The Maccabees

In three acts by ANTON RUBINSTEIN.

Text by MOSENTHAL, taken from Otto Ludwig's drama of the same name.

This opera when it appeared, created a great sensation in the musical

world. In it the eminent pianist and composer has achieved a splendid

success. The music belongs to the noblest and best and is in most

masterly fashion adapted to the Jewish character. Ludwig and

Mosenthal, both names of renown in Germany, have given a libretto

worthy of the music.

The hero is the famous warrior of the Old Testament. The scene takes

place 160 years before Christ, partly at Modin, a city in the mountains

of Judah and partly in Jerusalem and its environs.

The first act shows Leah with three of her sons, Eleazar, Joarim and

Benjamin. Eleazar is envious of Judah, the eldest son, whose courage

and strength are on everybody's lips, but his mother consoles him by a

prophesy, that Eleazar shall one day be High-priest and King of the


The fete of the sheep-shearing is being celebrated, and Noemi, Judah's

wife, approaches Leah with garlands of flowers, asking for her

benediction. But she is repulsed by her mother-in-law, who is too

proud to recognize the low-born maid as her equal, and slights her son

Judah for his love. She tries to incite him into rebellion against the

Syrians, when Jojakim, a priest appears. He announces the death

of Osias, High-priest of Zion and calls one of Leah's sons to the

important office.--As Judah feels no vocation for such a burden,

Eleazar, his mother's favorite is chosen, and so Leah sees her dream

already fulfilled. They are about to depart, when the approaching army

of the Syrians is announced. Terror seizes the people, as Gorgias, the

leader of the enemy marches up with his soldiers and loudly proclaims,

that the Jews are to erect an altar to Pallas Athene, to whom they must

pray henceforth. Leah seeks to inflame Eleazar's spirit, but his

courage fails him. The altar is soon erected, and as Gorgias sternly

orders that sacrifices are to be offered to the goddess, Boas, Noemi's

father is found willing to bow to the enemy's commands. But the

measure is full, Judah steps forth and striking Boas, the traitor to

their faith, dead, loudly praises Jehova. He calls his people to arms,

and repulses the Syrians and Leah, recognizing her son's greatness,

gives him her benediction.

The second act represents a deep ravine near Emaus; the enemy is beaten

and Judah is resolved to drive him from Zion's walls, but Jojakim warns

him not to profane the coming Sabbath.

Judah tries to overrule the priests and to excite the people, but he is

not heard, and the enemy is able to kill the psalm-singing soldiers

like lambs.

The next scene shows us Eleazar with Cleopatra, daughter of King

Antiochus of Syria.

They love each other, and Eleazar consents to forsake his religion for

her, while she promises to make him King of Jerusalem.

In the next scene Leah in the city of Modin is greeted with

acclamations of joy, when Simei, a relative of the slain Boas appears

to bewail Judah's defeat: Other fugitives coming up, confirm his

narrative of the massacre.--Leah hears that Judah fled and that

Antiochus approaches conducted by her own son Eleazar. She curses the

apostate.--She has still two younger sons, but the Israelites take them

from her to give as hostages to the King Antiochus. Leah is bound to a

cypress-tree by her own people, who attribute their misfortunes to her

and to her sons. Only Noemi, the despised daughter-in-law remains to

liberate the miserable mother, and together they resolve to ask the

tyrant's pardon for the sons.

In the third act we find Judah, alone and unrecognized in the deserted

streets of Jerusalem. Hearing the prayers of the people that Judah may

be sent to them, he steps forth and tells them who he is, and all sink

at his feet, swearing to fight with him to the death. While Judah

prays to God for a sign of grace, Noemi comes with the dreadful news of

the events at Modin, which still further rouses the anger and courage

of the Israelites. Meanwhile Leah has succeeded in penetrating into

Antiochus' presence to beg the lives of her children from him.

Eleazar, Gorgias and Cleopatra join their prayers to those of the poor

mother, and at last Antiochus consents, and the two boys are led

into the room.

But the King only grants their liberty on condition that they renounce

their faith. They are to be burnt alive, should they abide by their

heresy. The mother's heart is full of agony, but the children's noble

courage prevails. They are prepared to die for their God, but the

unhappy mother is not even allowed to share their death. When Eleazar

sees his brother's firmness, his conscience awakens, and

notwithstanding Cleopatra's entreaties he joins them on their way to

death. The hymns of the youthful martyrs are heard, but with the sound

of their voices there suddenly mingles that of a growing tumult.

Antiochus falls, shot through the heart, and the Israelites rush in,

headed by Judah, putting the Syrians to flight. Leah sees her people's

victory, but the trial has been too great, she sinks back lifeless.

Judah is proclaimed King of Zion, but he humbly bends his head, giving

all glory to the Almighty God.

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