First produced on Broadway in 1956 and closed as a flop d’estime after 73 performances, Candide may someday gain its rightful place as the best of all possible Leonard Bernstein stage works. Exuberant, ambitious, and shamelessly eclectic, the score has gone through more trials than Voltaire’s troubled hero, whose story it tells. After the show’s Broadway demise, Lillian Hellman refused to change a jot of her leaden book; attempts to rework the piece resulted in a series of further disasters, culminating in Harold Prince’s 1982 monster overstaging for the New York City Opera. The good news on this December 1989 recording, which has Bernstein conducting his score for the first time, is that it wipes out 35 years of tampering by restoring more of the pristine score than has ever been played at one time. The middling news is that the new cast of opera luminaries — fresh-voiced Jerry Hadley as Candide, June Anderson as a prima donna Cunegonde, and veteran Wagnerian Christa Ludwig as an antic Old Lady (plus longtime Bernstein sidekick Adolph Green as the Voltaire stand-in, Dr. Pangloss) — doesn’t erase memories of the original-cast recording, with Barbara Cook’s delirious Cunegonde (still, praise be, available). And now the bad news: As on Deutsche Grammophon’s 1985 Bernstein-led West Side Story, the major liability is the maestro’s own conducting, which is pathetically unable to revive the romping high spirits that were his when Candide was new. B-

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  • 148 minutes