Candide was originally conceived by Lillian Hellman as a play with incidental music in the style of her previous work, The Lark. Bernstein, however, was so excited about this idea that he convinced Hellman to do it as a "comic operetta"; she then wrote the original libretto for the operetta. Many lyricists worked on the show: first James Agee (whose work was ultimately not used), then Dorothy Parker, John Latouche and Richard Wilbur. In addition, the lyrics to "I Am Easily Assimilated" were done by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein, and Hellman wrote the words to "Eldorado". Hershy Kay orchestrated all but the overture, which Bernstein did himself.
Candide first opened on Broadway as a musical on December 1, 1956. The premiere production was directed by Tyrone Guthrie and conducted by Samuel Krachmalnick. The sets and costumes were designed by Oliver Smith and Irene Sharaff, respectively. It was choreographed by Anna Sokolow. It featured Robert Rounseville as Candide, Barbara Cook as Cunégonde, Max Adrian as Dr. Pangloss, and Irra Petina as the Old Lady. This production was a box office disaster, running only two months for a total of 73 performances. Hellman's libretto was criticized in a The New York Times review as being too serious:
The first London production debuted at the Saville Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue on 30 April 1959 (after playing for a short time at the New Theatre Oxford and the Manchester Opera House). This production used Lillian Hellman's book with an additional credit 'assisted by Michael Stewart', and it was directed by Robert Lewis with choreography by Jack Cole. The cast included Denis Quilley as Candide, Mary Costa as Cunegonde, Laurence Naismith as Dr. Pangloss and Edith Coates as the Old Lady. The Musical Director was Alexander Faris. It ran for 60 performances.
Without Bernstein's involvement, the show underwent a series of Broadway revivals under the direction of Harold Prince. Lillian Hellman, the author of the original book, refused to let any of her work be used in the revival, so Prince commissioned a new, one-act book from Hugh Wheeler. The sole element of Hellman's book that remained was her invented name (Maximilian) for Cunegonde's brother. (The character has no given name in Voltaire's novella, and is referred to as "Cundegonde's brother" or "the young Baron.")
The lyrics were worked on by the team of artists listed above. This 105-minute version, omitting over half of the musical numbers, was known as the "Chelsea version", and opened in 1973 at Robert Kalfin's Chelsea Theater Center in the Brooklyn Academy of Music, before moving to Broadway in 1974 and running there for nearly two years, closing in 1976 after 740 performances. The 1974 Broadway revival starred Mark Baker (Candide), Maureen Brennan (Cunegonde), Sam Freed (Maximilian), Lewis J. Stadlen (Dr. Pangloss), and June Gable as the Old Lady.
The Chelsea version was marked by a unique production style. Eugene Lee helped Prince make sure that the multi-scene show would not get bogged down in set changes - he created platforms for the action that allowed scenes to change by refocusing attention instead of changing scenery. Actors performed on platforms in front, behind, and sometimes between audience members. Some sat on bleachers, others on stools on the stage floor. As the story unfolded, so did the stage, with sections falling from above, opening, closing, flying apart or coming together. A 13-member orchestra played from four areas. The conductor, who wore period costume and gold braid, could be seen by audience and musicians alike on television monitors.
In response to requests from opera companies for a more legitimate version, the show was expanded on the basis of Wheeler's book. The two-act "opera house version" contains most of Bernstein's music, including some songs that were not orchestrated for the original production. It was first performed by the New York City Opera in 1982 under Prince's direction, and ran for thirty-four performances. Opera companies around the world have performed this version, and the production was a staple of New York City Opera's repertoire.
The Australian premiere in 1982 by the Nimrod Theatre Company and directed by John Bell at Sydney's Seymour Centre featured Philip Quast in the title role.
In 1988, by which point Hellman had died, Bernstein started working alongside John Mauceri, then director of Scottish Opera, to produce a version that expressed his final wishes regarding Candide. Wheeler died before he could work again on the text, and John Wells was engaged. The new show was first produced by Scottish Opera with the credit "Adapted for Scottish Opera by John Wells and John Mauceri". After Bernstein had attended the final rehearsals and the opening in Glasgow, he decided that the time had come for the composer himself to re-examine Candide. Taking the Scottish Opera version as a basis, he made changes in orchestration, shuffled the order of numbers in the second Act, and altered the endings of several numbers. Bernstein then conducted and recorded what he called his "final revised version" with Jerry Hadley as Candide, June Anderson as Cunegonde, Christa Ludwig as the Old Lady, Kurt Ollmann as Maximilian and Adolph Green as Dr. Pangloss/Martin. Deutsche Grammophon released a DVD (2006, 147 min.), in 5.0 surround sound, of the 13 December 1989 recording at the London Barbican Centre, with a bonus video prologue and epilogue from the composer and a printed insert "Bernstein and Voltaire" by narrative collaborator Wells explaining what Bernstein wanted in this final revised version. A CD version, without Bernstein's commentary or audience applause, was also released by Deutsche Grammophon.
Ten years later (1999), when the Royal National Theatre in the UK decided to produce Candide, another revision was deemed necessary, and Wheeler's book was rewritten by John Caird. This book stuck far closer to Voltaire's original text than any previous version. The songs remained largely as Bernstein intended, bar a few more tweaks from Sondheim and Wilbur. This, the "RNT version", was a major success and has subsequently been performed a number of times.
Candide was revived on Broadway in 1997, directed again by Harold Prince. The cast included: Jason Danieley (Candide), Harolyn Blackwell (Cunegonde), Jim Dale (Dr. Pangloss), Andrea Martin (Old Lady), and Brent Barrett (Maximilian).
Lonny Price directed a 2004 semi-staged concert production with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Marin Alsop. It ran for four performances, May 5–8, 2004. This production was also broadcast on PBS's Great Performances. The first-night performance was recorded and released as a DVD (2005, 116 min., 5.1 sound). The cast featured Paul Groves as Candide, Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde, Sir Thomas Allen as Dr. Pangloss, Patti LuPone as the Old Lady, Janine LaManna as Paquette, and Stanford Olsen as the Governor/Vanderdendur/Ragotski with choruses from both Westminster Choir College and the Juilliard School completing the cast. This production included two rarely sung duets between Cunegonde and the Old Lady, "We Are Women" and "Quiet", which were included in the more extensive Bernstein's 1989 final revised version.
In 2006, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the creation of Candide, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris produced a new production under the direction of Robert Carsen. The production was to move to Milan's Teatro alla Scala in 2007 and to the English National Opera in 2008. The production transforms the proscenium into a giant 1950s-era TV set, and has Voltaire, appearing as the narrator, changing channels between certain scenes. Carsen sets the action in a 1950s-1960s world, with an American slant commenting on contemporary world politics. This production was filmed and broadcast on Arte. For an open-house day in French opera houses on February 17, 2007, this video was projected in high definition on a screen filling the proscenium of the Théâtre du Châtelet.
In 2009, a production directed by Enrico Castiglione was videotaped at the Teatro Argentina in Rome with the music performed by the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale di Malta and released on DVD by Kultur Video. The cast included Robert Orth, Nancy Allen Lundy, Michael Slattery, Gabriele Ribis, Rosalind Elias, Hilda Ramos and Benjamin Brecher. This production was unusual for using a stage with revolving segments, no sets (only a star-filled black background and furniture), six dancers wearing skin-tight silver outfits and a chorus wearing greek chorus-style masks.
Candide has been revived at Menier Chocolate Factory in 2013/14, directed by Matthew White and choreographed by Adam Cooper. The cast included: Fra Fee as Candide, Scarlett Strallen as Cunegonde, James Dreyfus as Pangloss/Martin/Cacambo, David Thaxton as Maximilian, Jackie Clune as the Old Lady and Ben Lewis.
The Harold Prince/New York City Opera 1982 production was revived at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center in January 2017 with Prince directing and a cast including Gregg Edelman as Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss and various characters, Linda Lavin as The Old Lady, Jay Armstrong Johnson as Candide, Meghan Picerno as Cunegonde, Keith Phares as Maximilian, Jessica Tyler Wright as Paquette, Chip Zien and Brooks Ashmanskas.
Candide continues to be produced around the world, with recent notable productions and performances including:A Vernon Mound-directed production in Karlstad Sweden (2008)
The Berkshire Theatre Festival of Massachusetts (2009)
The Oberlin Conservatory of Music (2010)
Seattle Celebrates Bernstein Festival, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle (2010)
Goodman Theatre in Chicago in a co-production with The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC mounted a revised version directed by Mary Zimmerman featuring Hollis Resnik (2010).
Hollywood Bowl concert, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, with Richard Suart as Pangloss, Frederica von Stade as the Old Lady, Alek Shrader as the title character and Anna Christy as Cunegonde (September 2010)
In 2015, the Florence premiere, produced by Francesco Micheli, featured Keith Jameson and Laura Claycomb as Candide and Cunegonde, with Richard Suart as Pangloss and Anja Silja and Chris Merritt as the Old lady and the Governor.
The production at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in 2015/16 was directed and choreographed by Adam Cooper.
Long Beach Opera (January 2016)
Pangloss (baritone; doubles with Martin in the 1956 stage version and Bernstein's 1989 revision. In the Hal Prince versions, he doubles with several other characters, including the narrator Voltaire and the Governor.)
Maximilian (baritone, but can be played by a tenor; is a speaking role in the original 1956 version.)
Paquette (contralto in versions of the musical from 1974 on. Although a major character in Voltaire's novella and all revivals of the show, she is a walk-on part with only one line in the 1956 stage version.)
The Old Lady (contralto)
Martin (baritone. Doubles with Pangloss in the 1956 version and some later versions. Does not appear in the 1973 version.)
Cacambo (speaking role. Does not appear in the 1956 or 1973 versions. Doubles with Pangloss and Martin in Bernstein's 1989 revisions.)
In the country of Westphalia, Candide is about to be married to the lovely Cunegonde. Dr. Pangloss, Candide's teacher expounds his famous philosophy, to the effect that all is for the best ("The Best of All Possible Worlds") The happy couple sing their marriage duet ("Oh, Happy We"), and the ceremony is about to take place ("Wedding Chorale") when war breaks out between Westphalia and Hesse. Westphalia is destroyed, and Cunegonde is seemingly killed. Candide takes comfort in the Panglossian doctrine ("It Must Be So") and sets out on his journeys.
In the public square of Lisbon ("Lisbon Fair"), the Infant Casmira, a deranged mystic in the caravan of an Arab conjuror, predicts dire happenings ("The Prediction"), leaving the public in terror ("Pray For Us"). Candide discovers Pangloss, who has contracted syphilis, yet remains optimistic ("Dear Boy"*). The Inquisition appears, in the persons of two ancient Inquisitors and their lawyer, and many citizens are tried and sentenced to hang, including Candide and Dr. Pangloss ("The Inquisition: Auto-da-Fé"*). Suddenly an earthquake occurs, killing Dr. Pangloss, and Candide barely escapes.
Candide, faced with the loss of both Cunegonde and Dr. Pangloss, starts out for Paris. He is unable to reconcile Dr. Pangloss's ideas with the bitter events that have occurred, but concludes that the fault must lie within himself, rather than in the philosophy of optimism ("It Must Be Me").
Cunegonde turns up alive in Paris ("The Paris Waltz"), a demi-mondaine in a house shared by a Marquis and a Sultan. A party is in progress. Urged by the Old Lady, who serves as her duenna, Cunegonde arrays herself in her jewels ("Glitter and Be Gay"). Candide stumbles into the scene and is amazed to find Cunegonde still alive ("You Were Dead, You Know"). In a duel, he kills both the Marquis and the Sultan, and flees with Cunegonde, accompanied by the Old Lady.
They fall in with a band of devout Pilgrims on their way to the New World and sail with them ("Pilgrims' Procession" / "Alleluia"). Arriving in Buenos Aires, the group is brought to the Governor's Palace (where Maximilian is alive and working for the Governor), where all except Cunegonde and the Old Lady are immediately enslaved. A street cleaner appears in the person of the pessimistic Martin, warning Candide of the future. Candide and Maximilian are joyfully reunited, but when Candide states his intention to marry Cunegonde Maximilian starts to strike him with a glove. Candide starts to strike him back, but before he actually does Maximilian drops, apparently dead. The Governor serenades Cunegonde ("My Love") and she, abetted by the Old Lady, agrees to live in the palace ("I Am Easily Assimilated"). The Old Lady urges Candide to flee, but Candide, fired by reports of Eldorado from Martin, sets off to seek his fortune, planning to return for Cunegonde later ("Quartet Finale").
In the heat of Buenos Aires, Cunegonde, the Old Lady and the Governor display their fraying nerves ("Quiet"), and the Governor resolves to get rid of the tiresome ladies. Candide returns from Eldorado ("Eldorado"), his pockets full of gold and searches for Cunegonde. The Governor, however, has had both Cunegonde and the Old Lady tied up in sacks and carried to a boat in the harbor. He tells Candide that the women have sailed for Europe, and Candide eagerly purchases a leaky ship from the Governor and dashes off. As the Governor and his suite watch from his terrace, the ship with Candide and Martin casts off and almost immediately sinks ("Bon Voyage").
Candide and Martin have been rescued from the ship, and are floating about the ocean on a raft. Martin is devoured by a shark, but Dr. Pangloss miraculously reappears. Candide is overjoyed to find his old teacher, and Pangloss sets about repairing the damage done to his philosophy by Candide's experiences.
In a luxurious palazzo of Venice ("Money, Money, Money"), Cunegonde turns up as a scrubwoman and the Old Lady as a woman of fashion (Madame Sofronia) ("What's the Use?"), both working as shills for Ferone, the owner of a gambling hall. Candide and Dr. Pangloss, both wearing masks, appear and are caught up by the merriment, the wine and the gambling. Candide is accosted by a masked Cunegonde and Old Lady, who try to steal his remaining gold ("The Venice Gavotte"), but recognizes Cunegonde when her mask falls off. His last hopes and dreams shattered, he drops his money at her feet and leaves. Cunegonde and the Old Lady are fired by Ferone and Pangloss is now penniless, having been completely swindled out of all his money.
With Candide now completely disillusioned, he and Pangloss return to the ruined Westphalia. Cunegonde, Maximilian (minus his teeth) and the Old Lady appear and within them a spark of optimism still flickers. Candide, however, has had enough of the foolish Panglossian ideal and tells them all that the only way to live is to try to make some sense of life ("Make Our Garden Grow").
The operetta begins with an overture. The chorus welcomes everyone to Westphalia ("Westphalia Chorale") and Voltaire begins to narrate his story. Candide, the illegitimate nephew of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronck, lives in the Baron's castle Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck. He is snubbed by the Baroness and bullied by her son Maximilian. Paquette, a very accommodating serving girl, also lives in the castle. However, Candide is in love with Cunegonde, the Baroness' daughter as Maximilian, Candide, Cunegonde and Paquette find their happiness in life ("Life is Happiness Indeed"). The four discover that Dr. Pangloss, a man thought to be the world's greatest philosopher, has taught them happiness ("The Best of All Possible Worlds"). The philosopher asks his four students to summarize what they have learned ("Universal Good"). When Cunegonde spies Dr. Pangloss being physically intimate with Paquette, he explains it away as being a "physical experiment", and she decides to share the "experiment" with Candide. Professing their love to each other at a park, Candide and Cunegonde dream of what married life would look like ("Oh, Happy We"). The Baron, however, is angered at what Candide has done to Cunegonde, as he is a social inferior. Candide is promptly exiled, wandering alone with his faith and optimism to cling to ("It Must Be So"). He is then shanghaied by and into the Bulgar Army, which plots to "liberate" all of Westphalia. His escape attempt fails, and is recaptured by the Army. The Bulgar Army attacks Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronck and in the castle the Baron's family prays as the chorus joins in ("Westphalia"). However, the Baron, the Baroness, Maximilian, Paquette, Pangloss and (after being repeatedly ravished by the Bulgar Army) Cunegonde are all killed in the attack ("Battle Music"). Candide returns to the castle's ruins and searches for Cunegonde ("Candide's Lament").
Some time later, Candide becomes a beggar. He gives the last of his coins to Pangloss, who reveals that he was revived by an anatomist's scalpel. He then tells Candide of his syphilis condition brought on by Paquette ("Dear Boy"). A merchant offers the two employment before sailing off to Lisbon, Portugal. However, as they arrive, a volcano erupts and the ensuing earthquake results in the death of 30,000 people. Pangloss and Candide are blamed for the disaster, arrested as heretics and publicly tortured by order of the Grand Inquisitor. Pangloss is hanged and Candide is flogged ("Auto-da-Fé"). Candide eventually ends up in Paris, France, where Cunegonde shares her favors (on different mutually-agreed-upon days of the week) with wealthy Jew Don Issachar and the city's Cardinal Archbishop ("The Paris Waltz"). She contemplates what she has done to survive while in Paris ("Glitter and Be Gay"). Candide finds Cunegonde and reunites with her ("You Were Dead, You Know"). However, the Old Lady, Cunegonde's companion, forewarns Cunegonde and Candide of Issachar and the Archbishop's arrival. Candide inadvertently kills both of them by stabbing them with a sword.
The three flee to Cadiz, Spain with Cunegonde's jewels, where the Old Lady tells Candide and Cunegonde about her past. The jewels are stolen and the Old Lady offers to sing for their dinner ("I Am Easily Assimilated"). The French police arrive, intending to arrest Candide for murdering Don Issachar and the Archbishop. Accepting an offer to fight for the Jesuits in South America, Candide decides to take Cunegonde and the Old Lady to the New World, and the three begin their journey on a ship ("Quartet Finale").
In Montevideo, Uruguay, Maximilian and Paquette, now revived and disguised as slave girls, reunite. Soon after, Don Fernando d'Ibaraa y Figueroa y Mascarenes y Lampourdos y Souza, the governor of the city, falls in love with Maximilian, but quickly realizes his mistake and sells him to a priest. Meanwhile, Candide, Cunegonde and the Old Lady also arrive in Montevideo, where the Governor falls in love with Cunegonde ("My Love"). The Old Lady convinces Cunegonde that her marriage to the governor will support her financially ("We Are Women"). Candide soon befriends Cacambo and accepts him as his valet. Convinced by the Old Lady that the police are still after Candide for the Archbishop's murder, Candide and Cacambo flee Montevideo and eventually stumble upon a Jesuit camp and are joined by the Father and Mother Superiors ("The Pilgrims' Procession - Alleluia"). Candide soon discovers that the Mother Superior is actually Paquette and the Father Superior is Maximilian. When Candide tells Maximilian that he will marry Cunegonde, however, Maximilian angrily challenges him to a fight. However, Maximilian is once again inadvertently stabbed to death by Candide. Candide is forced to flee into the jungle as a result.
Three years later, Cunegonde and the Old Lady discuss the miseries shared by the upper classes while the Governor doesn't want to hear their complaints ("Quiet"). Meanwhile, Candide and Cacambo are starving and lost in the jungles. Finding a boat in the ocean, they float downriver into a cavern for 24 hours until they finally reach Eldorado, the city of gold ("Introduction to Eldorado"). The two discover that the locals worship one god as opposed to three, palaces of science, rosewater and stones with cinnamon and clove scents. Dissatisfied without Cunegonde, Candide decides to leave. The locals think him foolish, but offer to help, giving him some of the town's golden sheep and constructing a lift that will guide him, Cacambo and the sheep over the mountain ("The Ballad of Eldorado"). One by one, the sheep die until only two remain. Unwilling to go back to Montevideo, Candide gives Cacambo one of the golden sheep to ransom Cunegonde, telling them that they will meet again in Venice, Italy.
Arriving at Suriname, Candide meets Martin, a local pessimist. He shows him a slave with one hand and one foot lost while harvesting sugar-cane, which is the result of Europeans eating sugar; Candide is unable to convince Martin otherwise ("Words, Words, Words"). Vanderdendur, a Dutch villain, offers his ship, the Santa Rosalia, in exchange for the golden sheep. Candide is excited when he is told that the Santa Rosalia is to depart for Venice. The locals and Vandendur wish Candide a safe journey to Venice ("Bon Voyage"). However, the ship sinks and Martin drowns as a result. After reuniting with his golden sheep, Candide is picked up by a galley, meeting five deposed kings. The galley is rowed by slaves, including Pangloss, revived once again. The kings say that they will live humbly, serving both god and men, and Pangloss leads their debate ("The Kings' Barcarolle").
The ship arrives in Venice, where the Carnival festival is taking place ("Money, Money, Money"). While the kings play roulette and baccarat, Candide searches for Cunegonde. Maximilian, revived once again, is now the corrupt Prefect of Police and the town's leader. Paquette is now the town's reigning prostitute. Cunegonde and the Old Lady are employed to encourage the gamblers ("What's the Use?"). Pangloss celebrates a victory after winning roulette and spends his money on the other ladies ("The Venice Gavotte"). Candide, however, masked for the Carnival, is accosted by Cunegonde and the Old Lady (both of whom are also masked), who try to swindle him out of his money. During the exchange, all the masks come off and they are horrified to recognize each other. Seeing what Cunegonde has become, Candide's image of and belief in her is shattered ("Nothing More Than This"). Candide does not speak for several days; with what little money they have left, they purchase a small farm outside Venice and the chorus says that life is just life and paradise is nothing ("Universal Good"). Candide finally speaks and resolves to marry Cunegonde ("Make Our Garden Grow").
Though the show as a whole received mixed reviews at its opening, the music was immediately a hit. Much of the score was recorded on an original cast album, which was a success and is still in print as of 2009.
Cunegonde's coloratura aria "Glitter and Be Gay" is a favourite showpiece for many sopranos. Barbara Cook's performance of the aria at its introduction impressed audience and critics, bringing her wide recognition.
This aria poses some difficulties. Technically, it is among the most fiendishly challenging coloratura soprano arias. If sung as written throughout (alternative phrases are provided at several points in the score), there are three high E-flats (above high C), two staccato and one sustained; there are also numerous uses of high C and D-flat. Some of the florid passages are very intricate, calling for marksmanship of the highest order. Theatrically, it demands an elaborate comic staging, in which Cunegonde adorns herself with jewelry while singing and dancing around the stage (much as does Marguerite in the "Jewel Song" of Gounod's Faust), and has a satirical quality that is a challenge to perform.
Subsequent performers of the role of Cunegonde have included:Mary Costa (in the 1959 London premiere)
Madeline Kahn (in a 1968 concert version)
Maureen Brennan (In Hal Prince's first Broadway revival of the show in 1974)
Erie Mills (at the New York City Opera in 1982)
June Anderson (under Bernstein's direction in concerts and a 1989 recording shortly before his death)
Constance Hauman (understudy to Anderson, filled in for at least one performance)
Elizabeth Futral (at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1994)
Michael Callen (in his 1996 posthumously released LEGACY 2-CD album)
Harolyn Blackwell (in Hal Prince's 1997 Broadway revival of the show).
Kristin Chenoweth (in a 2004 concert production with the New York Philharmonic; recorded with many other orchestras including the Boston Pops)
Lauren Molina (in Mary Zimmerman's 2010 production at the Goodman Theatre)
Jessica Pratt (at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma in 2012)
Meghan Picerno (in the 2017 New York City Opera revival)
This aria has been performed in concert by many musical theatre and opera stars, including (in addition to those listed above): Diana Damrau (Munich, 2006, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Zubin Mehta), Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Edita Gruberová, Shona Lindsay, Sumi Jo, Simone Kermes, Roberta Peters, and Dawn Upshaw.
The Overture to Candide soon earned a place in the orchestral repertoire. After a successful first concert performance on January 26, 1957, by the New York Philharmonic under the composer's baton, it quickly became popular and was performed by nearly 100 other orchestras within the next two years. Since that time, it has become one of the most frequently performed orchestral compositions by a 20th century American composer; in 1987, it was the most often performed piece of concert music by Bernstein.
The overture incorporates tunes from the songs "The Best of All Possible Worlds", "Battle Music", "Oh, Happy We", and "Glitter and Be Gay" and melodies composed specifically for the overture. Much of the music is written in time signatures such as 6/4 and 3/2, which are often combined with 4/4 and 2/2 to make effective 5/2s and 7/2s in places by rapid, regular switching between them and 3/2.
While many orchestrations of the overture exist, in its current incarnation for full symphony orchestra, which incorporates changes made by Bernstein during performances in December 1989, the piece requires a standard-sized contemporary orchestra of piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, an E-flat and two B-flat clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, a large but standard percussion contingent, harp, and a standard string section. It is approximately four and a half minutes long. The theatre-sized orchestration, as in the published full score of the operetta, includes one flute doubling on piccolo, one oboe, two clarinets rotating between an E-flat, B-flat, and bass, one bassoon, two horns, two trumpets, two trombones, one tuba, standard orchestral percussion, harp, and strings. Main differences between the two are doublings and increased use of percussion effects (especially the addition of a drum roll during the opening fanfares) in the symphony orchestral arrangement. Differences between the first publication and later printings (of both orchestrations) include a slowed opening tempo (half note equal 132 instead of 152). An arrangement for standard wind ensemble also exists, composed by Clare Grundman in 1991, published under Boosey and Hawkes. Peter Richard Conte has also transcribed it for the Wanamaker Organ.
Dick Cavett used the "Glitter and Be Gay" portion of the overture at the midpoint of his ABC late-night TV show The Dick Cavett Show. The song also served as his signature introduction during the years the Cavett show aired on PBS.
At a memorial concert for Bernstein in 1990, the New York Philharmonic paid tribute to their Laureate Conductor by performing the overture without a conductor. This practice has become a performance tradition still maintained by the Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic performed the Overture to Candide as part of its historic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, on February 26, 2008.
All music by Bernstein, and lyrics by Richard Wilbur unless noted otherwise
This version of the "Lisbon Sequence" was rewritten after the Boston try-out; it introduced the songs "Auto-da-Fé" and "Dear Boy", which were reinstated in most revivals.
The 1973 revival had a couple of songs added (music by Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim unless otherwise noted); "Life Is Happiness Indeed", "Auto Da Fe--What a Day" (lyrics by Sondheim and Latouche), "This World", "The Sheep's Song", and "O Misere".
Bernstein's "final revised version", recorded in 1989: