• A Walk with Loge's hidden operatic gems: La Juive

    by Jacques Fromental Halévy


    "La Juive" was premiered in 1835, one of the first Grand Opéra ever to be staged. Jacques Fromental's father was from Bavaria, but he was born in Paris, in 1799, and he used the surname Lévy until 1807, when the family changed it to Halévy. One year before that, Jacques was accepted in the Conservatory of Paris, when he was a student of Cherubini, among others. At only 17 years old, we won Roma Second Prize, and at 19, the First Prize. However, his bureaucratic career was even more distinguished than his musical efforts. At 35 years old he was a teacher of counterpoint, and a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. However his nine operas have not been succesful. Today we are familiar only with "Clari" (premiered by Maria Malibran in 1828), in the recording by Cecilia Bartoli.
    Understandably, Halévy was not happy with this sad state of affairs. In a chance encounter with Scribe, the famous librettist, he is informed about a libretto without a composer. The story immediately fascinated Halévy, that can see the dramatic possibilities, and how to take advantage of a character as Machiavellian as Eleazar.

    He decides to work in isolation during one year, at home, in his desk at the Opera House and in the manors of some friends. The result?. The audience just give a detached applause. Not even some great singers like Adolphe Nourrit (Eléazar), Cornelie Falcon (Rachel), Julie Dorus-Gras (Eudoxie) and Nicholas Levasseur (Brogni) can boost the show. Some people even commented that the music was playing second fiddle to the staging. However, after the first performances, "La Juive" is gaining more recognition, little by little.

    This is what some important composers said about the opera:

    Berlioz will even include Eleazar's aria "Rachel, quand du Seigneur", as one of the examples in his "Treatise on Instrumentation".

    "La Juive" was being performed everywhere. By the mid 1840s it reached the 100 performances at Paris Opera, and was the first piece performed at Palais Garnier in 1875. In 1845 it was performed in New York, where there have been productions in French, Italian, German, Russian and Yiddish. Great singers like Rosa Ponselle and Enrico Caruso sang the opera. It was, by the way, the last opera ever performed by Caruso, in the role of Eleazar:

    But the decline of Grand Opéra, the ascent of Late Romantic style and also the growing of anti-Semitic feelings across Europe, were undermining the popularity of "La Juive". When the Nazi party grabbed the power in Germany, it was the end for this opera. Until well into the 1960s, with the effort of the American tenor Richard Tucker, "La Juive" is not even performed. Not that it has ever entered the repertory again. Just a few performances here and there... Until 2007 it was not staged again in Paris.

    Halévy wrote many operas, more than thirty. But none of them ever reached the quality and significance of "La Juive".
    This article was originally published in forum thread: A Walk with Loge's hidden operatic gems: La Juive started by Schigolch View original post
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      THE PLOT (1)

      La Juive takes place in the German city of Konstanz, the year 1414, just before the important Council between 1414 and 1418. The main reason for the Council was to find an answer for the Papal schism which had resulted from the confusion following the Avignon Papacy, and also prepare a general reform of the Church, though the Opera is basically dealing with the condemn of some characters. Some real people (Cardinal Brogni, Emperor Sigismund) are depicted in the piece, as well as some mention to Jan Hus's defeat. Hus was sentenced to death by the Council and burned at the stake.

      However, some things in the plot happened before 1414:

      Twenty years before, Brogni was a layman. He was a Count and lived with his family near Rome. At that time, Brogni arranged the death of the women and children of the Jew Eleazar, that exiled himself. During his escape, Eleazar passed by a burned house, and in the smouldering ruins a girl, still a baby, and he rescued her. The house was Brogni's, and has been burned by some bandits. When Brogni arrived, he thought all his family was dead, and was ordained a priest.

      Just before the Council, the Hussite army was defeated by a Prince of the Empire, Leopold, that will be one of the protagonists of the opera. Leopold is married to Princess Eudoxia, the Emperor's niece, but he is trying to seduce Rachel, the daughter of Eleazar, impersonating a Jewish painter.

      The opera begins with an instrumental passage, that can be either an overture with mixed tunes from the rest of the piece (Halévy's first intention), or just a prelude, that was the composer's final decision.


      A bank holliday at Konstanze. A Mass is being said. There is one citizen not observing the rest: he is the Jewish goldsmith Eleazar, that can be heard across the square. Leopold, Prince of the Empire and general of the army, meet one of his officers, that informs him the Empire Sigismund is coming to Konstanze, to open the Council and award Leopold for his victory over the Hussites. However, Leopold was not in the right mood for this kind of celebration, as he wanted to go in disguise and woo Rachel, Eleazar's daughter. He decided to retire for the moment, after hearing the news.

      The faithful are entering the square after Mass is finished, and hear Eleazar's hammer blows. Ruggiero, a magistrate of Konstanze, order the arrest of Eleazar. The Jew confront his captors, which he hate with a passion after his sons were burned alive. Eleazar is about to be lynched by the crowd when Cardinal Brogni appears. Eleazar recognizes him, and blames on Brogni his exile from Rome. The Cardinal, repenting, ask for Eleazar's forgiveness, but the Jew is not willing. In this moment, one of the most beautiful fragments of the opera, “Si la rigueur”, where Brogni is asking our Lord for the fate of the Jews, can be heard.

      [Link deleted by Admin - YouTube video no longer available]

      Si la rigueur et la vengeance
      leur font haïr ta sainte loi,
      que le pardon, que la clémence,
      mon Dieu,
      les ramène en ce jour vers toi.
      Rappelant nous son précepte sacré,
      ouvrons nos bras
      à l'enfant égaré!
      Si la rigueur et la vengeance
      leur font haïr ta sainte loi
      que le pardon, que la clémence,
      mon Dieu,
      les ramène en ce jour vers toi!
      If harshness, ah ! and vengeance
      Their hate of us inspire,
      Let kindness then and pardon
      Direct their hearts to God !

      Despite Brogni's good intentions, this is not a friendly atmosphere: the Jew won't forgive the Cardinal. Then, Ruggiero sings: 'No clemency!. No forgiveness. This is my law!'. The rest of the faithful, however, decide to respect Brogni's wishes, though they are shocked by his leniency. When everybody leaves the square, Leopold appears again, in disguise, and start singing a serenade before Rachel's house:

      Let's hear Eric Cutler and Soile Isokosky, from the Met in 2003. Conductor: Marcelo Viotti

      Loin de son amie
      vivre sans plaisirs,
      ne compter sa vie
      que par ses soupirs,
      voilà de l'absence
      quelle est la souffrance.
      Mais voici le jour
      o maîtresse chérie,
      le jour du retour.
      Oui, voici le jour,
      o maîtresse chérie,
      par qui tout s'oublie,
      oui, maïtresse chérie,
      le jour du retour!

      Les cités nouvelles
      où Dieu me guida
      ne me semblaient pas belles,
      tu n'étais pas là.
      Tout durant l'absence
      est indifference.
      Mais voici le jour
      heureux et prospère,
      mais voici le jour,
      le jour du retour.
      Oui, voici le jour
      heureux et prospère,
      le jour du retour!

      Quelle voix chérie,
      si douce à mon coeur,
      me rend à la vie?
      Quelle voix chérie,
      me rend au bonheur?
      J’avais dans l’absence
      perdu l’espérance.

      Béni soit le jour
      qui vers moi l’amène.
      Mais voici le jour,
      le jour du retour!
      Mais voici le jour,
      qui finit ma peine,
      oui, voici le jour
      heureux et prospère,
      Le jour du retour!
      Far from his loved one
      a life without pleasures
      a life made only
      of sighs, of suffering
      from your absence
      But I will return one day,
      oh, my love!.
      And then we will forget
      our sorrows,
      on that day!

      The new cities I saw
      in the service of our Lord
      were not beatiful to me
      as you were not there
      Everything means nothing to me
      if I'm not at your side.

      Your beloved voice
      so sweet to my heart
      is giving me my life back
      my happines back
      without you
      all my hopes were lost

      Ah, Blessed day of your return
      come at last
      You are here
      and no more pain
      a happy, prosperous day.

      Rachel has been tricked by Leopold, and she thinks he is Samuel, a Jewish painter. She has never seen one of his paintings, but love is blind. They are happy to be together again, and they make an appointment for the night, to join Eleazar's to celebrate Passover.

      Then the crowd invades the square again, wanting to see the Emperor entering the city. Eleazar and Rachel, rather carelessly, seat themselves in the church's porch, they are spotted and narrowly escape lynching, for the second time in one day. However, this time there is something strange: is Leopold (Samuel) who has given the soldiers the order to release the two Jews from their predicament. Then the Emperor arrives, and we just hear Te Deum laudamus and "¡Hosanna, to the Emperor!" from the chorus, and the First Act is finished.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      PLOT (2)

      Second Act

      Same day, in the evening, Passover is being celebrated at Eleazar's home. He is the officiant and sung this aria “Dieu, que ma voix tremblante”, that we can listen sung by José Carreras (1989):

      "Dieu, que ma voix tremblante". José Carreras

      Dieu, que ma voix tremblante
      s’élève jusqu'aux cieux.
      Etends ta main puissante
      sur tes fils malheureux.
      Tout ton peuple succombe
      et Sion dans la tombe,
      implorant ta bonté,
      vers toi se lève et crie
      et demande la vie
      à son père irrité!

      One of the guests is Samuel/Leopold. When Eleazar is sharing the unleavened bread, the infiltrator simulates eating it, but Rachel is aware of the gesture.

      A knock at the gate. Danger. Everyone hides while Eleazar opens the door and enters Eudoxia, the niece of the Emperor and wife of Leopold. The impostor, in hiding, pales when he overhears Eudoxia ordering a beautiful gold chain from Eleazar, to celebrate Leopold's return and his victory over the Hussite's army. She needs the jewel ready for tomorrow, and now the Jew has to work again during a holiday to please Eudoxia, though he can console himself thinking on the good money he is going to charge.

      Eudoxia leaves, to be followed shortly by the guests. Leopold promises Rachel to come back later, while Eleazar is heading for his workshop, to start working on the gold chain:

      Régine Crespin. Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, Conductor. Jésus Etcheverry. 1961

      Il va venir!
      Et d'effroi je me sens frémir.
      D'une triste et sombre pensée
      hélas, mon âme est oppressée.
      Mon coeur bat, mais non de plaisir
      Et cependant… il va venir!
      La nuit et le silence,
      l'orage qui s'avance
      augmentent ma terreur.
      L'effroi, la défiance
      s'emparent de mon coeur!
      Il va venir!
      Chaque pas me fait tressaillir!
      J'ai put tromper les yeux d'un père
      mais non pas ceux d'un Dieu sévère.
      Oui, je le dois, oui je veux fuir.
      Et cependant... il va venir!

      Leopold returns. When he is questioned by Rachel, he confess his Christian faith. The girls is scared, because love relationships between Jews and Christians are a crime punishable by death. However, Leopold shares his plan to flee together, and live secluded for the rest of their lives. Rachel agrees, but the two lovers are surprised by Eleazar:

      Julia Varady and Dalmacio González. Philharmonia Orchestra. Antonio De Almeida (1989)

      C'est lui! la force m'abandonne!

      Rachel, ma bien aimée...
      À mon aspect frissonne.

      N'approchez pas!
      Sais-je, en cette maison,
      si vous n'apportez pas
      parjure et trahison?
      Vous que le mystère environne,
      vous qui, pâle et confus, tremblez,
      je le vois bien.

      Oui, mon regard tremblant
      est celui d'un coupable.
      Je t'ai trompée et le remords m'accable!


      Tu sauras tout.
      Ton Dieu n'est pas le mien.

      Qu'ai je entendu?

      Rachel… je suis chrétien!

      (avec force)
      Lorsqu'à toi je me suis donnée,
      j'outrageais mon père et l'honneur,
      mais j'ignorais, infortunée,
      que j'outrageais un Dieu vengeur.

      Quand mon âme à toi s'est donnée,
      j'oubliai fortune et grandeur,
      j'oubliai tout,
      ma destinée est en toi
      comme mon bonheur.

      Mais ta loi nous condamne
      et défend que je vive.
      La Juive amante d'un Chrétien,
      le Chrétien amant d'une Juive,
      sont livrés à la mort!
      Le sais-tu bien?

      Je le sais, mais qu'importe? viens!
      Rachel, viens!
      Ah! Que ton coeur m'appartienne,
      que l'amour nous enchaîne
      et Juive ou bien chrétienne
      ton sort sera le mien.
      Que le courroux céleste
      me garde un sort funeste.
      Si ton amour me reste,
      je ne regrette rien!

      Que mon coeur t'appartienne,
      que l'amour nous enchaîne!
      Ta foi n'est pas la mienne,
      ton Dieu n'est pas le mien.
      Mon père vous déteste.
      Et dans mon sort funeste
      c'est la bonté céleste
      qui seule est mon soutien!

      Eh bien, fuyons!
      Cherchons une retraite obscure
      où de tous oubliés,
      nous les oublierons tous,
      où gloire, amis, parents,
      tout sera mort pour nous!

      Abandonner mon père?

      Oui, que dans la nature
      il ne me reste rien
      que mon amour et toi!

      Abandonner mon père!

      Oui! crois-tu donc que moi
      je n'abandonne rien?

      Que dis-tu?

      Tais-toi! Rachel!
      Que ton coeur m'appartienne,
      que l'amour nous enchaîne
      et Juive ou bien Chrétienne,
      ton sort sera le mien.
      Que le courroux céleste
      me garde un sort funeste…

      Moi, que je t'appartienne,
      que l'amour nous enchaîne,
      ta foi n'est pas la mienne,
      ton Dieu n'est pas le mien.
      Moment funeste!

      …si ton amour me reste,
      je ne regrette rien.

      Eh bien! c'en est fait!
      Oui, c'en est fait!
      Pardonne, ô mon Dieu,
      A ce coeur malheureux.
      C'en est fait!
      Dans les cieux,
      Même sort, désormais
      Nous attend tous les deux!

      Rachel, suis-moi!
      Quittons ces lieux!
      c'en est fait!
      Ici-bas, dans les cieux,
      Même sort, désormais
      Nous attend tous les deux!

      (Éléazar arrive)

      Où courrez-vous?

      Mon père!

      Pour m'éviter
      Où portez vous vos pas?
      Connaissez-vous donc sur la terre
      quelqu'endroit où n'atteigne pas
      la malédiction d'un père?

      Eleazar was already suspicious of Leopold, but when he is aware of his Christian faith, he can't control his rage, and try to beat the Prince. However, Rachel is able to calm his father, and he finally agrees to the wedding. However, Leopold blandly confess that marriage between them is impossible. Eleazar, understandably, gets angry again, and even Rachel is inflamed. Given the situation, Leopold decides that discretion is the better part of valour and retires from the scene.

      An English translation of the libretto can be found here: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL25199448M/La_Juive
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      PLOT (3)

      Third Act

      A room in the palace. Happy at her husband's return, and waiting for him to wake up, Eudoxia sings an aria.

      Assez longtemps
      la crainte et la tristesse
      ont habité les murs
      de ce palais.
      Que tout partage mon ivresse,
      que le plaisir y règne désormais!
      Tandis qu'il sommeille
      et sans qu'il s'éveille,
      puisse son oreille
      entendre mes chants!
      A lui plus craintive
      que ma voix arrive
      et qu'elle captive
      son coeur et ses sens.
      Qu'un songe heureux
      m'offre à ses yeux
      et lui rappelle
      les traits de celle
      qui veille ici, pensant à lui!
      Je l'ai revu,
      J'ai pu lui dire
      et mes tourments et mon amour.
      Ô douce joie, heureux délire,
      avec lui tout est de retour!
      Qu'importent les chagrins passés?
      Un jour les a tous effacés,
      un seul jour... ah!

      When Leopold arrives (understandably worried about the events of the past night), Eudoxia receives him with this bolero, that sometimes is cut. We can listen to Anna Moffo:

      Mon doux seigneur et maître,
      sur ce front gracieux
      d'où vient que je vois naître soucis
      et soins fâcheux?
      qu'ils partent, je le veux!
      aujourd'hui dans ces lieux,
      on ne doit reconnaître
      que les lois du plaisir!
      Mon doux seigneur et maître,
      c'est à vous d'obéir!

      Trop longtemps la victoire
      vous éloigna de nous
      et même de la gloire
      mon coeur était jaloux;
      mais dans ce jour si doux
      qui me rend un époux
      on ne doit reconnaître
      que les lois du plaisir!
      Mon doux seigneur et maître,
      c'est à vous d'obéir!

      A little bit later, at the palace's gardens, everything is ready for the reception that the Emperor is throwing to celebrate the victory of Leopold. Sigismund plans a performance of a Pantomime, a perfect excuse for the introduction of the cherished Grand Opéra's ballet. Alas!, this ballet is forbidden for 20th or 21st centuries's audiences. In order to save some fifteen minutes of music for an uncertain goal, the ballet is cut in almost all productions. We said "almost"... in this one by Antonio de Almeida for Philips, there are some fragments:

      A happy Eudoxia is going to present the jewel to Leopold, and ask the Jews to bring it to her. Eleazar and Rachel enter, and the young girl, recognizing the Prince, angrily challenges him and reveals before all she is her love interest. The audience, stunned, can't take their eyes from Leopold, and wait for a denial... that's not coming. "My God, he is silent", bemoans Brogni. And silence means consent.

      Eleazar, understanding their plight, try to switch attention to the offending behaviour of Leopold. Brogni, furious, is happy to oblige, but his reprimand is for the three people implicated in the crime: the two Jews and the Prince.

      Let's hear the Italian bass Ezio Pinza:

      Vous qui du Dieu vivant
      outragez la puissance
      Soyez maudits!
      Vous que tous trois unit
      une horrible alliance
      Soyez maudits!
      Anathème! ¡anathème!
      C'est l'Éternel lui-même
      qui vous a par ma voix
      rejetés et proscrits!

      (A Léopold)

      De nos temples, pour toi,
      que se ferme l'enceinte!
      Que de l'eau salutaire
      et de la table sainte
      tu ne puisses plus approcher!
      Que toujours redoutant
      ton souffle et ton toucher
      le chrétien se détourne
      et s'éloigne avec crainte.
      Et maudits sur la terre
      et maudits dans les cieux,
      que leurs corps soient enfin
      à leur heure dernière
      laissés sans sépulture
      ainsi que sans prière
      aux injures du ciel
      qui s'est fermé pour eux!

      A fearful delivery, indeed. In the final concertante Rachel pleas for her father, Leopold takes full responsibility for the fact, Eudoxia is mad and Brogni repeats his motto, supported by the chorus: "They must pay with their lives".
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      PLOT (4)

      Fourth Act

      With the Cardinal permission, Eudoxia visits Rachel at the jail. She wants to talk the Jew into declaring she was lying, and so save Leopold. Rachel is not compliant at first, but when she understands Leopold will die, she concurs and accepts to change her statement. Understandably relieved, Eudoxia can go home.

      Annick Massis and Anna Caterina Antonacci. Paris Opera, Bastille 2007

      Du cardinal voici
      l'ordre suprême,
      Il me permet de voir Rachel
      quelques instants.
      Mon Dieu, pour délivrer
      l'infidèle que j'aime
      viens soutenir ma voix
      et dicter mes accents.
      Que je sauve ses jours
      et puis, qu'après, je meure!

      (Rachel arrive)

      Pourquoi m'arrachez-vous
      à ma sombre demeure?
      M'apportez vous la mort
      qu'appellent mes souhaits?
      Que vois-je ô ciel! mon ennemie!

      Une ennemie, hélas, qui te supplie!

      Que peut-il entre nous
      exister désormais?

      Pour moi je ne veux rien,
      mais pour lui seul je tremble.
      Ce concile terrible
      en ce moment s'assemble.
      Personne excepté vous
      ne pourrait désarmer
      ces juges impitoyables.
      Ils le condamneront!

      Ils sont donc équitables?
      J'estime les chrétiens
      Et je veux les aimer!

      Ah, que ma voix plaintive,
      fléchisse votre coeur!
      Ô vous, mon ennemie,
      accordez-moi sa vie
      et prenez mon bonheur!

      Moi, permettre qu'il vive?
      Quand de la pauvre Juive
      il a brisé le coeur?
      Non, que ma triste vie
      près de lui soit finie.
      C'est là mon seul bonheur.

      Rachel accordez-moi sa vie.


      Vous pouvez le soustraire
      à l'arrêt implacable,
      en déclarant ici
      qu'il n'était pas coupable.

      Pas coupable!
      Sais-tu qu'il avilit mes jours?
      Sais-tu que je l'aimais?
      Que je l'aime toujours?

      et ce signal affreux,
      ce bruit, ces pas tumultueux?
      C'est lui que l'on
      traîne au concile!
      Si vous tardez, tout devient inutile:
      il meurt!

      Ô ciel!

      Rendez-vous à mes voeux!

      Ô Dieu! que faire?

      Dieu tutélaire,
      Toi qui vois ma misère,
      Dieu tutélaire à toi j'ai recours.
      Ah! pour moi peine extrême,
      oui, je sens que je l'aime,
      et pour toujours!

      Dieu tutélaire,
      Oh! reçois ma prière
      Dieu tutélaire
      Ah! sauve ses jours!
      Ah! pour moi peine extrême,
      oui, je sens que je l'aime,
      hélas! et pour toujours!

      Brogni also decides to visit Rachel, and convince her to save Leopold, in flagrant contradiction with his previous behaviour during the Third Act. Rachel again promises to change her statement. Then Brogni order his men to bring Eleazar. He offers the Jewish goldsmith to save also Rachel, if he abjures Judaism. Eleazar refuses and swears he will takes revenge on a Christian before he dies... You will be that Christian, Brogni!. The Cardinal, nonplussed, wonders what he means. Then Eleazar confess:

      Do you remember, Brogni?. When the Napolitans sacked Rome, the homes of the most powerful Christians were pillaged. Your own house was burned, and you thought your daughter was dead, as was your wife. But the girl is alive, a Jew rescued her from the flames, and only I know who was that Jew.

      Of course, we are fully aware of the identity of the Jew, but Brogni isn't and can't get Eleazar to tell him. The Cardinal exits in desperation and Eleazar sings his big aria: “Rachel, quand du Seigneur”

      Let's hear the best Eleazar on record, Richard Tucker, singing in 1973 the aria and the cabaletta "Dieu m'éclaire":
      "Rachel, quand du Seigneur". Richard Tucker

      And we can hear him again (without the cabaletta), singing in a performance from Barcelona, just two weeks before his death:

      Rachel, quand du Seigneur
      la grâce tutélaire
      à mes tremblantes mains
      confia ton berceau,
      j'avais à ton bonheur voué ma vie entière.
      Et c'est moi qui te livre au bourreau!
      Mais j'entends une voix qui me crie:
      Sauvez-moi de la mort qui m'attend!
      Je suis jeune et je tiens à la vie,
      ô mon père, épargnez votre enfant!
      Je suis jeune et je tiens à la vie,
      ô mon père, ô mon père, épargnez votre enfant!
      Ah! Rachel, quand du Seigneur
      la grâce tutélaire
      à mes tremblantes mains
      confia ton berceau,
      j'avais à ton bonheur voué ma vie entière.
      Et c'est moi qui te livre au bourreau.
      Rachel, je te livre au bourreau!
      Rachel, c'est moi, moi,
      moi qui te livre au bourreau!

      Et d'un mot,
      et d'un mot arrêtant la sentence,
      d'un mot arrêtant la sentence
      je puis te soustraire au trépas!
      Ah, j'abjure à jamais ma vengeance,
      Rachel, non, tu ne mourras pas!

      (dans la coulisse)
      Au bûcher, au bûcher les Juifs!
      Les Juifs qu'ils périssent!
      La mort est due à leurs forfaits.
      La mort, la mort,
      la mort pour leurs forfaits!

      Quels cris de mort retentissent?

      Au bûcher les Juifs,
      les Juifs qu'ils périssent!
      La mort, la mort pour leurs forfaits!
      Oui! Oui! Oui!

      Ils demandent ma mort.
      Vous voulez notre sang, Chrétiens
      et moi j'allais vous rendre ma fille Rachel.
      Non, non, jamais!

      (avec exaltation)

      Dieu m'éclaire,
      fille chère.
      Près d'un père
      viens mourir.
      Et pardonne
      quand il donne
      la couronne
      du martyre!
      Vaine crainte,
      plus de plainte!
      En mon coeur
      saint délire
      qui m'inspire,
      ton empire est vainqueur!
      Dieu m'éclaire,
      fille chère.
      Près d'un père
      viens mourir.
      Et pardonne
      s'il te donne
      la couronne
      du martyre!

      (dans la coulisse)
      Au bûcher les Juifs, qu'ils périssent!

      Israël la réclame!

      (dans la coulisse)
      La mort est due à leurs forfaits, la mort!

      Israël la réclame!

      Eleazar is torn by doubts: should he take vengeance or save Rachel, whom she dearly loves?. He is almost decided to save the young girl when there are some shouts in the street, where some Christians are claiming the death for all Jews. Then he decides that Rachel will die with him, as an offering to Israel and the God of Jacob.

      Fifth Act

      After a funeral march, the judge sentences the Jews to die, but not Leopold, given Rachel's recant. Maybe they have not being part of a forbidden relationship, but they have falsely accused a Prince of the Empire. They will be burned to death. Eleazar tells Rachel that she can save herself by renouncing Judaism, but she refuses. When Rachel enters her final ordeal, Brogni asks again Eleazar: Where is my child?. "There she is", answers the Jew, pointing at the dying Rachel, while triumphantly staring at the anguished Cardinal.

      The chorus of Christians rejoice the death of both Jews.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      An Activist Opera?

      Let's face it, the plot of this opera is not really holding. A Cardinal asking forgiveness from a Jew in the 15th century?. Just a humble goldsmith (not even a banker) so proudly rejecting such a good offer of peace?. Why the Cardinal didn't have the Jew tortured?. And what about the burned bodies in Rome?. How can Brogni missed the fact that there was only *one* body?... When, nothing new under the Sun, just think on Azucena. What about Leopold?. A Prince of the Empire, a succesful general, taken aback by the word of a Jewish girl?. Not really likely.

      In Loge's view all this stuff was aiming to establish two things: from a dramatic point of view, outline a memorable protagonist, Eleazar, and from a religious (activitist?) point of view, present the Christians as morally inferiors than the the Jews.

      At the time of the premiere, many people perceived Halévy's work as anticlerical and favourable to the Jews. Other views centered on the love story between the Christian knight and the Jewish girl, as a token of religious tolerance. By the 1830s the monarchy of Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, was open to promote this tolerance. Two Grand Opéras by Jewish composers ("La Juive" and "Les Huguenots" were premiered during this period), and Eleazar's character, while attractive from the dramatic side, was not precisely flattering.

      In Loge's view, however, the Jews are *really* presented under a much more favourable light in "La Juive", and even Eleazar can get some sympathy when we look how his sons died, and his internal fight between religion, vengeance and fatherly love in the Fourth Act.

      Taking into account also the end of the opera, with the goldsmith and her daughter suffering martyrdom rather than apostatize, just confirms Loge in his opinion than Halévy's intention was really to defence his faith.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Five Characters in Search of Love

      This is an opera of renunciation for love. The main characters are always in love: with a man, with a woman, with a daughter,... We have two love triangles: Rachel, Leopold and Eudoxia on one side, and Eleazar, Rachel and Brogni on the other. They are all in love, and all of them are ready to renounce something for the sake of this love.

      Let's talk about Eleazar. He is the real protagonist of the opera, that is based on his clash with the Christians, rather than in the relationship between Rachel and Leopold. His religious zeal is providing some structure to the piece, while the love between the two young people is just the spark to ignite the action.

      Eleazar is inflexible, determined in his quest to get revenge on the Christians. He is happy to pester them as much as possible: he works on Sundays, he watch the parade standing on the lurch of the Church, he asks as much money as he can for his services as goldsmith... But his fatherly love for Rachel broke his resolution twice: first, when he accepts the marriage with a Christian, and then when his daughter is going to die. He is torn by doubts, should he reveal Rachel's true identity to Brogni?. Finally, after hearing the Christians shouting in the streets for the death of the Jews, he is adamant again: he and Rachel will die together. But the simple fact of his doubts, proves that in his soul love is as strong a force as revenge.

      The standard operatic practice would have been to cast Eleazar for a bass, given his age and unpleasantness. And this was Halévy's initial choice, but the tenor Adolph Nourrit fell in love with the role, and he convinced the composer to write Eleazar for him. It seems that Nourrit also talked Halévy into ending the Fourth Act with the solo aria “Rachel, quand du Seigneur”, instead of an ensemble's number.

      The second most important character is, of course, Rachel. La Juive, herself. She is a true believer as much as his father, and she follows him to death. But she was more willing to compromise. She is in favour of reaching an agreement with Brogni, and when she discover Leopold's lie about his religion, she decides to put love before faith, and marry him anyway. However, another of Leopold's lies, the one about his marital status, is just one too many for her. Indignant, full of rage, she denounces him, and herself in the process. But love finally prevails, and she changes her statement, and she herself lies to save Leopold.

      Leopold is a liar, the black sheep on this story. A Christian champion on the paper, but for him Rachel is more important than his faith. He impersonates a Jew, and propose to the young girl, forgetting the vows to his wife. Finally, he remains passive, an unsympathetic figure, unable to stand for anything, and just be silent to save his own life.

      Eudoxia is a simpler character. She doesn't have to face religious or ethical dilemmas. She is just in love with her husband. She orders a jewel for him, and is eager to meet him. She is also prepared to swallow her pride and implore Rachel to change her statement, and save the man both women are in love with. Eudoxia is prepared to renounce just about anything, if she can save Leopold.

      Brogni is Eleazar's alter ego in the Christian side. Both had lost their families, both are prepared to fight for their faiths, both are Rachel's fathers. Brogni can kill Jews at the stake without any qualms, but he is also prepared to offer them some respite, if this suits his purposes. He can loudly condemn the trio of Eleazar, Leopold and Rachel for their actions against the law, but he also plots to save two of them. If he would have known that Rachel was his daughter, he would have done everything in his power to save her, love is also more important than religion for him. However, he is not aware of the truth until, too late, Eleazar confess how he abducted the child Rachel. Brogni must face now he has executed her own daughter.

      There are only five characters in search of love, but, like in Pirandello's play, there should have been six. The sixth one, of course, is the Emperor. A silent role, that surely had something to say, but was silenced by Halévy.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -

      La Juive is a cursed opera. And the origin of the curse is not a nobody, no... is Halévy himself!.

      We have seen how Adolphe Nourrit prevailed over Halévy to cast Eleazar as a tenor, and write the famous aria “Rachel, quand du Seigneur”. It seems he also prevailed over Halévy's wife to do... other things. Understandably upset the composer decided to use a little black magic with the thenor, and buried a cow's heart, pierced by a pin. In fact he was so upset, that he even extended the curse to any tenor singing Eleazar.

      French tenor Adolphe Nourrit

      Or course, a credible curse needs to show some results. The first one was coming soon: in 1839, four years after the premiere of La Juive, and not yet 38 years old, Nourrit went crazy and killed himself in Naples. An alternative explanation to Nourrit's sad condition, was the rising of his main rival, tenor Gilbert Dupre, that was getting all the roles previously being offered to Nourrit.

      Next tenor on Death Row was Enrico Caruso, who died just after singing Eleazar. Some time later, José Carreras's health issues started just when he was recording the opera.

      What do you think?. There is really a curse in action, or it's just chance?. Who knows... at least is an entertaining subject just before we deal with the discography of La Juive.
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      DISCOGRAPHY - 1 (1951-1990)

      Many great singers from the past had recorded some fragment of "La Juive". We have already mentioned Enrico Caruso and Ezio Pinza.

      This is Rosa Ponselle singing 'Il va venir':

      Plácido Domingo:

      Roberto Alagna:

      The first complete recording is from 1951, released by Walhall. Being the first, we can
      say this is its greatest strength. The performers were more used to sing Wagner or Strauss.

      Eléazar: Joachin Sattler
      Rachel: Erna Schlüter
      Eudoxie: Maria-Meta Kopp
      Léopold: Franz Fehringer
      Brogni: Otto von Rohr
      Ruggiero: Rolf Heide
      Orchestra Hessischen Rundfunks Frankfurt
      Conductor: Kurt Schröder

      The presence of a star tenor is always a good incentive to record "La Juive":
      Poncet, Tucker, Carreras, Schicoff…
      TONY PONCET recorded some fragments for Philips in 1964:
      Eléazar: Tony Poncet
      Rachel: Jane Rhodes
      Eudoxia: Denise Monteil
      Léopold: Robert Andreozzi
      Brogni: Gérard Serkoyan
      Ruggiero: Bernard Demigny
      Orchestre de l'Opèra de Karsruhe
      Director: Marcel Couraud

      And a live recording from the Ghent's Théâtre Royal, also in 1964:

      Eléazar: Tony Poncet
      Rachel: Géry Brunin
      Eudoxie: Lia Rottier
      Léopold: Stany Bert
      Brogni: Taddeusz Wierzbicki
      Ruggiero: Aurélio Burzi
      Orchestre et Choeurs du Téâtre Royal de Gand
      Director: Robert Ledent

      RICHARD TUCKER was the greatest Eleazar of the 20th century. This is live recording from New York's Carnegie Hall, in 1964:

      Eléazar: Richard Tucker
      Rachel: Suzanne Sarroca
      Eudoxie: Micheline Tessier
      Léopold: Jean Deis
      Brogni: Norman Treigle
      Ruggiero: Spiro Malas
      New York Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra
      Director: Robert Lawrence

      In 1973, Tucker sang a wonderful perfomance, in a concert version. Regrettably there are a lot
      of cuts: only three acts.

      Eléazar: Richard Tucker
      Rachel: Yasuko Hayashi
      Eudoxie: Michèle Le Bris
      Léopold: Juan Sabaté
      Brogni: David Gwynne
      Ruggiero: Robert Bickerstaff
      New Philarmonia Orchestra
      Conductor: Anton Guadagno

      And another selection of fragments from Richard Tucker, this time sharing the scene woth Anna Moffo:

      Eléazar: Richard Tucker
      Rachel: Martina Arroyo
      Eudoxia: Anna Moffo
      Léopold: Juan Sabaté
      Brogni: Bonaldo Giaiotti
      Ruggiero: Leslie Fyson
      Ambrosian Opera Chorus / New Philharmonia Orchestra
      Director: Antonio De Almeida

      Anna Moffo and Martina Arroyo sing the duet: "Ah, que ma voix plaintive"

      Already in the 1980s, JOSÉ CARRERAS took Tucker's place. There is a live version from 1981, at the Vienna
      Staatsoper, and one studio recording towards the end of the decade:

      Eléazar: José Carreras
      Rachel: Ilona Tokody
      Eudoxie: Sona Ghazarian
      Léopold: Chris Merritt
      Brogni: Cesare Siepi
      Ruggiero: Hans Helm
      Wiener Philharmoniker
      Director: Gerd Albrecht

      Eléazar: José Carreras
      Rachel: Julia Varady
      Eudoxie: June Anderson
      Léopold: Dalmacio González
      Brogni: Ferruccio Furlanetto
      Ruggiero: René Massis
      Ambrosian Opera Chorus
      Director: Antonio de Almeida

      Some people rank this recording as the best available. The quality of the sound is better than in any
      Tucker's recording, and there are less cuts. The crowd scenes are taken out, instead of the overture we can
      hear the prelude, and Eudoxie's aria "Je l'ai revu" is replaced by the bolero. Some of the ballet music is included.
      In total, some three hours in three cds.
      This was recorded twice, because Carreras couldn't sing
      his part until 1989, having being sick with Leukemia in 1986. The voice was not the same after such a serious illness,
      but his acting skills were sharpened by the experience. Julia Varady's Rachel is great, with glorious middle notes,
      elegant phrasing and a good dramatic interpretation. June Anderson sings a nice Eudoxie, with beautiful top notes, though a rather indifferent portrayal of the Princess. Dalmacio González is able to sing Leopold, and give the impression of weakness, so appropriate for the character. Ferruccio Furlanetto is a convincing and assertive Brogni.

      The orchestra and chorus are first class, and give a very good performance under the baton of Antonio de Almeida.

      Sometimes the timbres of Carreras and González sound too similar, and the French diction of some singers is not really flawless.

      There is also a version in German (“Die Judin”), recorded in 1990:

      Eléazar: James O'Neal
      Rachel: Andrea Trauboth
      Eudoxie: Petra Ines Strate
      Léopold: Richard Becker
      Brogni: Dieter Schweikart
      Grossen Rundfunkorchester Leipzig
      Conductor: Fritz Weisse
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      DISCOGRAPHY 2 (The Shicoff's era)

      Just like Tucker was *the* Eleazar of the 20th century, NEIL SHICOFF owns the role in the 21st. Though his first Juive was still in 1999, from Vienna's Staatsoper:

      1999. Live recording, Vienna's Staatsoper. RCA
      Eléazar: Neil Shicoff
      Rachel: Soile Isokoski
      Eudoxie: Regina Schörg
      Léopold: Zoran Todorovic
      Brogni: Alastair Miles
      Ruggiero: István Gáti
      Wiener Staatsoper
      Conductor: Simone Young

      Shicoff is investing a lot on his acting, and he is better appreciated on DVD, while his purely
      vocal interpretation is not up to Carreras's. Isokoski is a rather inner-looking Rachel and Schörg
      is singing well, with some problems in the top notes. However Zoran Todorovic seems incaplable
      of striking a single note, and Alastair Miles's bass is rather bland.

      The former Vienna's production was also staged in New York, Venice and Amsterdam;

      2003. Live recording, Met.
      Eléazar: Neil Shicoff
      Rachel: Soile Isokoski
      Eudoxie: Elizabeth Futral
      Léopold: Eric Cutler
      Brogni: Ferruccio Furlanetto
      Ruggiero: Julien Robbins
      Met Orchestra
      Conductor: Marcello Viotti

      In Venice, we have again Shicoff:

      Venice, 2005
      Eléazar: Neil Shicoff
      Rachel: Iano Tamar
      Eudoxie: Annick Massis
      Léopold: Bruce Sledge
      Brogni: Roberto Scandiuzzi
      Ruggiero: Vincent Le Texier
      Teatro la Fenice orchestra
      Conductor: Frederic Chaslin

      Another tenor singing Eleazar is Francisco Casanova. We can hear a concert version at the Carnegie Hall:

      1999. Live recording, New York.
      Eléazar: Francisco Casanova
      Rachel: Hasmik Papian
      Eudoxie: Olga Makarina
      Léopold: Jean-Luc Viala
      Brogni: Paul Plishka
      Opera Orchestra of New York
      Conductor: Eve Queler

      Next year, in a historical performance, he sings the role in Israel:

      2-4-2000. Live recording, Tel Aviv
      Eléazar: Francisco Casanova
      Rachel: Krassimira Stoyanova
      Eudoxie: Sharon Rostorf-Zamir
      Léopold: Marc Laho
      Brogni: Julian Konstantinov
      Ruggiero: Boz Daniel
      New Israel Symphony Orchestra
      Conductor: Jonathan Webb

      We have also another concert performance, at London's Barbican, with Dennis O'Neill singing Eleazar:

      Eléazar: Dennis O'Neill
      Rachel: Marina Poplavskaya
      Eudoxie: Nicole Cabell
      Léopold: Dario Schmunck
      Brogni: Alastair Miles
      Ruggiero: Joachim Seipp
      Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
      Conductor: Daniel Oren

      After more than seventy years, "La Juive" returned to Paris, in the year 2007. With this cast:

      Eléazar: Neil Shicoff
      Rachel: Anna Caterina Antonacci
      Eudoxie: Annick Massis
      Léopold: John Osborn
      Brogni: Robert Lloyd
      Ruggiero: André Heyboer
      Conductor: Daniel Oren

      After singing the first performance, Shicoff, never the most stable of singers, cancelled and was replaced by Chris Merritt, that was really in a poor shape. However, Annick Massis was hailed as a fine Eudoxie and reconciled herself with the Parisian audience.

      Eudoxia's aria, Third Act. Annick Massis. Paris, 2007:

      There are also two recordings in 2008:

      The Stuttgart's Juive, again with Merrit and Tatiana Pechnikova (Rachel), Catriona Smith (Eudoxie), Ferdinand von Bothmer (Leópold) and Lian Li (Brogni). Conductor: Sébastian Rouland.

      And the one from Zurich's Opernahus with Shicoff (Eléazar), Angeles Blancas (Rachel), Malin Hartelius (Eudoxia), Celso Albelo (Léopold) and Alfred Muff (Brogni), Carlo Rizzi conducting.

      I (member Loge, that's it) was really happy after watching this DVD. There was a very good performance from a strong cast, with Shicoff as the absolute star. Perhaps Jianyi Zhang was not the best Leópold, but Krassimira Stoyanova, Simina Ivan and Walter Fink are very adequate.

      However, Loge was not so happy about the cuts and the staging.

      Arguably, the biggest cut of all is the ballet, that is completely suppressed. This is sad for any lover of “Grand Opéra”. Also Léopold's serenade is cut, and we can hear only the first stanza:

      Eudoxie's bolero is also forced into exile. On top of that, there is no cabaletta after Elézar's great aria, and even no chorus claiming for the death of the Jews, making the action almost unintelligible.

      About the staging.... well, an informed "Grand Opéra" HIP staging will invest a lot on luxurious set designs. The first production of "La Juive", in the 19th century, included a huge organ on stage, many extras and a magnificent scenography. It cost the big sum of 150,000 francs. We can bet that, two centuries later, the scenography presented at the Staatsoper was not worth even 150,000 Euros.

      Rather naively, I was expecting to see a square in the city of Konstanz, with a Church, the beautiful Central Europe houses, with flowers, garlands,... However this is what we were shown:

      An strange looking crystal monstrosity, that impels all the performers to be grouped together. But, still worse:

      The Second Act at Eléazar's home should be rather austere and dark. However, there is a big ramp, and the old goldsmith must face some acrobatics just to deliver a jewel to Eudoxie:

      The "jardins magnifiques" of the Third Act, are replaced by something so similar to the Second Act's scenography that you need to be a real expert on banquet tables and ramps, to undertand the difference... Or wait, maybe the clue was the blinfolded little girl spinning around in the ramp:

      Perhaps the ramp's mission is to create two different planes: the superior for the Christians, and the inferior for the Jews. Pity that this could have been done with just about one meter, and not *that* huge gap.

      The jail of the Fourth Act is easy to stage. We just take away the table, distribute the chairs, and... et voilà!, a prison. Astutely, the Jews are not above, and the Christians, below. More or less, the same recipe for the last Act.

      The wardrobe was also updated. Perhaps a trifle too 'mobster' for the Jews, and too 'white' for the Christians.

      As the final nail on the coffin, we have a simply stupid appearance by the Emperor Segismund:

      And the end of the opera, with Rachel being rather tackled by the forwards of a Rugby team, than burned at the stake:

      And that's about "La Juive".
    1. Nervous Gentleman's Avatar
      Nervous Gentleman -
      I own the DVD version of this opera, but I have not yet seen it, nor am I familiar as of yet with this opera at all.

      But after perusing this marvelously informative thread, I definitely will place "La Juive" at the top of the pile.

      Thanks to both of you for an interesting discussion (and for the translation, of course).

    1. Nervous Gentleman's Avatar
      Nervous Gentleman -
      Has anyone seen the production of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet?

    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Not me.

      Will take a look, eventually.

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