Opera. Poignant drama about being an outsider, about love and oppression. Song and music are in focus in every way in this sparse grand opéra.
Very demanding of the singers
OPPRESSION AND REVENGE, OR REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS?
Open forum before the production of Halévy's La Juive
The Small Stage, Wednesday 26 March 7:00 pm-8:30 pm (approx.)
Participants: Lars Cleveman (Eléazar), Günter Krämer (director), Pierre Vallet (conductor), Jan Christensen (historian) and others. Discussion leader: Göran Gademan (dramaturgist). Musical interludes with Karin Holm at the piano.
The forum will be held in English. Free admission!
With its particularly strong and poignant action this grand opéra highlights two Jewish people's outsider status through intrigue, love and oppression. This work, from 1835, was extremely popular at first but later sank into oblivion, for reasons such as Wagner's bitter attack against Jewish composers.
The romantic, dramatic music is very demanding of the singers and requires the very best practitioners. Here, the international French soprano Mireille Delunsch is making a guest appearance as the young Rachel, while heroic tenor Lars Cleveman is playing her father, the Jewish goldsmith Éléazar. It is a case of love that cuts across boundaries when Rachel falls in love with a Christian prince, unaware both of his identity and that he is really betrothed to Princess Eudoxie. The prince's almost inhumanly high tenor voice is performed by Finnish tenor Tuomas Katajala, while Eudoxie's virtuosa coloratura is sung by increasingly renowned soprano Ida Falk Winland – engaged at The Göteborg Opera for five seasons, starting 2014.
The sparse production bears the signature of Günter Krämer, who previously produced another version of this work at the Vienna State Opera. Conductor Pierre Vallet is an expert in this type of repertoire and is otherwise active at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
La Juive is a production of Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, first staged on 15 October 2004.
Take a look at some rehearsal images from
A grand, poignant musical drama
Halévy's La Juive is considered to be one of the most outstanding works of grand opera. This genre was hugely popular until around 1900, before it gradually petered out. But in recent decades, these operas have once again begun to be performed on the continent. Strictly speaking, a grand opera is an opera that premiered at the Paris Opéra between the 1830s and 1860s. These were large-scale works in five acts with a huge orchestra, chorus, extras and dancers in amazing grand stage sets and costumes. They indulged the emerging upper bourgeoisie's taste for luxury, extravagance and drama. Musically, they were written in a kind of continental style, not excessively French but rather a mix of the Italian, German and French. The vocals were fiercely demanding, requiring power, a great range, lyrical singing and a capacity for coloratura.
Its first performance in 1835 was an enormous success, and the production was performed over five hundred times before it was closed.
"The eighth wonder of the world"
The librettist behind almost all the grand operas was Eugène Scribe, who composed thrilling stories using a dramaturgical "cliff-hanger" technique. The plot revolved mostly around a specifically defined historical event, which formed a backdrop to the characters' complex emotional relationships to one another. The grand master in this field was the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, with Robert le diable, Les Huguenots, Le prophète and L'Africaine, but Fromental Halévy's La Juive has also remained in the repertoire. Its first performance in 1835 was an enormous success, and the production was performed over five hundred times before it was closed. A spectator described the grand procession which ended the first act as the eighth wonder of the world. The opera immediately spread abroad, for example to Vienna the following year. Halévy was then a relatively untested composer but would eventually write a total of 36 operas, although only La Juive is still known today. He became a teacher of composition for, among others, Gounod, Saint-Saëns and Bizet, of which the latter would become his son-in-law. Major opera composers like Verdi and Wagner have been highly inspired by La Juive in particular.
Halévy's own inspiration is unmistakable, as he in a near feverish joy got to set to music the renowned Scribe's libretto. He also had own personal perspective on the poignant drama about a minority's struggle for survival in an oppressive culture. Halévy was himself a Jew, and his father Elias Levy had fled Germany shortly after the French Revolution to try to carve out a better life in Paris.
Hidden identities and oppression
The captivating story revolves around the Jewish goldsmith, Eléazar, and his daughter, Rachel. The Christian Prince Léopold has started a relationship with her, disguised as a Jewish apprentice. Rachel knows nothing of his true identity and when she learns that he is married to the Princess Eudoxie she reveals their relationship to everyone. Léopold, Rachel and her father are imprisoned on the orders of Cardinal de Brogni. But Eudoxie persuades Rachel to withdraw her accusation and Léopold is released. Rachel and Eléazar on the other hand, are sent for execution. At the same moment that Rachel is executed, Eléazar reveals to the Cardinal that she is in fact the daughter whom he has sought for years. Then Eléazar himself is triumphantly executed.
The two title roles of Eléazar and Rachel were written for the star singers Adolphe Nourrit and Cornélie Falcon. Nourrit was probably the greatest tenor of his time and it was initially thought that he would have performed Léopold's role, while the paternal role of Eléazar would in the usual way have been played by a baritone or bass. But Nourrit became much more interested in Eléazar's score and persuaded Halévy to change his role and also to make Eléazar much more nuanced, because the character was initially more one-sidedly vindictive and ill-natured. The singer also insisted on getting an aria in the fourth act, where the character expresses his love for his foster daughter and is hesitant to let her be sacrificed. Nourrit even composed the first lines of text for the aria, and "Rachel, quand du Seigneur" has in fact become the opera's real show stopper and its most famous aria. It is often performed separately and many great tenors have it on their repertoire.
In director Günter Krämer's production...the action has been relocated to just before the Second World War
Dramatic sopranos and
With Rachel's role, Cornélie Falcon, aged 21 years, created a completely new voice category, "falcon soprano", a more dramatic type of soprano with a greater range than before. She also achieved great success, with Meyerbeer's operas as well, in a career that only lasted a few years, however. Although it is Rachel who holds the title role, La Juive has become an opera for the tenors, and many prominent tenors have had Eléazar as their signature role, ranging from Enrico Caruso to Richard Tucker and Neil Shicoff.
In the original version, the plot unfolds during the Council of Constance in 1414, but in director Günter Krämer's production which The Göteborg Opera is taking over from the Lithuanian National Opera in Vilnius, the action has been relocated to just before the Second World War - obviously a very relevant point in time for the work, given the repression that Rachel and Eléazar were exposed to.