La Juive The Jewess
In five acts by HALEVY.
Text by EUGENE SCRIBE.
This opera created a great sensation when it first appeared on the
stage of the Grand Opera at Paris in the year 1835, and it has never
lost its attraction. It was one of the first grand operas to which
brilliant mise en scene, gorgeous decorations etc., added success.
Halevy's great talent lies in orchestration, which is here rich and
effective; his style, half French, half Italian, is full of beautiful
effects of a high order.
The libretto is one of the best which was ever written by the dexterous
and fertile Scribe.
The scene of action is laid in Constance, in the year 1414 during the
In the first act the opening of the Council is celebrated with great
The Catholics, having gained a victory over the Hussites, Huss is to be
burnt, and the Jews, equally disliked, are oppressed and put down still
more than before. All the shops are closed, only Eleazar, a rich
Jewish jeweller has kept his open, and is therefore about to be
imprisoned and put to death, when Cardinal de Brogni intervenes, and
saves the Jew and his daughter Recha from the people's fury. The
Cardinal has a secret liking for Eleazar, though he once banished him
from Rome. He hopes to gain news from him of his daughter, who was
lost in early childhood. But Eleazar hates the Cardinal bitterly.
When the mob is dispersed, Prince Leopold, the Imperial
Commander-in-Chief, approaches Recha. Under the assumed name of Samuel
he has gained her affections, and she begs him to be present at a
religious feast, which is to take place that evening at her father's
house. The act closes with a splendid procession of the Emperor and
all his dignitaries. Ruggiero, the chief judge in Constance seeing the
hated Jew and his daughter amongst the spectators, is about to seize
them once more, when Prince Leopold steps between and delivers them, to
Recha's great astonishment.
In the second act we are introduced to a great assembly of Jews, men
and women, assisting at a religious ceremony. Samuel is there with
them. The holy act is however interrupted by the Emperor's niece,
Princess Eudora, who comes to purchase a golden chain, which once
belonged to the Emperor Constantin, and which she destines for her
bride-groom, Prince Leopold. Eleazar is to bring it himself on the
following day. Samuel overhearing this is full of trouble. When
the assembly is broken up and all have gone, he returns once more to
Recha, and finding her alone, confesses that he is a Christian. Love
prevails over Recha's filial devotion, and she consents to fly with her
lover, but they are surprised by Eleazar. Hearing of Samuel's
falseness, he first swears vengeance, but, mollified by his daughter's
entreaties, he only bids him marry Recha. Samuel refuses and has to
leave, the father cursing him, Recha bewailing her lover's falseness.
In the third act we assist at the Imperial banquet. Eleazar brings the
chain, and is accompanied by Recha, who at once recognizes in Eudora's
bridegroom, her lover, Samuel. She denounces the traitor, accusing him
of living in unlawful wedlock with a Jewess, a crime, which is
punishable by death.
Leopold (alias Samuel) is outlawed, the Cardinal Brogni pronounces the
anathema upon all three, and they are put into prison.
In the fourth act Eudora visits Recha in prison, and by her prayers not
only overcomes Recha's hate, but persuades her to save Leopold by
declaring him innocent. Recha, in her noblemindedness, pardons Leopold
and Eudora, and resolves to die, alone.
Meanwhile the Cardinal has an interview with Eleazar, who tells him
that he knows the Jew, who once saved the Cardinal's little daughter
from the flames. Brogni vainly entreats him to reveal the name.
He promises to save Recha, should Eleazar be willing to abjure his
faith, but the latter remains firm, fully prepared to die.
In the fifth act we hear the clamors of the people who furiously demand
the Jew's death.
Ruggiero announces to father and daughter the verdict of death by fire.
Leopold is set free through Recha's testimony. When in view of the
funeral pile, Eleazar asks Recha, if she would prefer to live in joy
and splendor and to accept the Christian faith, but she firmly answers
in the negative. Then she is led on to death, and she is just plunged
into the glowing furnace, when Eleazar, pointing to her, informs the
Cardinal, that the poor victim is his long-lost daughter; then Eleazar
follows Recha into the flames, while Brogni falls back senseless.
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