MTT Conducts Bernstein's Candide

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If you would like assistance purchasing tickets for patrons with disabilities, please call the box office at 415-864-6000.

Bernstein at 100
Follow the misadventures of Candide and his sweetheart Cunegonde in a concert version of Bernstein's wildly popular and eminently hummable comic operetta Candide. With vocal fireworks performed by an internationally renowned cast, hear MTT lead the San Francisco Symphony in songs like “Glitter and Be Gay” and “Make Our Garden Grow.”

Floor seats start at $49*!

*Subject to availability.


Meghan Picerno


Michael Todd Simpson

Narrator/Dr. Pangloss

Hadleigh Adams


Vanessa Becerra


Sheri Greenawald

The Old Lady

Ben Jones


David Varnum

Grand Inquisitor/King Stanislaus

Jonathan Thomas

Inquisitor 1/Roué/Prince Charles Edward

Matthew Peterson

Inquisitor 2/Captain/King Hermann Augustus

Clayton Moser

Inquisitor 3/Tsar Ivan

Elliott Encarnación

Ragotski/Roué/Sultan Achmet

San Francisco Symphony

Tom Clark

Sound Design




At a Glance

Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) was one of the most phenomenally gifted musicians of the twentieth century. He composed music, conducted it, and played it. He spoke about music and he wrote about it. He knew where it fit into our overall cultural scheme, and he believed in its power to make life better and richer.

Candide  1956/88  |  2 hours
Voltaire’s novella Candide, ou L’Optimisme (1759) captivated Bernstein, although the composer struggled for more than three decades to find the right way to translate it for the musical stage. To Voltaire we owe the tale of the wide-eyed hero Candide whose trips to distant points of the globe invariably turn into dismal misadventures, much though he may be assured by his idealistic tutor, Doctor Pangloss, that everything is for the best. Voltaire published his novella in 1759 as a satirical, persuasive rebuttal to the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz’s philosophical assertion that “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,” a necessary consequence of God being a benevolent deity. Voltaire, however, saw bad things happening all around, including such contemporary occurrences as the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 (which may have killed up to 100,000 people) and the Seven Years’ War (1756-63, which was leaving bodies strewn on battlefields throughout Europe). The whole idea struck Voltaire as palpably absurd. How does blatant violence fit into Leibnitz’s contention?, he asked. What about shipwrecks? What about the Spanish Inquisition? Candide has to deal with them all in the course of this tale, and by the time he gets back to his native Westphalia he has become a wiser, if more cynical, young man, disabused of automatic optimism and intent on finding happiness where he can, achieving a measure of contentment in just making his garden grow. DID YOU KNOW? The version performed here was created for the Scottish Opera in 1988 and the San Francisco Symphony gave the US premiere in April 1993, under the baton of David Zinman. It uses about 40% of all the Candide music that had accumulated in the course of the many revisions (and is the shortest of all the versions). Many consider this concert version a resounding success in how it balances the musical standards expected from a reputable opera house while being produced on the nightly schedule of a musical comedy, how it preserves a sense of intimacy, and in it being scaled so as to not try the patience of the audience. Enjoy!

Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.


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  1. Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  2. Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  3. Sat, Jan 20, 2018 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  4. Sun, Jan 21, 2018 at 2:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

If you would like assistance purchasing tickets for patrons with disabilities, please call the box office at 415-864-6000.

Pre- and post-show Events

Bernstein on Bernstein, an engaging introduction by Bernstein’s daughter and son, Nina Bernstein Simmons and Alexander Bernstein*, that will offer greater insight into Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Accompanied on the piano by Peter Grunberg, this event will begin one hour prior to the concert and will be free to ticketholders.

*Nina Bernstein will present on 1/20, 1/21, Alexander Bernstein will present on 1/18, 1/19

“Leonard Bernstein and the San Francisco Symphony”
A Special Exhibit

The San Francisco Symphony continues their celebration of the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with this special exhibit, on display January 18 through February 28. Located on the First Tier Lobby, the exhibit examines the unique relationship between the Symphony and Bernstein as a conductor, composer, educator, activist, and friend.

Program Support

These concerts are generously sponsored by Bernard and Barbro Osher. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

January 19 presented in partnership with

2017-18 Season: Click to explore

This concert is eligible for Compose Your Own. Click to learn more!