Young Candide lives in the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh in Westphalia, where he is enjoying country life in the company of the Baron’s children, Cunegonde and Maximilian, and the beautiful Paquette, the Baroness’ maid, who generously shares her charms with any male member of the mankind (quartet: Life Is Happiness Indeed). Candide is being taught by the philosopher Pangloss, who inculcated him with the innocent conviction that all is for the best (The Best of All Possible Worlds). When Candide sees his mentor with Paquette in a position unbecoming of a philosopher, he quickly follows his example (Oh, Happy We), which earns him a kick up the backside and eviction from the castle, along with Pangloss (It Must Be So). While wandering aimlessly, he bumps into moustache-sporting Bulgars with wild eyes and filthy clothes, who are raping and plundering everything they can lay their dirty hands on. He manages to get away with some bruisingonly, but his companions get annihilated (Cunegonde!). Candide then makes his way to Holland, where he meets Pangloss, who had miraculously raised from the dead. He is, however, a beggar now, and, on top of that, suffers from a painful and incurable ‘token of remembrance’ contracted from the lovely Paquette (Dear Boy). Together they set off to Lisbon. As a result of a disaster at sea, they are slightly late for the infamous earthquake which razed the city to the ground. Pangloss cannot help himself and pontificates to the inhabitants of Lisbon about his optimistic beliefs, as a result getting himself a place at the stake (What a Day). Candide manages to escape death once again, having received mighty whipping. He continues to believe that everything is going really well (It Must Be Me), and makes his way to Paris (The Paris Waltz), where, by a stroke of luck, he meets Cunegonde. She managed to escape from the plundered castle and is now a lover of both the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris and a certain wealthy Jewish merchant (Glitter and Be Gay). Having caught both gentlemen making out with Cunegonde (You Were Dead), Candide kills them and flees with his beloved and her duenna, who asserts that she is the daughter of a Polish pope (tango: I Am Easily Assimilated). They end up, for a change, in Cádiz, from where, owing to the intervention of a Métis named Cacambo, they set off on a journey to the New World to help Jesuit missionaries (quartet: Once Again).
Having arrived in Buenos Aires, they meet Maximilian, son of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh, and the lovely Paquette, who had been sold as slaves. After spending a few moments with Maximilian, who he thought, being absent-minded, to be a buxom wench, the Governor’s attention is turned to Cunegonde (My Love - polka - We Are Women), while Candide goes off to the jungle to fulfil his military duties (The Pilgrims’ Procession). After countless trials and tribulations, including Candide killing Maximilian (for rejecting his proposal to Cunegonde once again), and Cunegonde and her duenna getting bored rotten living in luxury at the Governor’s (Quiet), Candide and his faithful Cacambo make it to Eldorado (The Ballad of Eldorado). Having taken several golden fleeced rams, Candide sets off on another search for Cunegonde.
After a long journey, when he is left with only two rams, he meets Martin, whose extremely pessimistic view of the world is in direct opposition to Pangloss’ philosophy (Words, Words, Words). Candide uses one of the rams to buy a ship to go to Europe, but Vanderdendur, a Dutch trickster, has sold them a defective wreck (Bon Voyage) which immediately sinks. As confirmation of his philosophy of life, Martin quickly drowns, while the last ram proves its value by saving Candide’s life. While at open sea, Candide chances upon a raft with five deposed kings and one miserable beggar, who is easily recognised as Pangloss (The Kings’ Barcarolle).
Having arrived in Venice, Candide bumps into Maximilian again, who is not only alive, but also a local Mafia leader, Paquette, who is now a luxury courtesan, and Cunegonde, who steals from patrons of a casino owned by Maximilian (Money, Money, Money – What’ s the Use? - The Venice Gavotte). Pangloss wins at one of the green-clothed tables and hires two prostitutes, who Candide recognises as Cunegonde and her duenna. Burdened by the misfortunes (Nothing More Than This), the young man becomes depressed and refuses to speak, while Pangloss buys a small farm outside Venice, where everyone will finally be able to grow their own garden (Universal Good - Make Our Garden Grow). They resolve this to be the only reasonable attitude in the face of the human condition.
Piotr Kamiński, Tysiąc i jedna opera, PWN, 2008