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opera in two parts, sung in French with Lithuanian surtitles
Litbretto by Eugene Scribe
Music Director Jonas Aleksa (1939–2005)
Conductor Martynas Staškus
Director and Set Designer Günter Krämer (Germany)
Costume Designer Isabel Ines Glathar (Germany)
Chorus Master Česlovas Radžiūnas
Premiere: 15 October 2004
La juive (occasionally called The Cardinal’s Daughter) by Jacques Fromental Halévy, which earned the composer instant renown in 19th-century Europe and perpetuated his name in the operatic world, reappears on the Lithuanian opera stage. La juive had its first Lithuanian production in 1927 and remained on active repertoire up to 1940. Undeservedly banished from European stages in the aftermath of the Second World War, in recent years it has been restored to life along with the great masterpieces of the19th-century French opera such as Gounod’s Faust, Bizet’s Carmen and others and has captivated the audiences ever since with its fabulous melodies, sumptuous staging and the universal themes of love and hatred, hope and desperation.
When Augustin Eugene Scribe, a prominent French dramatist of the time, first presented Halévy with the concept, story and characters of the future opera, the composer was moved to the bottom of his soul. For Scribe, all political and historical perplexities of the Jewish nation served merely as a captivating foil for a drama of love. However, it was for that theme of love why the opera became appealing to the Jews and the Lithuanians alike as much as to the entire humankind – at the time when the opera events took place, at the time when the opera was premiered and at present.
La juive had its world premiere on 23 February 1835 at Paris Opéra, instantly making Halévy’s name known all over musical Europe. Although Halévy wrote an impressive array of stage works (including 36 operas), none of them equalled the success of La juive. It was the grandest spectacle of all 19th-century grand operas offered at Paris Opéra, with massed choral and classical ballet scenes, a breathtaking procession in Act 1, ravishing festivities of Act 3, and a tragic climax in Act 5. Today the opera is usually performed with cuts, retaining all the magnitude through an enormous cast employed and august massed scenes, if not through its formidable duration.
The plot of La juive is somewhat reminiscent of a soap opera or the popular TV programme Atleisk, which is rather characteristic of the opera in general. The story features Cardinal de Brogni who loses in a fire his newly-born daughter (who ultimately appears to have survived being saved and adopted by a Jewish goldsmith) and love between a young Jewess (who turns out to be no Jewish whatsoever, but the long-lost daughter of the Cardinal) and a young Christian (who on top of being Christian is married to an Emperor’s daughter) – love that is doomed from the beginning and void of any promise for happiness.
The eminent director Günter Krämer works out every single detail to exhaustion in his version of La juive. Costumes and properties are designed in keeping with historical and ethnic traditions; thus you will not only see genuine Jewish felt hats and veils, tefillin and menorah, but also genuine silver and genuine passions.
Running time: 3.30 hours