Groves, Stanford Olsen, Sir Thomas Allen and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. The impeccable score (with lyrics by luminaries including Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Wilbur and John La Touche) includes a host of delightful songs such as "Life Is Happiness Indeed," "It Must Be So," "You Were Dead, You Know" and "Make Our Garden Grow." Now enjoy this all-new production of a musical comedy favorite with Broadway's top stars!