Act I

The story begins in the German land of Westphalia, in the 18th century. Candide, young and innocent, is happy with his life there, despite his being an illegitimate child of unclear origin. He lives in the castle of the Baron and the Baroness Thunder-ten-Tronck who have two children of their own, Maximilian and Cunegonde. Candide, Cunegonde, Maximilian and Paquette the maid study with Doctor Pangloss, a philosopher who teaches them optimism, making them believe that all’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Candide and Cunegonde are in love with each other and try to get more intimate, but are discovered by Maximilian. The Thunder-ten-Tronck family expels Candide from the castle, but he still keeps his faith in optimism. He is recruited into the Bulgar Army, but is too incapable of military service. Meanwhile a war between Bulgaria and Westphalia breaks out. The Thunder-ten-Tronck castle is devastated. Candide, now a deserter from the army, finds Cunegonde’s body among the ruins (‘Candide’s Lament’).

Reduced to beggary, Candide meets a man ravaged by syphilis who turns out to be Dr. Pangloss and is far from complaining. He and Candide go to Lisbon and arrive there right in the moment of a volcano eruption. They are blamed for the catastrophe and taken to an auto-da-fé. Dr. Pangloss attempts to distract the crowd with a story of his infection, but he and Candide are tried and sentenced by the Inquisition. Pangloss is sentenced to hanging, and Candide is flogged. Candide travels on, allowing a doubt regarding optimism, and arrives in Paris. A mysterious beauty lives here, kept as a mistress by two powerful men, the Car- dinal Archbishop of Notre Dame and a rich Jew Don Issachar. This is Cunegonde, who is at the same time disgusted and delighted with the life she is leading. Can- dide recognizes her voice, and the couple is happily reunited, but the Cardinal and Don Issachar come to interrupt them and are killed by Candide. Candide and Cunegonde flee to Cadiz with the help of Cunegonde’s companion, the Old Lady. They are robbed, and to restore their fortunes the Old Lady tries to entice men in a tavern but earns nothing. However, some stranger offers Candide to go to America and fight for the Jesuits as a captain of their army. The travellers are very optimistic about their future life in the New World.

Act II

Candide and company arrive in Buenos Aires. The Governor of Buenos Aires, Don Fernando D’Ibaara y Figuero y Mascarenes y Lampourdos y Souza, lays his eyes on Cunegonde. The Old Lady sees this as an opportunity and bluffs Candide to flee. She and Cunegonde celebrate the triumph of their feminine charms.

Guided by a mestizo named Cacambo Candide reaches the camp of the Jesuits for whom he was commissioned to fight. He discovers that their Mother and Father Superiors are Paquette and Maximilian. Candide’s everlasting desire to marry Cunegonde leads him and Maximilian to a duel. Maximilian is killed, and Candide once again has to flee.

Back in Buenos Aires, three years have passed, but the Governor still wouldn’t marry Cunegonde. She is irritated, and the Old Lady is tired of their tranquil life here.

Meanwhile Candide and Cacambo scramble through the jungle and arrive in Eldorado, a paradise-like land free from greed and violence. But Candide longs to return to Cunegonde and leaves this blissful place with a load of jewels and golden sheep. He arrives in the Dutch colony of Surinam and sends Cacambo to Buenos Aires with a golden sheep to ransom Cunegonde and bring her to Venice where they would reunite. A local street sweeper named Martin mocks Candide’s faith in humanity. A Dutch merchant named Vanderdendur offers Candide a ship bound for Venice in exchange for a sheep, and Candide happily sets sail, but the ship is a wreck and sinks. Candide and lis last remaining sheep are rescued by a galley, where one of the rowing slaves turns out to be Dr. Pangloss. Also saved from the waves are five deposed kings. Pangloss moderates their debate on their future plans: to lead a simple rustic life.

The galley arrives in Venice. It is Carnival time and the Casino is in full swing. In the Casino, where everyone wears a mask, Paquette is the leading prostitute, Maximilian the Prefect of Police on the take from the Casino, and The Old Lady and Cunegonde encourage the gamblers to play and cheat with the roulette. Pangloss gambles and wins, while the Old Lady and Cunegonde attempt to coax Candide, unrecognized behind his mask, out of his money. Eventually, Candide recognizes Cunegonde’s voice. He cannot believe that this cold-blooded swindler is the woman he loves.

For days, Candide does not speak. With his one remaining sheep, he buys a small farm outside Venice, generously allowing Paquette, Maximilian, Cacambo, Dr. Pangloss, the Old Lady and even Cunegonde to live with him there. He keeps thinking, and at long last breaks his silence. He proposes to Cunegonde, and everyone agrees that best is just to live an ordinary life, accepting everything that’s in there with open eyes and making their garden grow.