Candide: a love letter

Dear Maestro Bernstein,

I’ve been thinking fondly of you lately. You see, I’m involved in a small way with Amarillo Opera’s production of Candide. Saying I’m involved implies I’m someone who recognizes the difference between a cantata and a frittata. I know zilch about Opera, and yet I’m certain our community (and I!) would be poorer without our local opera company. Because of them, I have joyfully grappled with your Candide.

English: Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first introduction to you was in the early 1960’s. I was just a red-headed, freckled-faced tabula rasa when one evening my parents tuned into your Young People’s Concert televised on CBS. I vividly recall you describing the instruments in the story of Peter and the Wolf. The music transported this rather forlorn little girl to a delightfully wonderful and vivid landscape. I instantly understood your language.

In  1999, I traveled to Carnegie Hall in New York City with my daughter and we participated with a choral group singing your Chichester Psalms.

English: A post-concert photo of the main hall...
A post-concert photo of the main hall’s stage inside of Carnegie Hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Didn’t know if I would ever learn that quirky piece of music! We took the tour of the Hall and even visited your dressing room backstage. Your music, once again, provided a forever-cherished experience in the grand setting of Carnegie Hall. Your presence was palpable.

Now, as a mid-lifer…..OK I admit, a late mid-lifer..I’m squarely facing Candide’s opening night tomorrow.


You would be proud of our efforts. The set is gorgeous. Costumes? Out of this world! The main characters? They are spot-on. Our symphony orchestra sounds heavenly. The local choral ensemble has worked tirelessly to bring Voltaire’s story to life. I’ve giggled and chortled at the dialogue and the lyrics. But when one removes all of these things, do you know what truly moves me? It’s your music, sir! From the fanciful beginning strains of the overture to the block-buster Garden finale, you weave a splendid tonal tapestry telling the adventures of Candide. The music is lush, witty and melodic and when stripped of all other accoutrements, tells its own unique tale. It’s your music stirring my soul and once again I understand your language.

Our production won’t be perfect. It will be perfectly wonderful. Because of you, the freckled-faced kid gets to come out and play. I’ll be brimming with gratitude as I gaze from stage tomorrow night. Thank you, Lenny!



backstage Candide: progress

Week #2 working in the chorus of CANDIDE. Been taking antibiotics and steroids all week to knock out the remnants of a lingering upper respiratory problem. Some days I sound like I should be banished to a TB colony on a remote island. Other days, it feels like a champagne cork has permanently lodged in my right ear canal. Other than that, I feel fine.

Tuesday night we received our official score.

Spending every spare moment with this book.
Spending every spare moment with this book.

I skipped into our house after Opera practice and proudly displayed my big book of music to the TV-watching Texan.

The brilliance of Berstein.
The brilliance of Berstein.

Look Texan…..I got a score tonight!

Who won?

No, no silly….the musical score….for CANDIDE!

What grade did you make?

If it doesn’t involve a round ball and a scoreboard, the Texan ain’t interested.

The chorus had a very productive rehearsal last evening.

Our esteemed chorus master.
Our esteemed Chorus Master.

Dr. George leads the chorus rehearsals and he keeps us on our toes. He has a LOOK.  When you see the LOOK, you’re highly motivated to sing your part correctly. After one of my particularly noisy TB coughing spasms, Dr. George chastised, ‘If you’ve got a cold, don’t come to rehearsals and spread it around!’

Oops. Didn’t think I was still contagious. Guess that was my invitation to slink out the door. I stayed.  Let’s just say rehearsals next week will find me on the back row with a pocket full of Halls. It’ll be OK. I’ll be a safer distance from the stick.

I’ve been pondering the unlikely mash-up of Voltaire and Bernstein that is CANDIDE. What sort of musician decides to make a musical of Voltaire’s grimly satirical work?

I thought I was utterly alone with my ponder-ations.

Until I spotted the bookworm weiner dog.

The Doxy reading her favorite biography.
The Doxy reading her favorite biography.

She wasn’t going rogue this time. She was studying THIS.


Roxy Doxy:  You DO realize, Voltaire and Jonathan Swift are considered the greatest satirists in all of literature?!

Me: What do you know of Bernstein?

Roxy Doxy:  Bernstein? I was the featured counter-tenor soloist in his Chichester Psalms!

I am no longer alone.

Not-keeping-score love to all.

backstage pass: Candide

” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher.

Note by note, bar by bar, page by page the expedition has begun. I’m grabbing your hand and pulling you alongside. Join me?


I’ve been up to something. I’m singing in the chorus/ensemble of Amarillo Opera’s Spring production……CANDIDE. Our first rehearsal was last evening. You guessed right! I’m gonna blog this adventure’s every jagged twist and turn. You’re gonna inhale the musky waft of grease paint and hear every backstage squeeze of the corset on our expedition together. My role may be as a potted palm tree stage right, but you will be privy to the inside scoop of how this massive musical undertaking makes it to opening night.

The first read-through of CANDIDE.

We have an abundance of intoxicating topics to discuss:  Leonard Bernstein, Voltaire, satire, history and music. Lots and lots of gorgeous music.

We’ll start at the beginning…..the audition. Be very relieved I don’t have a photo (or recording) to share with you. Don’t think I could post my pale face and breathless, shaky attempts at singing. Knees knocking in utter terror and a voice cracking at the high notes are not the makings of a fun blog photo or a great audition. This is a big chorus show… somehow, I made it. Guess they needed a few Clydesdales of the female vocal range.

Who knew my horsemanship skills could be used in the opera?
Who knew my horsemanship skills could be used in the opera?

This Candide is Bernstein’s musical adaptation of Voltaire’s novel Candide, and yes, I read the novel. The book was in-ter-est-ing. The plot? It’s outrageous, ludicrous, racy….we’ll talk more later.


We’ll be counting down the days until opening night, April 6th. I’ve tried putting a countdown clock on the right sidebar of this blog to help us as the anticipation builds. We’ll see how that works. Sure, I’ll be blogging about other things along the way, but this series will continue until CANDIDE opens. Bloggy pay dirt!

Learning this music makes my spirit soar. I’m grateful to have such a sparkling jewel in my life right now. How lucky am I? I’m taking your ticket. Welcome aboard. Let’s have some fun.

Traveling-mercy love to all.

Disclaimer: I am a Board member of Amarillo Opera. I want you to come to this production. I’m extremely biased. Read this series at the risk of learning to love CANDIDE.