In 1953, the renowned playwright Lillian Hellman proposed to Leonard Bernstein that they adapt Voltaire's Candide for the musical theater. Voltaire's 1758 novella satirized the fashionable philosophies of his day and, especially, the Catholic Church whose Inquisition routinely tortured and killed "heretics" in a ghastly event known as an "Auto da Fé" ("act of faith"). Hellman observed a sinister parallel between the Inquisition's church-sponsored purges and the "Washington Witch Trials," fueled by anti-Communist hysteria and waged by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Charged with rage and indignation, she began her adaptation of Voltaire's with lyricist John LaTouche and Bernstein, who wrote numerous musical sketches. Before long, LaTouche was replaced by poet Richard Wilbur. Hellman, Bernstein, and Wilbur worked periodically over the next two years but labored in earnest through 1956, a year when Bernstein was simultaneously composing West Side Story. By October 1956, Candide was ready for performances in Boston, where Dorothy Parker contributed lyrics to "The Venice Gavotte" while Bernstein and Hellman had also added lyrics of their own to other numbers. The lyricist credits were already beginning to mount up.
Conducted by Leonard Bernstein