From The Metropolitan Opera Archives:

La Juive: Timeline, Notes & Reviews

Terracotta piece
Terra cotta portait of Enrico Caruso as Eléazar, by Onorio Ruotolo, 1920.
The Yiddish inscription at the bottom reads: "Enrico Caruso Eléazar."


February 23, 1835: World Premiere of
La Juive

First performance of La Juive at l'Académie Royale de Musique, Paris, with Cornélie Falcon as Rachel, Julie Dorus-Gras as Princess Eudoxie, Adolphe Nourrit as Eléazar, Nicolas Levasseur as Cardinal Brogni, and Marcellin Lafont as Leopold.

La Juive had its 100th performance on June 3, 1840; it was given at the Paris Opéra 550 times between 1835 and 1893.



March 7 & 11, 1836: Rival productions of La Juive in New York.

The enormous success of La Juive in Paris quickly led to performances in New York. Competitive versions of The Jewess were presented, however, neither version used a note of Halévy's score. The "grand melodrama" at the Bowery Theatre on March 7 had a score put together by the Bowery's orchestra leader. The "operatick drama" at the Park Theatre on March 11 was said to have included music by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Cherubini, Auber, Michele Caraffa, Rossini, and Bishop.

[Based on: Lawrence, Vera Brodsky, Strong on Music: Volume 1 - Resonances 1836-1850 (New York, University of Oxford Press, 1988) pg. 38]



March 8, 1839: Death of Nourrit

"To another singer, failure, or the dread of failure, was fraught with more tragic consequence. For some sixteen years Adolphe Nourrit had been the chief tenor of the Paris Opera house. He had created the leading characters in Robert, Les Huguenots, La Juive, Gustave, and Masaniello. He resigned his position precipitately upon the advent of Duprez. The younger singer afflicted the elder with a kind of panic. The news that Duprez was among his audience was sufficient to paralyse his powers, to extinguish his voice. He left France for Italy. His success was unquestionable, but he had lost confidence in himself; a deep dejection settled upon him, his apprehension of failure approached delirium. At last he persuaded himself that the applause he won from a Neapolitan audience was purely ironical, was but scoffing ill-disguised. At 5 in the morning, on the 8th of March, 1839, he flung himself from the window of an upper floor, and was picked up in the street quite dead. Poor Nourrit! He was a man of genius in his way; but for him there would have been no grand duet in the fourth act of Les Huguenots, no cavatina for Eléazar in La Juive..."

[New York Times, November 17, 1872]




February 13, 1844: United States premiere of La Juive at the Theatre d'Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Amélie Fleury-Joly as Rachel, Mme. Lecourt as Princess Eudoxia, Grosseth as Eléazar, Archille Lecourt as Leopold, and Gustave Blés (brother of Mme. Fleury-Joly) as Cardinal Brogni.

Between 1844 and the outbreak of the War Between the States, La Juive was given eighty-three times by the French companies that visited New Orleans and toured the eastern seaboard. After the Theatre d'Orleans burned in 1866, La Juive was given one hundred fifteen times at the French Opera House. On a West Coast tour, the French troupe gave La Juive in San Francisco in 1897. The most notable of its opening nights was in 1909 when Léon Escalaïs sang Eléazar, and Albert Huberty, Cardinal Brogny. German submarines prevented a French troupe from visiting during World War I; the French Opera House burned in 1919. Two performances in 1973 brought the total of New Orleans opera company performances of La Juive to two hundred.

[Notes from Jack Belsom, Archivist, New Orleans Opera]



July 16, 1845: New York premiere of La Juive

The French Opera Company of New Orleans brought its production of La Juive to the Park Theatre in New York. "La Juive, reported in the Herald (July 17, 1845) as 'The grandest thing ever to have been put on a stage in this country,' was the hit of the French company's season. Excelling even the grandeur of Robert le Diable, the costumes, properties, and sets were all imported from Paris and were utterly magnificent: 'We venture to say that New York has never seen greater splendor than is displayed in the Triumphal March and Banquet Scene of the third act, and the Place of Execution of the fifth.'

"Although the two composers were in no way similar, it was clearly evident to the writer that if there had been no Meyerbeer, there would have been no Halévy - or, at least, no La Juive. In a lengthy and informed essay on Halévy and his fifteen or so operas, the Herald critic wrote: 'Halévy is a great man, a very clever contrapuntalist, a famous professor of harmony, a very scientific and careful writer, a noisy instrumentalist...and frequently, if not always, composes like a genius.'"

[Lawrence, Vera Brodsky, Strong on Music: Volume 1 - Resonances 1836-1850 (New York, University of Oxford Press, 1988) pg. 332]


Fromental
Jacques-François Fromental Halévy
Composer of La Juive (1799-1862)



Adolphe Nourrit
Adolph Nourrit in an unidentified role




Cornélie Falcon
Cornélie Falcon as Rachel, 1835, by Henri Pierre-Louis Grevedon

April 30, 1860: La Juive presented by Max Maretzek's Italian Opera Company

The second performance was reviewed: "Winter Garden - The second performance of Halévy's Jewess, last evening, attracted a remarkably fine audience, considering the extremely inclement state of the weather. A work of such magnitude improves upon acquaintance, especially after one or two representations, when the artists have become familiar with their roles, and can give them justice with certainty and full power. These advantages were noticeable last evening, and evinced a much finer interpretation than that of Monday. Sig. Stigelli was in superb voice, and far eclipsed his former effort. This sterling artist is at all times good, but only in La Juive has he had an opportunity to develop the real extent of his powers. There is no other tenor in America who could sing the difficult music of the second act with half so much certainty and effect. Mme. Fabbri, as the heroine, left nothing to be desired either in the dramatic conception of the part of her delivery of the music. All the minor parts were carefully filled, and the supernumeraries who disport themselves in gorgeous array for the benefit of Mother Church, and confusion of Infidels, looked resplendent and marched accurately. The success of the opera was more distinct even than on the first evening. All the artists were called out after each act, and the best morceaux were received with rounds of applause.

"Mr. Carl Anschutz - to whose energy and ability the public has often been indebted - conducted the orchestra with his marked ability. It is something to hear such an orchestra under proper direction. The performance commenced a quarter of an hour earlier than usual, and terminated about 11 o'clock.

"La Juive will be played tonight for the third time, and tomorrow at the matinee, for the fourth. The manager announces that the opera cannot again be repeated at a morning performance."

[New York Times, May 4, 1860]



1874 & 1875: Richard Wagner on La Juive

June 16, 1874
"...Our conversation led us to La Juive, and R. says that, after his taste had been completely ruined, it was this score which gave him back his feeling for pure music. We talk about Mozart's instrumentation, and R. mentions the introduction of a clarinet in Gluck's Armide which makes one wonder where he got it from, so lovely and moving it is.

May 25, 1875
"Atmosphere still gloomy. 'I lack a hero,' as is said at the beginning of Don Giovanni jokes R., but without merriment. He writes to Niemann to tell of his difficulty over Siegfried. Will that help?...In the evening he takes up La Juive, pleasure in the great style of this work - a quite different use of Jewish sounds from that in present-day Jewish operas (Die Maccabäer, Die Königin von Saba)." Note: Die Maccabäer by Anton Rubinstein and Die Königin von Saba by Karl Goldmark both had their premieres in 1875.

[Cosima Wagner's Diaries: 1869-1877, ed. Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack (New York, Harcourt Brace, 1976) pp. 767, 848]


1860 ad 1860 ad 2
Ad for Max Maretzek's 1860 production of La Juive
New York Times April 25, 1860

 

Tenor aria
Piano version of the tenor aria, "Rachel, quand du Seigneur," from an 1860 libretto

Juive in Central Park
September 7, 1861: La Juive in Central Park

The southernmost section of New York's Central Park opened to the public in 1858. The first concert was on July 9, 1859. The finale of La Juive and other popular selections were performed in this 1861 concert.



January 16, 1885: Met Premiere of La Juive

"The female roles were capitally interpreted, the chorus and orchestra - save in respect of some uncertainty on the part of the horns - were in their wonted good form, and the costumes and stage business were admirable, but the tenors and basso were seldom equal to their respective tasks. As is usually the case, when Frauen Materna and Schröder-Hanfstängl appear together, the honors of the evening were pretty evenly divided between them. As a vocalist, the latter artist towers above Frau Materna; as an emotional songstress of a rather coarse fibre, but of considerable breadth and vigor, the Austrian prima donna generally becomes the prominent personage of the story. Yesterday Frau Schröder-Hanfstängl strengthened the rather thankless character of Eudoxia by interpolating in the second act of The Jewess the Princess's second air in Robert the Devil. As it was the artist's last appearance here this season, the proceeding may be regarded as partially justifiable, and the audience applauded her fluent and sparkling execution of Meyerbeer's familiar and not quite inappropriate strains to the echo. In the duet with Rachel, in the fourth act, Frau Schröder-Hanfstängl also held her own with her customary success, and, thanks to the resonant voices and energetic singing of the two artists, a repetition of the number was insisted upon. Frau Materna's portrayal of Rachel was as effective as was anticipated. Mention has been made already of the tendency of this prima donna to subordinate phrasing to emotion and vocal dynamics, and the noble aria in which Rachel gives utterance to the feelings called forth by her lover's approach lost some of its charm therefrom. On the other hand, there was no escaping the influence of a delineation in which genuine emotion, tones of thrilling beauty, and a thorough acquaintance with all the arts of the stage, wrought their spell at every point, and in her first air, in the finale of the second act, in the duet with Eudoxia, and in the sadness and terror of the final scene, the attention and applause bestowed upon the songstress were completely deserved."

[New York Times, January 17, 1885]



August 1886: Gustav Mahler on La Juive

"...Tonight I am conducting La Juive - I am utterly fascinated by this wonderful, magnificent work, and rank it among the greatest ever created. Do come - I must play it for you."

[Letter to Friedrich Löhr by Gustav Mahler. Selected Letters of Gustav Mahler, ed. Alma Mahler and Knud Martner (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1979), pg. 98]



December 7, 1887: La Juive at the Met

"Fräulein Biro de Marion was the Eudora. It goes without saying that she was wholly inadequate to the requirements of the score."

[New York Times, December 8, 1887]



January 21, 1889: La Juive with Lilli Lehmann

"Three facts were worthy of note at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening. In the first place Halévy's La Juive was revived; in the second, the admirable Lilli Lehmann reappeared; and in the third place the lights in the auditorium were kept turned up all through the performance in defiance of art and theatrical effect because the box holders have declined to sit any longer in darkness. This last fact is a sufficient commentary on any professions of devotion to the laws of art.

"Frau Lehmann comes back to us in splendid voice. It was a joy beyond expression to hear her full, round, mellow, and powerful tones, her polished Italian method, and her judicious employment of the dramatic resources of the art of song."

[New York Times, January 22, 1889]



December 10, 1893: La Juive in Met Concerts

Music from La Juive has been performed at sixty-one Metropolitan Opera concerts, beginning in December 1893 when the French bass Pol Plançon sang Brogny’s "Si, la rigueur" and most recently in Japan on June 4, 1988 when Plácido Domingo sang "Rachel, quand du Seigneur" in a televised concert in Tokyo. The bass aria was sung by Léon Rothier on nine occasions; the tenor aria was a speciality of Armand Tokatyan (six performances) and Jan Peerce (four). Other concert performers of music from La Juive include the sopranos Felia Litvinne, Eva Didur, Gladys Axman, Queena Mario, and Marjorie Lawrence; tenors Giovanni Martinelli, Frederick Jagel, René Maison, and Richard Tucker; basses Robert Blass, Carl Braun, and Emanuel List.



1896 and after: Recordings of "Rachel, quand du Seigneur"

In Paris in the late 1890s, Henri Lioret made a number of cylinder recordings of French artists in opera, operetta and cafe-concert music. Among them were two recordings by a French tenor named Emmanuel Lafarge performing Eléazar’s "Rachel, quand du Seigneur" which are thus among the earliest operatic selections that have been preserved. Since then more than ninety commercial recordings of this aria from La Juive have been traced. The artists range from the equally obscure to the most famous. Enrico Caruso’s 1920 version was among his last recordings. Other Italian tenors who recorded the aria include Giovanni Martinelli, Beniamino Gigli, and Mario del Monaco. The Belgian tenor, José Di Trevi, made a notable version. Among French tenor renditions are those of Agustarello Affre, Léon Escalais, César Vezzani, Georges Thill, Tony Poncet, and Roberto Alagna; among the Spanish are José Carreras and Plácido Domingo. German language versions include Joseph Schmidt, Hermann Jadlowker, Leo Slezak, Jacques Urlus, Max Lorenz, and Franz Völker. Among the American tenors who have recorded Eléazar’s aria are Charles Hackett, Jan Peerce, Richard Tucker, and Neil Shicoff. Two Canadian renditions are by Leopold Simoneau and Ben Heppner. The aria has been recorded in Dutch, Italian, Lithuanian, Yiddish, Polish, and Russian, as well as in German and the original French.

[Based on the Discography of Rudi van den Bulck]



October 13, 1903: Gustav Mahler and La Juive

"In planning his seasonal programme of new works and revivals, Mahler had to take account of the taste of the Viennese audiences for spectacular French grand opera. In this section of the repertory he preferred, like Wagner before him, the warmer style of Jacques Fromental Halévy to the monumental shallowness of Meyerbeer. La Juive had not been sung since his arrival in Vienna six years earlier, and he started work on a new production at the end of September 1903. The Czech composer, Josef Bohuslav Förster, left a vivid account of one of the final rehearsals. In the third act, when Brogni pronounces his anathema against the two Jews and Prince Leopold, the chorus received the news calmly and approached the Cardinal 'with a ceremonious dignity' completely at odds with the dramatic situation. At once Mahler stopped the rehearsal and climbed on stage. Standing near the prompetr's box, he pointed out to the chorus the terrible meaning of the word 'anathema' at the time when La Juive was supposed to have taken place. He ordered the Cardinal and the Prince to stand motionless down stage right and left, while the chorus fled and huddled up stage left, 'as if stung by a viper', to 'gather in a confused huddle of terrified courtiers':

"'The entire episode of the anathema was repeated but Mahler was still not satisfied. He jumped on to the stage again, and the horror he expressed by face and gestures long remained in Förster's memory. This was no longer a member of the chorus acting a frightened courtier out of professional durty. This was someone seized by extreme terror, who had lost his senses and dignity despite the Prince and Princess's presence, and who had only one thought left: to escape the death ray [of anathema]!"

[de la Grange, Henry-Louis, Gustav Mahler. Vienna: The Years of Challenge (1897-1904) (New York, Oxford University Press, 1995), pg. 626. Quoted by permission of the author.]



1913: Passage from Marcel Proust's À la recherche des temps perdu (Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin)

Unfortunately I was unable to set at rest by further talks with Bloch, in which I might have insisted upon an explanation, the doubts he had engendered in me when he told me that fine lines of poetry (from which I expected nothing less than the revelation of truth itself) were all the finer if they meant absolutely nothing. For, as it happened, Bloch was not invited to the house again. At first he had been well received there. It is true that my grandfather made out that, whenever I formed a strong attachment to any one of my friends and brought him home with me, that friend was invariably a Jew; to which he would not have objected on principle - indeed his own friend Swann was of Jewish extraction - had he not found that the Jews whom I chose as friends were not usually of the best type. And so whenever I brought a new friend home my grandfather seldom failed to start humming the "O, God of our Fathers" from La Juive, or else "Israel, break thy chains," singing the tune alone, of course, to an "um-ti-tum-ti-tum, tra-la"; but I used to be afraid that my friend would recognize it and be able to reconstruct the words.

Before seeing them, merely on hearing their names, about which, as often as not, there was nothing particularly Hebraic, he would divine not only the Jewish origin of such of my friends as might indeed be Jewish, but even at times some skeleton in their family cupboard.

"And What's the name of this friend of yours who is coming this evening?"
"Dumont, Grandpapa."
"Dumont! Oh, I don't like the sound of that."
And he would sing:
Archers, be on your guard!
Watch without rest, without sound.

And then after a few adroit questions on points of detail he would call out "On guard! On guard," or, if it were the victim himself who had already arrived, and had been unwittingly obliged, by subtle interrogation, to admit his origins, then my grandfather, to show us that he had no longer any doubts, would merely look at us, humming under his breath the air of

What! Do you hither guide the feet of this timid Israelite?
or of
Sweet vale of Hebron, dear paternal fields,
Or, perhaps, of
Yes, I am of the chosen race

These little eccentricities on my grandfather's part implied no ill-will whatsoever towards my friends. But Bloch had displeased my family for other reasons. He had begun by irritating my father, who, seeing him come in with wet clothes, had asked him with keen interest:
"Why, M. Bloch, is there a change in the weather? Has it been raining? I can't understand it; the barometer has been 'set fair.'"
Which drew from Bloch nothing more instructive than: "Sir, I am absolutely incapable of telling you whether it has rained. I live so resolutely apart from physical contingencies that my senses no longer trouble to inform me of them."
"My poor boy," said my father after Bloch had gone, "your friend is out of his mind. Why, he couldn't even tell me what the weather was like. As if there could be anything more interesting! He's an imbecile."

[Remembrance of Things Past, Vol 1: Swann's Way. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin. New York: Vintage Books, 1981: pp. 98-99.]




Met Program1
Met Program2
Program pages from the Metropolitan Opera Premiere of La Juive, January 16, 1885

 

Amalia Materna
Amalia Materna, who sang Rachel in the Met premiere of La Juive
Photograph by Falk

 

Lilli Lehmann
Lilli Lehmann
Photograph by Falk

 

At the Front
News item in The New York Times, June 7, 1915

November 22, 1919: First Met performance since 1890

Metropolitan Opera's new production of La Juive opens with Enrico Caruso, Rosa Ponselle, Evelyn Scotney, Orville Harrold, and Léon Rothier, with Artur Bodanzky conducting.

"The Jewess is his [Halévy's] high-water mark. Its success was enormous, though it soon paled before the refulgent fire of Les Huguenots. The idolized tenor, Adolphe Nourrit, did not disdain the role of Eléazar, and Franz Liszt improvised on its themes, though he never published his original fantasia. It is said that it was an air form The Jewess that he was juggling one night at a fashionable soiree that provided Stendhal's cutting epigram: 'Mon cher Liszt,' said the author, 'pray give us your usual improvisation.' Coldness ever afterward between the two men. However, there is no denying the one-time popularity of Halévy, a testimony to the taste of his epoch. Perhaps a half-century hence, Mascagni or Puccini or some other favorite of 1919 will undergo the same fate as the sincere, frivolous music of The Jewess. The march-like measures and the cauldron of boiling water suggest Bernard Shaw's title, The Funeral March of a Fried Eel.

"Old opera goers recall Materna, Lilli Lehmann, Jules Perotti, Anton Schott, Fischer and Alvary during the German regime at the Metropolitan Opera House, though hardly with any degree of pleasure. If the present recrudescence of the work proves successful it will be entirely due to the magnificent singing of Caruso, Rosa Ponselle and the magnetic conducting of Artur Bodanzky. As a matter of fact, there are only two beautiful voices in the Metropolitan company, and Rosa Ponselle is the other one. As for Caruso and his impersonation of the old Jew, Eléazar, we may say that he has seldom demonstrated his vocal artistry or his dramatic gifts in such a striking manner. His make-up is that of Shylock curls, gaberdine and the racial nose. His delineation of hatred and paternal love were alike admirable. His scorn for his Gentile oppressors - there were Sabbatarian bigots and pogroms even in those days - and his violent denunciation of the pretended Samuel, really Prince Leopold, the would-be seducer of his daughter - were testimony to the histrionic skill of a singer whose luscious voice makes us deaf to the unmistakable appeal of his acting. And with what a gesture of malignant triumph he revenges himself on the fatuous and fanatical Cardinal Grogni, as he points to the cauldron wherein Rachel perishes and cries, "La voila!' For the unhappy girl is the daughter of the prelate, and not a Jewess. Leah the Forsaken is mildly melodramatic in comparison to this climax.

"We have seldom heard such expressive singing as Caruso's delivery of his air in the fourth set, 'O Rachel.' Our generation should feel it a privilege to hear this truly great artist sing; apart from his unique vocal organ he is dowered with a musical temperament rarely found in the tenor tribe. His success was tremendous on this occasion, as it deserved to be. His voice was in splendid condition, and Shylock-Caruso bids fair to become one of the sensations of a not particularly promising season. He was called a half dozen times after Act IV.

"Rosa Ponselle's artistic development grows apace. Her singing and acting are surer, better coordinated than last season. The role of Rachel is wholly conventional, one of the 'O ciel' kind, but she easily compassed it. Her solo in Act II was effective though of the music we only remember the introductory bars for the horns appropriated from Oberon.

"Impressive was the setting of the Passover (Pesach) celebration when Eléazar breaks the sacred 'shew' bread (Kala) with his alleged daughter and family. Miss Ponselle distinguished herself in the duet with Eudoxia, the niece of the Emperor and Leopold-Samuel's spouse. A newcomer, an Australian and protege of Melba's, Evelyn Scotney, made a satisfactory debut as the fond and foolish woman who would buy gems for her false husband, the victor in the Hussite war (the scene plays at Constance A.D. 1414). Mme. Scotney has a light, high soprano, a flexible coloratura, rather chilly, thin and at times acid in the upper tones. It has in a certain register an infantile quality, which we recall in the singing of Melba and Tetrazzini. Of a handsome stage presence, the acting of Scotney is restrained to the point of respectability.

"Another debut that is on the boards of the Metropolitan was Orville Harrold's, a tenor well known in English opera and a seasoned artist. He enacted the perfidious Leopold and sang effectively. Mr. Harrold made an excellent impression. Rothier, with the sonorous voice and giant figure, is at his best as an ecclesiastic - we remember his Cardinal in La [Reine] Fiammeta last season. He was both unctuous and formidable as Cardinal Brogni, especially when he booms out the anathema of Mother Church against Eléazar, Rachel and Leopold: 'Soyes maudits! Anatheme! Anatheme!' [Thomas] Chalmers, [Louis] d'Angelo, [Pompilio] Malatesta and [Vincenzo] Reschiglian made up a capable cast. The scenic settings were new and picturesque, particularly a gothic interior, Act III, and the last tableau, with its hideous cauldron of sizzling oil and the sinister executioner silhouetted at the top of a hill against a menacing sky. Costumes and trappings were rich. Mr. Setti's chorus was, as ever, well trained and truly enjoyable. The one cheerful tone of the production was the incidental ballet invented by the fertile and seemingly inexhaustible Rosina Galli, with the inimitable Rosina dancing several delightful solos. The first ballet, with the children, would by itself float to success any Broadway show. [Giuseppe] Bonfiglio was the male dancer. Mr. Bodanzky outdid himself, conducting with a nervous intensity that might better have been expended on a masterpiece instead of the unmusical fustian of La Juive. But then, he is not only a great conductor but also a conscientious one, and, with the cooperation of Caruso and Ponselle, made vital the faded music of Halévy.

To hear Caruso sing 'O Rachel,' was worth the dreary leagues we had to traverse before reaching this touching air. The audience was a record one and appreciative to fever heat."

[Huneker, James Gibbons, "La Juive is Revived," New York World, November 23, 1919]



1919 Reheasal
New York Sun
drawing of a 1919 La Juive rehearsal at the Met

 


Caruso
Enrico Caruso as Eléazar in 1919
Photograph by White Studio.


 

Rosa Ponselle
Rosa Ponselle as Rachel in 1919
Photograph by White Studio.

 


José Mardones as Cardinal Brogni
José Mardones as Cardinal Brogni
Photograph by Herman Mishkin.

 

Production shot 1 Production shot 2 Photographs from the 1919 Met production of La Juive with Evelyn Scotney as Princess Eudoxia
Photographs by White Studio.


 
 


December 12, 1924: Martinelli and La Juive

“Halévy’s La Juive, given last night its first performance of the season in the Metropolitan House is one of the works which Mr. Gatti-Casazza mounts with special effect, and in which certain of his leading singers perform with an unction and enthusiasm that they do not always bring to more important works. Take Mr. Martinelli for instance. He is one of the most intrepid mounters of high notes in the company. He has a splendid vocal organ. No one is more handsomely disposed toward the fermata - with or without the sanction of the composer - the gallant gesture, the oily phrase.

Last night Mr. Martinelli was heard in all his glory. In some scenes he was continent in the employment of his voice, proportionate in his dynamics, and then showed what he could do in artistic singing. Elsewhere he was conspicuous for robustness and enthusiasm, and the more robust the greater the pleasure of a large element of the audience. The louder Mr. Martinelli sang, the louder they applauded. Mr. Martinelli acted with unusual dramatic ability, giving outward semblance, at least, to an operatic character, making much of such stage business as the conventionalities of the role permitted. It was, so far as the outbursts of applause showed a Martinelli evening. Some thought, however, that Miss Easton and Mr. Rothier showed prominent talent. Miss Easton has, perhaps, certain temperamental limitations as a dramatic interpreter, but she touches few parts that her customary skill in song, her intelligence and musicianship fail to adorn. Mr. Rothier, as in many previous appearances, gave much dignity to the role of the Cardinal and evidenced again his past mastery of its style.”

[Downes, Olin, “Opera: A Sprited La JuiveNew York Times, December 13, 1924]



December 31, 1922: La Juive in Chicago

Between New Year's Eve 1922, when a new production of La Juive was staged for the Russian-born soprano Rosa Raisa, and December 17, 1937, when Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence sang at the last Chicago performance, there were forty-nine performances of Halévy's masterpiece by two Chicago companies. The Chicago Opera performed La Juive thirty-eight times including tour performances in Cleveland, Detroit, Chattanooga, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Denver; the Ravinia Opera, just outside Chicago, performed La Juive thirteen times. Frida Leider, the great Wagnerian soprano, sang two Rachels when Raisa missed a season; Elisabeth Rethberg sang eleven performances at Ravinia; Rosa Raisa sang the rest, thirty-five in all. The performance of December 4, 1937 was her last stage appearance anywhere. There were only two Eléazars, the American tenor Charles Marshall and Giovanni Martinelli. Raisa always performed in Italian, even at Ravinia where everyone else sang in French. Martinelli and Lawrence sang in French, even if everyone else was singing in Italian.

In her history of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Claudia Cassidy recalled a bilingual performance: "These things happen. The old Chicago Opera sang La Juive in Italian. Ravinia sang it in French. When Rosa Raisa sang it with Martinelli on the North Shore, she had not had time to change languages. So Louis Eckstein, Ravinia's tactful Maecenas, asked the reviewers please not to notice. At one point Jose Mojica as the young prince confessed Raisa, 'je suis Chrétien,' whereupon she cried in horror, 'Christiano.' Raisa had a voice as huge as beautiful. The little pavillion seated about 1400. Even for music critics often believed to be deaf, it was a problem." Note: The year Raisa sang at Ravinia her Leopold was Armand Tokatyan.

[Based on research of Charles Mintzer. Quote from: Cassidy, Claudia, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1979, pg. 179]



January 28, 1931: Elisabeth Rethberg and La Juive

"Mme. Elisabeth Rethberg assumed the robes and the sorrows of Rachel, and accredited herself with a very commendable undertaking. Whether she can be made over into a Falcon is not yet to be determined one way or the other. Mme. Falcon, who created the role of Rachel when the opera was first heard in Paris, was so successful in dramatic parts of this type that they came to be called Falcon roles and singers of them Falcons. In the very name there is something suggesting the character of this line of operatic art. The singer needs a full, powerful and soaring voice, one that can sweep boldly across the musical empyrean and at the critical instant stoop as the peregrine dropped upon its prey.

"Mme. Rethberg sang her music with her familiar beauty of tone and with a keen appreciation of its quality. She had style and she showed feeling. But she seemed as yet to be a falconet."

[New York Sun, January 29, 1931]



October 5, 1933: Performance of La Juive at the Vienna Staatsoper

This performance with Franz Völker as Eléazar was the last in Vienna until concert performances in 1981 with Jose Carreras, Ilona Tokody, and Cesare Siepi.



October 18 & 20, 1973: La Juive with Richard Tucker

These performances by the New Orleans Opera Association were the only time that Richard Tucker sang Eléazar in the United States. In the cast were Marisa Galvany, Rita Shane, Paul Plishka, and Gene Bullard. Knud Andersson conducted.



November 6, 2003: Metropolitan Opera's new production of La Juive

The premiere of this new production is the sixty-third performance of La Juive by the Metropolitan.



Giovanni Martinelli 1 Giovanni Martinelli 2 Giovanni Martinelli 3 Giovanni Martinelli 4
Giovanni Martinelli as Eléazar
Photographs by Herman Mishkin.



Rosa Raisa as Rachel
Rosa Raisa as Rachel
Photograph by Fernand de Gueldre.



Rethberg as Rachel
Elisabeth Rethberg as Rachel
Photograph by Fernand de Gueldre.



Richard Tucker as Eléazar
Richard Tucker as Eléazar, a role he performed onstage in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Barcelona, Spain
Photograph from the Richard Tucker Collection