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Bernstein: Make Our Garden Grow

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: pruning the evils out of life…

In the finale to Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide, the characters resolve that the only solution to the world’s moral quagmires is to “tend your garden” by living simply, productively, and hoping for the best.

This realization follows countless misfortunes and futile searches for happiness. Added to this mess are the confusing teachings of Dr. Pangloss, who preaches that even the worst possible disasters are blessings, given the essential goodness of God.

Voltaire’s 1759 novel “Candide” was intended to parody the philosophical optimism of Enlightenment thinker Gottfried Leibniz.

In the hands of Bernstein, and what eventually amounted to small army of librettists, the story still managed to retain its satirical edge, perhaps because the work’s other targets (including persecution, war-mongering, and shallow utopianism) have never really gone out of style.

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