From European Jewish Press:
Historic opera makes plea for tolerance
By Rebecca Assoun
Updated: 18/Mar/2007 12:19
PARIS (EJP)— “La Juive” (The Jewess), a renowned 19th-century opera by French composer Halévy is currently on show in Paris.
Created in 1835, “The Jewess” marked a whole generation of French musicians and drew praise from masters such as Wagner and Berlioz.
The 19th-century composer and music teacher Jacques Fromental Halévy was is the author of numerous works, including 22 operas that went on stage in Paris.
He is best known for his monumental opera, “The Jewess”, which received wide acclaim in Paris.
It was performed 562 times before being dropped from the repertoire and gained worldwide popularity.
The story is set in early 15th-century Switzerland, during a period of religious upheaval, and deals with the history of an impossible love between a Christian man and a Jewish woman.
The work is also a real plea for the tolerance and thus is very topical today.
On the musical level, “the Jewess” is especially known for the aria “Rachel, quand du seigneur”, especially written for tenor Adolphe Nourrit, who interpreted the role of Eléazar.
Halévy was born in 1799 in Paris to a German-Jewish father and a French-Jewish mother, just 10 years after the French Revolution.
He grew up under the early years of the Napoleonic regime, a time of great freedom for Jews and he assimilated entirely into society.
Napoléon offered French citizenship to all Jews in his empire no matter where they lived and he tore down all ghetto walls.
The goal of the libretto was to re-evaluate the status of the Jew in society, as some novels of the time did (for example Balzac’s “the Human Comedy”).
Once considered to be one of the masterworks of the French lyrical theatre, “La Juive” has been neglected in recent years, mainly because of its subject matter — Roman Catholic religious intolerance and anti-Semitism in medieval Europe.
It is for example no coincidence that the piece was never shown during the 1930s, during the rise of fascism in Europe.
Halévy’s ‘La Juive’ is showing at the Opéra Bastille until 25 march 2007.
That even the anti-Semite Richard Wagner, from whom one might not expect that, praised this opera, may say something on its musical quality.
US religious Right bans Gounod opera: here.