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Jacques Fromental HALÉVY (1799-1862)
La Juive (1835) (sung in German)
Erna Schlüter (soprano) Rachel; Joachim Sattler (tenor) Éléazar; Maria-Meta Kopp (soprano) Eudoxie; Franz Fehringer (tenor) Prince Léopold; Otto von Rohr (bass) Cardinal de Brogni; Rolf Heide (baritone) Ruggiero; August Heimpel (bass) Albert; Werner Schmidt (baritone) Le Crieur; Eugen Willmann (tenor) L’Officier
Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Hessian Radio/Kurt Schröder.
Rec. Frankfurt on September 6th, 1951. ADD
WALHALL ETERNITY SERIES WLCD0029 [148’24: 73’26 + 74’58]

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Recordings of La Juive don’t exactly line the shelves of record shops, so it is good to have this performance, even if it is in German. Opera lovers will probably know La Juive from Éléazar’s Act 4 aria, ‘Rachel, quand du Seigneur’ (or as here, ‘Recha, als Gott dich einst’). But there is much more than just that to this opera, as this set amply demonstrates.

Kurt Schröder directed a perfectly acceptable Aida on WLCD0051 (again in German: see review). Here he shows if anything more affinity to the Italianised French world of Jacques Halévy. He persuades his orchestra - again, the Hessian Radio band - to a dedicated if sometimes slightly scrappy account of the score. The Overture exemplifies all of this, from its cheeky, staccato opening chords through the affectionate slow section to the less-than-perfect ensemble dramatic parts. The close of Act 1 could sparkle more, and be more charming, too; perhaps this is the Germanic temperament being overlaid on an essentially non-Germanic musical surface.

Set in 1414, the story of La Juive (‘The Jewess’) has almost certainly militated against frequent airings, with its concentration on the animosity between Judaism and Christianity. In the city of Constance, the Jews are the oppressed and persecuted. The inter-religious union of Rachel and Leopold (who happens also to be Eudoxie’s husband) is therefore more than a no-no.

A shame as this is young man’s music; Halévy was only 36 when the work was first produced. There seems to be some Meyerbeer in the mix, but also there seem to be elements that relate to Italian rather than French opera.

Erna Schlüter takes the role of Rachel, the jewess of the opera’s title. She can be strong as required (even imperious in Act 4) and in Act 3 (cut, I believe) she reveals her determined side. Her Romance (‘Il va venir’, or as here, ‘Er kommt zurück’, embedded in CD1 track 14) is excellent; great hunting horns in the orchestra, too. Although she is no Varnay (See the Archipel collection at ) within the context of this performance, she shines.

Éléazar was a part that became associated with Caruso. Joachim Sattler is no Caruso. Sattler’s voice is not huge but is in general strong enough; note the ‘in general’ – alas there are exceptions. His ‘Rachel, quand du Seigneur’ is lyrical, ardent and in its later stages turbulent. He rises to its challenges nicely. The chorus is nicely distanced here, too.

Maria-Meta Kopp, is a name completely new to me; you’d remember it, wouldn’t you? She is a pure-toned Eudoxie. It is important to note that the main roles include two sopranos (Rachel and Eudoxie) and two tenors (Éléazar and Léopold) and that it is important that they are sufficiently differentiated. On the present recording the Rachel/Eudoxie coupling is particularly successful, the purity of Kopp easily distinguishable from Schlüter (try Act 4); Éléazar and Léopold less so.

Otto von Rohr is Cardinal Brogni. And very big and over-vibratoed he is, too; his melismatic work acceptable but no more. His strength is that he is a real bass, magnificently strong right down below and he can bring real authority to his statements when required. He impressed more as Heinrich in the Jochum Lohengrin recorded the year after this: ).

The entire cast is not consistent – of the smaller parts the Crier, Werner Schmidt, is very obviously nervous, for example. Ruggiero (Rolf Heide) is acceptable but certainly not world-class. Still, with Schröder a reliable guide one should not sniff at the chance of hearing this opera. Absence of libretto, translations and any booklet notes is of course regrettable, but not absolutely disastrous. The libretto is after all available free on the internet ( ).

Colin Clarke


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