Italian Opera Featuring Underwear-clad President Bush and Tony Blair Canceled

La Scala opera house has canceled a production of Bernstein's "Candide" that includes a scene with actors dancing in underwear while wearing masks of world leaders including President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

La Scala said in a statement that the decision was made after artistic director Stephane Lissner watched a performance Tuesday at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, where the new production is being staged through the end of December.

The opera, scheduled for nine performances in June and July, "was not in line with La Scala's artistic program," the theater said in a statement Thursday night. It did not elaborate.

In the production directed by Robert Carsen of Canada, actors wear masks of Blair, Bush, former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they dance in their underwear, wearing ties featuring their national flags.

La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said Friday the scene "was only part of the problem, and a small part."

Cella said Carsen's production largely modified Bernstein's original work, including inserting new dialogue, and that the final product "rather than being close to the original, is based on it to create a peculiar work."

"It is not a value judgment, Carsen is a wonderful director who's made beautiful shows," said Cella, speaking from his Milan office. "It is an issue of compatibility with La Scala's program."

Cella said it had not been decided what production would replace "Candide."

Bernstein's "Candide" is a musical adaptation of Voltaire's satire against eternal optimism. The production directed by Carsen is a follow-up to the Broadway play 50 years ago that satirized McCarthyism.

This one updates it to show how the world has lost optimism about idealized America.

In France, L'Express weekly called it a "total success" but also said it's "cruel and vulgar, often cynical, sometimes right on."