Napisala i przyslala Basia Jaworski
Jacques Fromental Halévy (1799-1862) was a much loved and celebrated composer during his lifetime. He composed about forty operas, of which at least half were quite successful. Yet: none of his works has ever matched the popularity of La Juive.
La Juive, ‘The Jewess’ once was an absolute audience favourite and until the thirties of the last century the piece was performed with great regularity. The role of Éléazar was sung by the greatest and most famous tenors of the time: Caruso, Leo Slezak, Giovanni Martinelli… Who not?
Enrico Caruso in a recording made on 14-09-1920:
Leo Slezak (in German) in a 1928 recording:
I could not find an example of Martinelli on Youtube, but a live recording from 1936 of the second act exists (with Elisabeth Rethberg as Rachel), plus some fragments of the fourth act, from 1926 (SRO 848-1).
Éléazar is not an amiable man. Like Shakespeare’s Shylock, he is repulsive and pitiful at the same time. He’s full of resentment and insists on retaliation for which he’s prepared to sacrifice anything, including what he loves most. But has he always been like that, or have circumstances made him like that? Moreover, he too has his doubts – in his great aria he sincerely asks himself (and God) whether he has acted well.
Actually, you can see him as a male equivalent of Azucena. Both have lost their own child(ren) and both have taken care of a child of their enemy and raised it as their own flesh and blood. As a result, Manrico became a gypsy boy and Rachel a Jewess. With all the consequences that follow.