"Gestern in der Oper" (Yesterday in the opera) so begins many tales
from Vienna. And this one too, La Juive by Fromental Halevy in Vienna State Opera, a grand opera in 5 acts. In Vienna it was divided into three parts, Act 1, then first break, Act 2+3 together, second break, and Act 4+5 together.
It started at 19 hours. In McDonalds there is Korea-woche (because of Fotball WC Korea Japan), and in the operahouse certainly had its Asian flour. Leopold was sung by Jianyi Zhang (from Shanghai), Albert by In-Sung Sim and 2nd citizen by Hiro Ijichi. And they were all doing it very well. Especially did I like Albert, and missed him in the lineup after the whole opera. A splendid voice and appearance.
Leopold in Jianyi Zhang was a pain to listen to in the aria "Loin de sa amie", but that is a high note aria that few tenors of today manage, luckily this was the only place in the opera that he seemed
lacking, his acting and singing and overall performance was indeed great.
I was nolonger surprised by the production since I have seen it before in November 12th, 1999 with Neil Shicoff, Soile Isokoski, Zoran Todorovich and Regina Schörg and Alastair Miles.
Leopold is recognized by Albert, L is disguised as a Jew. Here I noticed the beautiful voice of the evening's Albert (In-Sung Sim). Then the mayor of the city, Ruggiero (Markus Nieminen) declare it to
be a festive day with the help of Albert. In the evening the went, I still found Markus Nieminen lacking as Ruggiere. Then the first look of the evening's Eleazar in the guise of Francisco Casanova.
Certainly he looked different from the slim Neil Shicoff, this very big, but most of all fat tenor. But when thinking of the role of Eleazar, the rich gold-smith, was is not natural that he would look so well-fed, yes, so in this role, is was perfect. Soile Isokoski as Rachel, the Jewess of the opera, looked as perfect and sang and acted as perfectly as before. Now Eleazar, the fat and rich Jew is as always provoking to the Christians in the city, especially Ruggiero who leaps at the possibility to strike on the Jews. Then the Cardinal Brogni, in the magnificent statue of Walter Fink, appeared. I
remember in 1999 when Alastair Miles was Brogni, he was not half the man/voice of Walter Fink. Ruggiero has condemned Eleazar and Rachel to death, and Brogni saves them. What a magnificence in the wonderful "Si la rigeur et la vengence". What a bass.
Then after all this, Leopold sings his "Loin de sa amie", unfortunately I cannot praise that aria. But I must admire the guts of singing such a difficult aria right in front of the Vienna State audience. I think the audience in knowing the difficult notes in this aria, was sympathetic to his effort. Then it was the duet with Rachel. Beautiful sung and acted. Then the scene changes, it is a feast, the crowd is gathering, again Eleazar goes right into the crowd, Rachel tries to help her father getting a good place at the same time not to provoke the crowd. When Ruggiero sees them near the church, he instills in the crowd they hatred and wishes to drown them in the sea ("Sur le lac"). Leopold, still dressed as Samuel, the Jew that Rachel thinks she loves, sees Rachel in this great distress, and tries to save her, without Albert seeing Leopold, this could have gone badly also for Leopold, something a Prince of the Empire would not be aware. The crowd and Rachel are surprised to see that the Christians obeys a Jew (Leopold, the disguised Prince of th Empire).
In Eleazar house, the ceremony of Passover. "O Dieu, de nos pères, parmi nous decends". Wonderful sung by Francisco Casanova. Leopold is there as Samuel, but Rachel sees him throw away the sacred bread. Then the ceremony is halted, Eudoxie (the wife of Leopold, and daughter of the Emperor) comes to ask for a precious gold piece that she want to give to her husband, since he is celebrated as the conqueror of the Hussites. Eudoxio sung by Simina Ivan, she is doing her role and singing it very well, in the ensembles and duets she seem a little weak. Then the ceremony gets to its original end, Leopold is troubled by the hearing of Eudoxio, Rachel worried about who is Samuel. Rachel sings the wonderful aria "Il va venir", and it is really wonderful to listen to. Then Leopold comes back, he confesses that he is a Christian. Rachel is taken aback. Then he tries to make her go away with him to live in some deserted place, where nobody ask of religion. She still doesn't know that he is not only Christian, he is married, too. He convinces her, they are on their way, Eleazar appear. Great trio!!! If you were not a Jew, I would have killed you by now, says Eleazar. Hit me, I am a Christian, says Leopold. Then Rachel intercedes, she want that Leopold (Samuel) converts to Judaism, and then be her husband. Eleazar, confronted with Rachels sorrow, agrees. But Leopold, says, no. Rachel is heart-broken, Eleazar furious, Leopold runs away.
Eudoxie sings of the joy that her husband is back, it is a festive dinner with Cardinal Brogni, Ruggiero and Leopold and other important people present. Eleazar comes with the gold necklace for Eudoxie to give her husband, Leopold. When Eudoxie presents the gift to her husband Rachel and Eleazar recognize him as Samuel, the traitor. Rachel leaps up, and pronounces Leopold a traitor to God's law since he, a Christian, have been together with her, a Jewess. Eleazar provokes Brogni when is say is the law not for the Christians. Brogni reacts with an Anathema for all the three, Leopold, Rachel and Eleazar. All shall react with fear of touching these three, no burial nor prayers will be said at their death.
First Eudoxie meets Rachel in the prison, to plead for the life of Leopold, her husband. A wonderful duet, but unfortunately the voice of this Eudoxie, Simina Ivan, is in my opinion to weak for the duet to be as powerful as it should feel. Then Cardinal Brogni want to know of Rachel if she can prevent this terrible blow to fall unto Leopold, and also unto Rachel. He have great compassion with Rachel, but she will only save Leopold, for herself she longs to die. Brogni has one hope left to save Rachel, her father Eleazar. And then there is the big duet between the Cardinal and Eleazar. Eleazar will not become a Christian and thus save Rachel. He can tell Brogni, that B did not loose all in the terrible fire in Rome which B think killed both his wife and child. The child, a girl, is alive and Eleazar know the name of the Jew that saved her. Eleazar's revenge on Brogni for killing his sons in Rome and banishing E from Rome, will be taking the secret with him when he dies. Brogni begs of mercy, but Eleazar is not for mercy.
After these great duets, comes Eleazar's great aria "Va, prononcer ma mort"- "Rachel, quand du Seigneur". The revenge of Eleazar will mean the death of Rachel, who is really Brogni's daughter, fostered up by Eleazar as his own. Compassion and hatred rages in Eleazar's heart.
To his surprise, Eleazar's hears that only Rachel and himself will die. A believable witness has pronounced Leopold innocent. Who was the witness?? RACHEL. The execution are about to begin, Brogni pleads with Eleazar, Eleazar halts the execution. He asks Rachel, do you want to live, without him but in the supreme palaces. Rachel says no, la flamme etincelle. Brogni, where is my daughter?. Eleazar, there she is, in that moment Rachel is executed and Eleazar walks proudly to his death.
WOW! that is a great opera, n'est pas?