Simone Young

Halévy: La Juive

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La Juive was among the most frequently performed operas of its day, and it is still regarded as a masterpiece of French grand opera. But the sheer size and expense of mounting the work have made productions scarce in modern times, and there has yet to be a studio recording made. This live recording from 1998 on RCA Red Seal is easily the most recommendable of the choices on the market, and not just because the competition is thin. It's an unusually tight performance captured in excellent sound, paced and conducted beautifully by Simone Young, and well sung by the principle characters. Neil Shicoff is a strong choice as Eléazar, the Jewish goldsmith. There is some audible strain to his singing, but the general color and weight of his voice are suited to the part, and his characterization is dead-on, eliciting both sympathy and scorn. Soile Isokoski is a bright-voiced and appealing Rachel; her sincerity makes her sacrifice at the hands of Eléazar's fanaticism all the more tragic. Regina Schörg and Zoran Todorovic are also excellent as the Princess Eudoxie and Léopold, the young lover. Todorovic in particular has a youthful tone that contrasts well with Shicoff's. Finally, Alastair Miles brings powerful vocal presence to the role of Cardinal Brogny. Every now and then his delivery seems square, but the raw power and commitment of his singing are highly effective. The orchestra and chorus of the Vienna Staatsoper are both excellent. This is an outstanding performance and recording by any standard, especially valuable for being a document of Halévy's masterpiece.

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