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English National Opera to Present Carsten's Candide Next Season logo
A scene from Candide
The English National Opera will conclude its 2007-2008 season with Canadian director Robert Carsten's controversial production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. The production, which will begin performances on June 21, 2008, will star Toby Spence in the title role. It is designed by Michael Levine and choreographed by Tony Award winner Rob Ashford.

Voltaire's 1758 literary satire follows the eponymous hero Candide on a series of mishaps, throughout which he clings to his optimistic tutor Pangloss' belief that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." In his 1956 comic operetta, with a libretto by Lillian Hellman, Bernstein used the story to comment on Senator Joseph McCarthy's then ongoing communist witch hunts. In 1974, Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim revised the piece, heightening its farcical elements for their times.

Carsen has updated the work again with completely new dialogue. Described as "a deadly political and social satire," it's now aimed at the United State from the 1950s to the present, lampooning worldwide contemporary political figures along the way. In one scene, world leaders Tony Blair, George Bush, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, and Jacques Chirac are seen dancing drunkenly on a beach in their underpants.

The show is a co-production with Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, where it premiered last year, and Milan's Teatro alla Scala. It was supposed to play in Italy this past January, but the run was cancelled following a reported censorship row between Carsen and La Scala.

ENO's new season, which begins on September 29, will also include productions of Lost Highway, Punch and Judy Carmen, The Coronation of Poppea, Aida, The Turn of the Screw, Lucia di Lammermore, The Merry Widow, Der Rosenkavalier, St Matthew Passion, The Magic Flute, Madam Butterfly, and The Mikado.

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