Candide received its first production in Scotland at the 1981 Edinburgh International Festival. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre led by Clive Perry – who had previously run Edinburgh's theatres – were making their second visit to the Festival. They performed at the Church of Scotland's Assembly Hall on the Mound, a favourite venue during the Festival’s first half-century. The Assembly Hall was usually host to classic theatre stagings, and Candide alternated with Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The thrust stage was perhaps a surprising set-up for an operetta, but the superb band controlled by Grant Hossack took their place in a pit in the centre of the stage. The all-singing, all-dancing company – complete with pantomime llamas – circled round them, choreographed by Stuart Hopps under the direction of Peter Farago.
The cast were largely drawn from the musical theatre rather than opera, the main exception being Rosemary Ashe, who delivered Cunegonde's coloratura with aplomb. She was partnered by William Relton in a sweetly innocent interpretation of the title role. The central pivot of Voltaire doubling Pangloss was safe in the hands of the wonderful Nickolas Grace, dry of voice and sarcastic of manner. Grace also took on a couple of shorter roles as well as playing Touchstone on the Shakespeare nights. The Old Lady was given a scene-stealing delivery by Nichola McAuliffe, and sixties pop star-turned-actor Mark Wynter was excellent as Maximilian.
The next appearance of Candide in Scotland came when Scottish Opera's first production, directed by Jonathan Miller and John Wells in designs by Richard Hudson, opened at the Glasgow Theatre Royal on 19 May 1988. The Company's Musical Director John Mauceri conducted an expanded version of the score, which he had prepared in collaboration with Bernstein. This production was televised from Glasgow in the presence of the composer and then was given an extensive tour and a London run as a co-production with the Old Vic. As Mauceri had already recorded an earlier text in the States, his assistant Justin Brown conducted Scottish Opera’s recording of Candide excerpts. Bernstein himself conducted a recording of a largely similar edition the next year.
The cast was once again dominated by Nickolas Grace. He still played Voltaire and Pangloss but added two newly-included roles, Martin and Cacambo. The young leads were Mark Beudert and Marilyn Hill Smith. The Old Lady was in the safe hands of Ann Howard, once a superb Carmen and Dalila.
More recently, Candide took place of honour as the grand opening concert of the 2007 Edinburgh International Festival. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus were on unfamiliar territory (apart from the famous Overture) but were moulded into shape by Robert Spano. On this memorable occasion the evening was held together by Sir Thomas Allen, a master of comic timing. Allen took the roles of Voltaire, Pangloss, Martin, and a Narrator to keep the audience up to speed with the dizzying pace and changing location. The title role was played by Matthew Polenzani, a young American lyric tenor and now a regular at the Met. Laura Aikin was Cunegonde. Roland Wood, Scottish Opera's recent Don Giovanni, was Maximilian, adding the Sea Captain for good measure. Emerging mezzo Jennifer Johnston made much of Paquette. The Old Lady was played by Kathryn Harries, with another veteran – tenor Keith Lewis – as the Governor.
Stephen Fraser, operascotland.org, the website for opera listings and performance history