Leonardo Capalbo, Jane Archibald, Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Allen; London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Marin Alsop
LSO Live LSO 0834 (CD/SACD) 116:43 mins (2 discs)
Premiered in 1956, Bernstein’s comic operetta based on Voltaire’s satirical novel ran for just 73 performances and by Broadway’s commercial standards was thus clearly a failure; nevertheless, the piece just won’t lie down.
Ever since, and with the involvement of innumerable writers both during the composer’s lifetime and following his death in 1990, Candide has been revised and revamped without ever quite settling into a convincingly fixed form, its witty subject and musical gems stretched out on a string that is constantly unpicked and repicked.
Effectively a semi-staged concert, the version on this recording was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in December 2018. Responsible for the edition were conductor (and Bernstein protégée) Marin Alsop, and director Garnett Bruce, who staged it on that occasion. Given its concert hall presentation, a narrator was involved – the expert Thomas Allen, who doubled as Pangloss; his narrative contribution is realised with tremendous skill, but like all such things it doesn’t really bear repeated listening.
In the title role, Leonardo Capalbo offers charm, delicacy and a touch of melancholy. Jane Archibald makes an amiable Cunegonde, though her showpiece ‘Glitter and be gay’ doesn’t sparkle enough. Anne Sofie von Otter has considerable fun with the Old Lady.
Secondary roles are well delivered, with such fine artists as Thomas Atkins, Marcus Farnsworth and Carmen Artaza taking on with acumen multiple tiny parts. The LSO is on resilient form, but from the famous overture onwards Alsop’s conducting is on the tame side. The booklet contains the sung though not the spoken text.