The age of enlightenment was characterized by blasphemy, intellectual rebellion and the desire for truth. Candide, an opera adapted from Voltaire’s novella is a perfect example.
It is full of sarcasm, and a little erratic, but it portrays humanity with disturbing accuracy. It was written in 1759, but like any great classic it still rings true today, and was banned for a time by the church and government, further proving that the story has something to teach us.
When Candide was first performed it was not very successful, but it is now very popular. It has been adapted many times, but the most successful version was written by Leonard Bernstein, and this summer Fayetteville State University will bring Bernstein’s opera to life July 16-17 at Seabrook Auditorium. This is the fifth year of summer opera at Fayetteville State, and the tradition is to alternate between a classic and a contemporary opera. Candide is considered a contemporary work.
One may ask how a play based on a story from 1759 can be considered contemporary and still apply, but Phoebe Hall, the director of the opera, explained, “I think the play is about two young people who go off and search for the brave new world when really the brave new world is the one you already live.
“It’s just the way you look at it changes,” continued Hall. “It’s still relevant today. People go looking for greener pastures when really the best thing that you could have is right in front of you. It’s just a matter of how you perceive it, and what you do with it.”
“I remember it as being very, very funny,” says Hall, when asked why she chose Candide for this year’s performance. “I wanted something that was fun, and funny, that was by an author that someone could relate to, and everyone knows who Leonard Bernstein is.”
During the age of enlightenment people were trying to break from the molds of society and into truth, and so much of the resulting literature was banned, but Candide by Voltaire survived and was adapted. “Everybody is looking for knowledge, and everyone wants to be aware,” said Hall, noting that the desire for knowledge is one of the reason that the work survived this long, and is still interesting for many people.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for staff, $3 for children, and $2 for students. For information call 672-1006. For reservations contact Antoinette Fairley, the ticket manager at 672-1724. Children are free when accompanied by an adult or at the matinee showing on July 16.