Bernstein – “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide

by Max Derrickson

“Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide 

Leonard Bernstein
(Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918; died in New York City in 1990)

In 1759 Voltaire penned his classic tale, Candide, ou L’Optimisme, of a naïve lad’s travels during which he learns some cold life lessons.  Armed with his teacher’s advice, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,” the young Candide finds this hyper-optimism challenged as he suffers an absurdist litany of tragedies, eventually returning home rather cynical yet wiser.  The tale has an ironic charm and humor that still resounds.

Composer Leonard Bernstein identified very strongly with the young Candide, but it took another writer to persuade him to turn Voltaire’s story into music.  Author-screenwriter Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) approached Bernstein in 1953 [. . .]

From the outset, though, various numbers have been beloved for the masterpieces that they are, including the showstopper sung by Candide’s sweetheart’s, Cunegonde, “Glitter and Be Gay.”  It’s satirical and over-the-top, all the while maintaining [. . .]



Glitter and be gay,
That’s the part I play;
Here I am in Paris, France,
Forced to bend my soul
To a sordid role,
Victimized by bitter, bitter circumstance.
Alas for me! Had I remained
Beside my lady mother,
My virtue had remained unstained
Until my maiden hand was gained
By some Grand Duke or other.
Ah, ’twas not to be;
Harsh necessity
Brought me to this gilded cage.
Born to higher things,