Halevy's la Juive at the Metropolitan Opera

By Miller, Malcolm | Musical Opinion, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview

Halevy's la Juive at the Metropolitan Opera


Miller, Malcolm, Musical Opinion


Halevy's La Juive at the Metropolitan Opera

On 6 November, the opening night of Fromental Halevy's La Juive at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, rapturous applause greeted Brooklyn-born tenor Neil Shicoff's thrilling account of Rachel, quand du Seigneur, Eleazar's climactic aria. Gunter Kramer's highly enjoyable, thought-provoking production, borrowed from the Vienna State Opera, received a deserved standing ovation, marking the return to New York after nearly 70 years of a work which had once been a staple of the repertoire.

Scribe's libretto about 15th-Century Catholic anti-Semitism focuses on universal issues of politics and religion, interpreted through an evocation of early and recent history in the symbolic costumes and sets by Gottfried Pilz and Isabel Glathnar: dazzling white Tyrolean costumes for the chorus, with Prince Leopold and his Princess Eudoxie in elegant white robes, and Cardinal Brogni in red, contrasting with black attire for the Jewish Eleazar and Rachel, his adopted daughter, and other Jewish characters.

A sloping stage separated royalty on high from the Jews below but later acted as a marker of moral stature, with Eleazar and Rachel towering above their Christian nemeses. The singing was throughout superb: Ferruccio Furlanetto's sympathetic Brogni displayed noble resonance in his repentant First Act aria and impassioned Fourth Act duet with Rachel, prefiguring the tragic fathet-daughter relationship of Verdi's Rigoletto. Prince Leopold, who woos Rachel disguised as the Jewish Samuel, was stunningly sung by the young Eric Cutler, with Gigliesque high notes in his First Act Serenade. …

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