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What is an Operetta? Why Bernstein’s Operetta Candide is the Must See Performance this Year

Photo: Utah Symphony

This article about Bernstein’s Operetta Candide is presented by the Utah Symphony in collaboration with Utah Opera. 

Based on a novella by Voltaire, Bernstein’s Operetta Candide is a journey that takes you through the humorous misadventures of the title character, Candide. The satirical and comedic story was adapted to a musical performance by Leonard Bernstein. Leonard Bernstein is famous for the music of West Side Story and the musical stage performance of Peter Pan. To celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s 100th anniversary year, Utah Symphony and Utah Opera present Candide.

Photo: Utah symphony at Abravanel Hall by Ricardo630 under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Story

Photo: Utah Symphony

Candide is the illegitimate nephew of a German baron and grows up in a castle. When the baron finds his daughter Cunégonde and Candide kissing he throws Candide out. After some time on his own, he finds himself (unwillingly) in the Bulgars army. After an attack on the castle, he searches for the remains of his love Cunégonde. He assumes she has perished. After journeying through Lisbon (and being blamed for a volcanic eruption) he finds himself in Paris where he is reunited with his beloved Cunégonde (who also thought Candide was dead). Cunégonde had been living there surviving by whatever means she could. And that’s just the beginning. An inadvertent stabbing later and Candide and Cunégonde are back on the run through Europe to South America and back to Europe again. All the while just searching for happiness and peace together with friends.

What is Bernstein’s Operetta Candide?

Not quite an opera. And not quite a symphony performance. Candide walks the line of being part Broadway and part opera. And it’s all in English. Think of Candide as opera lite. What’s for sure is that the incredible performances of the talented musicians and cast of impressive vocalists will blow you away. Here’s a performance of the piece “Glitter and be Gay” by Kristin Chenoweth:

The Performance

These performances of Candide will be conducted by Utah Symphony’s Thierry Fischer, who just last month conducted the Seoul Philharmonic’s performance of Candide. You can see Bernstein’s Candide on November 9 and 10 at Abravanel Hall. For tickets starting at just $23, visit