La Scala removes Bernstein's 'Candide' from program

Last updated at 15:53 29 December 2006

La Scala opera house has removed from its program a production of Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" that includes a scene where actors wearing masks of world leaders including George W. Bush and Tony Blair dance around in their underwear.

La Scala said in a statement that the decision was made after artistic director Stephane Lissner watched a performance Tuesday at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, where the production is being staged until the end of this month.

The opera "was not in line with La Scala's artistic program," the Milan theater said in a statement issued Thursday evening. It did not elaborate.

In the production directed by Robert Carsen, actors wear masks of former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they dance in their underwear, wearing ties featuring their national flags.

La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said Friday that this scene "was only part of the problem, and a small part."

Cella said Carsen's production largely modified Bernstein's original work, including inserting new dialogue, and that the final product "rather than being close to the original, is based on it to create a peculiar work."

"It is not a value judgment. Carsen is a wonderful director who's made beautiful shows," said Cella, speaking from his Milan office. "It is an issue of compatibility with La Scala's program."

Cella said it had not been decided what production would replace "Candide," which had been scheduled for June-July.

Bernstein's "Candide" is a musical adaptation of Voltaire's satire against eternal optimism. The production directed by Carsen, a Canadian, is a follow-up to the Broadway play 50 years ago that satirized McCarthyism.

This one updates it to show how the world has lost optimism about idealized America.

In France, L'Express weekly called it a "total success" but also said it was "cruel and vulgar, often cynical, sometimes right on."

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