Juive, La (The Jewess)
  • Fromental Halévy. Opéra in five acts. 1835.
  • Libretto by Eugène Scribe.
  • First performance at the Paris Opéra on 23rd February 1835.
CHARACTERS
Eléazar, a Jewish goldsmith tenor
Rachel, his daughter soprano
Léopold, prince of the Empire tenor
Cardinal Brogni, president of the Council bass
Princess Eudoxie, niece of the Emperor soprano
Ruggiero, provost of the city of Constance baritone
Albert, sergeant in the Imperial army baritone

It is 1414. In the city of Constance there is a festive Te Deum to celebrate the defeat of the Hussites by Prince Léopold, the Emperor’s nephew. Eléazar evokes popular resentment by working on a holiday, but is released through the intervention of Cardinal Brogni, who had once banished him from Rome. Léopold, under the assumed identity of Samuel, a young Jewish painter, has been wooing Rachel, who is surprised when he deflects the attention of a hostile crowd from her and her father, since he has been recognised by Albert, a sergeant in the Emperor’s army. Léopold celebrates Passover with Eléazar’s family, although his behaviour arouses some suspicion. Princess Eudoxie, Léopold’s wife, comes to buy from Eléazar a gold chain for her husband. Léopold now admits that he is a Christian and that he cannot marry Rachel: indeed any love between Christian and Jew is punishable by death. In the third act Rachel begs Princess Eudoxie for employment, fearing that Léopold has deserted her to follow the princess. When Princess Eudoxie, at an imperial banquet, gives Léopold the chain, Rachel seizes it, revealing the liaison she has enjoyed with him. Eléazar, Rachel and Léopold are arrested. In the following act attempts are made to secure the release of Léopold, and Cardinal Brogni urges Eléazar to recant. In spite of his efforts Eléazar and Rachel are condemned to death and it is only when Rachel is put to death that Eléazar reveals, before he follows her, that Rachel is the long-lost daughter of the Cardinal.

La Juive is the first of Halévy’s grand operas and the one by which he is chiefly remembered as a composer. The opera starts with the singing of the Te Deum, heard from the church, while the crowd outside murmurs against Eléazar. In Si la rigueur et la vengeance (If harshness and revenge) Cardinal Brogni shows mercy to Eléazar and Rachel, and she, in Il va venir (He will come), awaits a secret meeting with Léopold, after Passover. With Vous qui du Dieu vivant outrager la puissance, soyez maudits (You who offend against the power of the living God, be accursed) Cardinal Brogni pronounces anathema on the three and in Rachel, quand du Seigneur la grâce tutélaire (Rachel, when the Lord’s saving grace) Eléazar is tempted for a moment to take the step that might save Rachel from death.