Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Best of All Possible Worlds

I had the pleasure of joining my daughter, Lindsey, for the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music production of Candide, the opera composed in 1956 by Leonard Bernstein. We made the trip from St. Louis to see her friend in one of the lead roles on Friday Night (a road trip from St. Louis – some 225 miles.) It’s a journey and a chance for quality time. 

Candide is Voltaire’s magnum opus. I read it in college and am now reading it again. (Not in its original French of course.)  Candide is characterized by its sarcastic tone, as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. Voltaire, through this story, ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, philosophers and optimism in general. The main character, Candide, experiences a slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire is not rejecting optimism outright but advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the mantra of Candide’s mentor Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal after its secretive publication in 1759. Candide, however, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it.

All that said and with all due respect to Voltaire. I count myself pretty lucky to be spending this time with my daughter in this, the best of all possible worlds. 

P.S. As a bonus - we got to see that fantastic Alexander Calder Sculpture in front of the Jacobs School of Music (shown in photo above).  

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