Toyohara Kunichika (Japanese: 豊原 国周; 30 June 1835 – 1 July
1900) was a Japanese woodblock print artist. Talented as a
child, at about thirteen he became a student of Tokyo's
then-leading print maker, Utagawa Kunisada. His deep
appreciation and knowledge of kabuki drama led to his
production primarily of ukiyo-e actor-prints, which are
woodblock prints of kabuki actors and scenes from popular
plays of the time.
An alcoholic and womanizer, Kunichika also portrayed
women deemed beautiful (bijinga), contemporary social life,
and a few landscapes and historical scenes. He worked
successfully in the Edo period, and carried those traditions
into the Meiji period. To his contemporaries and now to some
modern art historians, this has been seen as a significant
achievement during a transitional period of great social and
political change in Japan's history.
Early life and
The artist who became known as Toyohara Kunichika was born
Ōshima Yasohachi on June 30, 1835, in the Kyōbashi district,
a merchant and artisan area of Edo (present-day Tokyo). His
father, Ōshima Kyujū, was the proprietor of a sentō (public
bathhouse), the Ōshūya.
An indifferent family man, and poor
businessman, he lost the bathhouse sometime in Yasohachi's
childhood. The boy's mother, Arakawa Oyae, was the daughter
of a teahouse proprietor. At that time, commoners of a
certain social standing could ask permission to alter the
family name (myōji gomen). To distance themselves from the
father's failure, the family took the mother's surname, and
the boy became Arakawa Yasohachi.
Little is known about his childhood except that, as a
youth, Yasohachi earned a reputation as a prankster and drew
complaints from his neighbors, and that at nine he was
involved in a fight at the Sanno Festival in Asakusa. At
age ten he was apprenticed to a thread and yarn store.
However, because he preferred painting and sketching to
learning the dry goods trade, at eleven he moved to a shop
near his father's bathhouse.
There he helped in the design
of Japanese lampshades called andon, consisting of a wooden
frame with a paper cover. When he was twelve, his older
brother, Chōkichi, opened a raised picture shop, and Yasohachi drew illustrations for him.
It is believed that around age twelve Yasohachi began to
study with Toyohara (Ichiōsai) Chikanobu (not to be confused
with Kunichika’s student Toyohara Chikanobu).
At the same time he designed
actor portraits for battledores sold by a shop called Meirindo. His teacher gave him the name "Kazunobu".
It may have been on the recommendation of Chikanobu that the
boy was accepted the following year as an apprentice in the
studio of Utagawa Kunisada, the leading and most prolific
print maker of the mid-19th century. By 1854 the young
artist had made his first confirmed signed print and had
taken the name "Kunichika", a composite of the names of this
two teachers, Kunisada and Chikanobu. His early work was
derivative of the Utagawa style and some of his prints were
outright copies (an accepted practice of the time).
While working in Kunisada's studio Kunichika was assigned a
commission to make a print illustrating a bird's-eye view of
Tenjinbashi Avenue following the terrible earthquake of 1855
that destroyed most of the city. This assignment suggests
that he was considered one of Kunisada's better students.
Toyohara Kunichika: Memorial Portrait of Kunisada (1865)
The "prankster" artist got into trouble in 1862 when, in
response to a commission for a print illustrating a fight at
a theater, he made a "parody print" (mitate-e) which angered
the students who had been involved in the fracas. They
ransacked Kunichika's house and tried to enter Kunisada's
studio by force. His mentor revoked Kunichika's right to use
the name he had been given but relented later that year.
Decades afterwards Kunichika described himself as greatly
"humbled" by the experience.
Kunichika's status continued to rise and he was
commissioned to create several portraits of his teacher.
When Kunisada died in 1865, his student was commissioned to
design two memorial portraits. The right panel of the
portrait contains an obituary written by the writer,
Kanagaki Robun, while the left contains memorial poems
written by the three top students, including Kunichika.
Artist on the cusp of a new era
At the time Kunichika began his serious studies the late Edo
period, an extension of traditions based on a feudal
society, was about to end. The "modern" Meiji era
(1868–1912), a time of rapid modernization,
industrialization, and extensive contact with the West, was
in stark contrast to what had come before.
Ukiyo-e artists had traditionally illustrated urban life
and society – especially the theater, for which their prints
often served as advertising. The Meiji period brought
competition from the new technologies of photography and
photoengraving, effectively destroying the careers of
As Kunichika matured his reputation as a master of design
and of drama grew steadily. In guides rating ukiyo-e artists
his name appeared in the top ten in 1865, 1867, and 1885,
when he was in eighth, fifth, and fourth place,
respectively. In 1867, one year before the collapse of
the Tokugawa Shogunate, he received an official commission
by the government to contribute ten pictures to the 1867
World Exhibition in Paris. He also had a print at the
1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Kunichika often portrayed beautiful women (bijinga), but his
finest works are considered to have been bust, half- and
three-quarter length, and close-up or "large-head" portraits
of actors, and triptychs that presented "wide-screen" views
of plays and popular stories.
Although Kunichika's Meiji-era works remained rooted in
the traditions of his teachers, he made an effort to
incorporate references to modern technology. In 1869 he did
a series jointly with Yoshitoshi, a more "modern" artist in
the sense that he depicted faces realistically. In
addition, Kunichika experimented with "Western" vanishing
The press affirmed that Kunichika's success continued into
the Meiji era. In July 1874, the magazine Shinbun hentai
said that: "Color woodcuts are one of the specialties of
Tokyo, and that Kyôsai, Yoshitoshi, Yoshiiku, Kunichika, and
Ginkô are the experts in this area." In September 1874 The
same journal held that: "The masters of Ukiyoe: Yoshiiku,
Kunichika and Yoshitoshi. They are the most popular Ukiyo-e
artists." In 1890, the book Tôkyô meishô doku annai (Famous
Views of Tokyo), under the heading of woodblock artist, gave
as examples Kunichika, Kunisada, Yoshiiku, and Yoshitoshi.
In November 1890 a reporter for the newspaper Yomiuri
Shimbun wrote about the specializations of artists of the
Utagawa school: "Yoshitoshi was the specialist for warrior
prints, Kunichika the woodblock artist known for portraits
of actors, and Chikanobu for court ladies."
Contemporary observers noted Kunichika's skillful use of
color in his actor prints, but he was also criticized for
his choices. Unlike most artists of the period, he made use
of strong reds and dark purples, often as background colors,
rather than the softer colors that had previously been used.
Toyohara Kunichika: Spring outing in a villa (c. 1862).
Illustrates the artist's use of vanishing point perspective.
These new colors were made of
aniline dyes imported in the Meiji period from Germany. (For
the Japanese the color red meant progress and enlightenment
in the new era of Western-style progress.)
Like most artists of
his era and genre, Kunichika
created many series of prints, including: Yoshiwara beauties
compared with thirty-six poems; Thirty-two fashionable
physiognomies; Sixteen Musashi parodying modern customs;
Thirty-six good and evil beauties; Thirty-six modern
restaurants; Mirror of the flowering of manners and customs;
Fifty-four modern feelings matched with chapters of The Tale
of Genji; Scenes of the twenty-four hours parodied; Actors
in theatrical hits as great heroes in robber plays;
Eight views of bandits parodied.
In 1863 Kunichika was one of a number of artists who
contributed landscape prints to two series of famous Tokaido
scenes commissioned to commemorate the journey made by the
shogun Iemochi from Edo to Kyoto to pay his respects to the
emperor. Otherwise, his landscapes were primarily theater
sets, or backgrounds for groups of beauties enjoying the
out-of-doors. He recorded some popular myths and tales, but
rarely illustrated battles. When portraying people he only
occasionally showed figures wearing Western dress, despite
its growing popularity in Japan.
He is known to have done
some shunga (erotic art) prints but attribution can be
difficult as, like most artists of the time, he did not
always sign them. Kunichika had many students but few
attained recognition as print artists. In the changing art
scene they could not support themselves designing woodblock
prints, but had to make illustrations for such popular media
as books, magazines and newspapers. His best-known students
were Toyohara Chikanobu and Morikawa Chikashige.
initially followed their master's interest in theater, but
later Chikanobu more enthusiastically portrayed women's
fashions, and Chikashige did illustrations. Neither is
considered by critics to have achieved his master's high
Toyohara Kunichika: Kawarazaki Gonnosuke as Daroku (c.
1869). Illustrates "big head" portraiture and use of strong
aniline reds and purples. Deep red make-up indicates anger,
obstinacy, indignation, forcefulness.
Kunichika had one female student, Toyohara Chikayoshi,
who reportedly became his partner in his later years. Her
work reflected the Utagawa style. She competently depicted
actors, and the manners and customs of the day.
As a young man, Kunichika had a reputation for a beautiful
singing voice and as a fine dancer. He is known to have used
these talents in amateur burlesque shows.
In 1861 Kunichika married his first wife, Ohana, and in
that same year had a daughter, Hana. The marriage is thought
not to have lasted long, as he was a womanizer. He fathered
two out-of-wedlock children, a girl and a boy, with whom he
had no contact, but he does appear to have remained strongly
attached to Hana.
Kunichika was described as having an open, friendly and
sincere personality. He enjoyed partying with the
geishas and prostitutes of the Yoshiwara district, while
consuming abundant amounts of alcohol. His greatest passion,
however, was said to be the theater, where he was a
backstage regular. His appearance said to be shabby. He was
constantly in debt and often borrowed money from the kabuki
actors he depicted so admiringly. A contemporary said of
him: "Print designing, theater and drinking were his life
and for him that was enough." A contemporary actor, Matsusuke IV, said that when visiting actors backstage for
the purpose of sketching them, Kunichika would not socialize
but would concentrate intensely on his work.
Around 1897, his older brother opened the Arakawa Photo
shop, and Kunichika worked in the store. Because Kunichika
had a dislike for both the store and photography, only one
photograph of him exists.
Toyohara Kunichika: Toyokawa — The Scenic Places of Tokaido
In October 1898 Kunichika was interviewed for a series of
four articles about him, The Meiji-period child of Edo,
which appeared in the Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. In
the introduction to the series, the reporter wrote:
...his house is located on the (north) side of Higashi
Kumagaya-Inari. Although his residence is just a partitioned
tenement house, it has an elegant, latticed door, a
nameplate and letterbox. Inside, the entry...leads to a room
with worn tatami mats upon which a long hibachi has been
placed. The space is also adorned with a Buddhist altar. A
cluttered desk stands at the back of the miserable two-tatami
room; it is hard to believe that the well-known artist
Kunichika lives here...Looking around with a piercing gaze
and stroking his long white beard, Kunichika talks about the
height of prosperity of the Edokko...
During the interview, Kunichika claimed to have moved 107
times, but it seems more likely that he moved only ten
Kunichika died at his home in Honjo (an eastern suburb of
Edo) on July 1, 1900 at the age of 65, due to a combination
of poor health and bouts of heavy drinking brought on by the
death at 39 of his daughter Hana while giving birth to his
grandson, Yoshido Ito, some months previously. He was
buried at the Shingon Buddhist sect temple of Honryuji in
Imado, Asakusa. His grave marker is thought to have been
destroyed in a 1923 earthquake, but family members erected a
new one in 1974. In old Japan, it had been a common custom
for people of high cultural standing to write a poem before
death. On Kunichika's grave his poem reads:
"Since I am tired of painting portraits of people of this
world, I will paint portraits of the King of hell and the
Yo no naka no, hito no nigao mo akitareba, enma ya oni no
In 1915, Arthur Davison Ficke, an Iowa lawyer, poet, and
influential collector of Japanese prints, wrote Chats on
In the book he listed fifty-five artists,
including Kunichika, whose work he dismissed as "degenerate"
and as "All that meaningless complexity of design,
coarseness of color and carelessness of printing that we
associate with the final ruin of the art of color
prints." His opinion, which differed from that of Kunichika's contemporaries, influenced American collectors
for many years, with the result that Japanese prints
produced in the second half of the 19th century, especially
figure prints, fell out of favor.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s an author, adventurer,
banker and great collector of Japanese art, Kojima Usui,
wrote many articles aimed at resurrecting Kunichika's
reputation. He was not successful in his day, but his work
became a basis for later research, which did not really
begin until quite recently.
In 1876 Laurance P.
Roberts wrote in his Dictionary of Japanese Artists that
Kunichika produced prints of actors and other subjects in
the late Kunisada tradition, reflecting the declining taste
of the Japanese and the deterioration of color printing.
Roberts described him as, "A minor artist, but represents
the last of the great ukiyo-e tradition." The cited
biography reflects the author's preference for classical
ukiyo-e. Richard A. Waldman, owner of The Art of Japan, said
of Roberts's view, "Articles such as the above and others by
early western authors managed to put this artist in the
dustbin of art history."
Toyohara Kunichika: Kogiku in Saruwaka-Cho (c. 1878)
An influential reason for Kunichika's return to favor in the western world is the
publication, in 1999, in English, of Amy Reigle Newland's
Time present and time past: Images of a forgotten master:
Toyohara Kunichika 1835–1900. In addition, the 2008
show at the Brooklyn Museum, Utagawa: Masters of the
Japanese Print, 1770–1900, and a resulting article in The
New York Times of 03/22/08 have increased public
awareness of and prices for Kunichika prints.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Triptych by Toyohara Kunichika: Onoe Kikugorō V as Akashi no
Naruzō in the play Shima Chidori Tsuki no Shiranami (1890)
Cesar Cui, in full
César Antonovich Cui (born Jan. 6 [Jan. 18, New Style],
1835, Vilna [now Vilnius], Lithuania, Russian
Empire—died March 24, 1918, Petrograd [St. Petersburg],
Russia), Russian composer of operas, songs, and piano
music. He was a music critic and military engineer who,
with Aleksandr Borodin, Mily Balakirev, Modest
Mussorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, made up the
group known as The Five.
Portrait of César Cui by Ilya Repin, 1890
Cui was the son of a
French officer, taken prisoner during Napoleon’s
campaign of 1812, who remained in Russia after the
war; his mother was Lithuanian. Cui began to compose
while he was still a boy, imitating the style of
Frédéric Chopin, and received lessons in
composition. But in 1851 he was sent to St.
Petersburg, where he entered the school of
engineering and, in 1855, the academy of military
engineering, becoming a lecturer there in 1857. In
1878 he became a professor of fortification—his
pupils included General M.D. Skobelev, a hero of the
Russo-Turkish war, and Tsar Nicholas II—and he
retired with the rank of lieutenant general.
with Balakirev and another nationalist composer,
Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky, developed his musical
interests: he began to compose copiously and,
although he had no Russian ancestry, became a
pugnacious journalistic champion of Russian
nationalism. From 1864 to 1877 he was music critic
for the St. Peterburgskiye vedomosti (“St.
Petersburg News”), and later he became a successful
propagandist of Russian music in Belgium and France,
notably with his La Musique en Russie (1881).
Cui’s own music has little Russian flavour, and of
his 10 operas only the first, The Prisoner of the
Caucasus (begun 1857, produced 1883); the last, The
Captain’s Daughter (performed 1911, St. Petersburg);
and the one-act Feast in the Time of the Plague
(performed 1901, Moscow) are on Russian subjects,
taken from Aleksandr Pushkin’s writings.
He turned more readily to
French sources—Victor Hugo, Jean Richepin, Alexandre Dumas
père, Guy de Maupassant, and Prosper Mérimée—and his only
moderately successful operas are based on Heinrich Heine’s
William Ratcliff (performed 1869, St. Petersburg) and
Maupassant’s Mademoiselle Fifi (performed 1903, Moscow). Cui
is at his best in the miniature forms, notably his short
piano compositions and his songs.
Lammermoor is a dramma tragico (tragic opera) in
three acts by
. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian language
libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's
historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.
Donizetti wrote Lucia di
Lammermoor in 1835, a time when several factors led to the
height of his reputation as a composer of opera. Gioachino
Rossini had recently retired and Vincenzo Bellini had died
shortly before the premiere of Lucia leaving Donizetti as
"the sole reigning genius of Italian opera". Not only were
conditions ripe for Donizetti's success as a composer, but
there was also a European interest in the history and
culture of Scotland. The perceived romance of its violent
wars and feuds, as well as its folklore and mythology,
intrigued 19th century readers and audiences. Sir Walter
Scott made use of these stereotypes in his novel The Bride
of Lammermoor, which inspired several musical works
story concerns the emotionally fragile Lucy Ashton (Lucia)
who is caught in a feud between her own family and that of
the Ravenswoods. The setting is the Lammermuir Hills of
Scotland (Lammermoor) in the 17th century.
The opera premiered
on 26 September 1835 at the Teatro San Carlo in
Naples. However, John Black notes that "the
surprising feature of its subsequent performance
history is that it established so slowly in the
Neapolitan repertoire", noting that while there were
18 performances in the rest of 1835, there were only
four in 1836, 16 in 1837, two in 1838, and
continuing in this manner with only two in each of
1847 and 1848.
London saw the
opera on 5 April 1838 and, for Paris, Donizetti
revised the score for a French version which debuted
on 6 August 1839 at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in
It reached the United States with a production in
New Orleans on 28 December 1841.
20th century and
The opera was never
absent from the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera
for more than one season at a time from the entire
period from 1903 until 1972. After World War II, a
number of technically able sopranos, the most
notable of whom were first Maria Callas (with
performances from 1952 at La Scala and Berlin in
1954/55 under Herbert von Karajan) and then Dame
Joan Sutherland (with her 1959 and 1960 performances
at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden), were
instrumental in giving new life to the opera.
It has remained a
staple of the standard operatic repertoire, and
appears as number 21 on the Operabase list of the
most-performed operas worldwide from the 2008/09 to
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Anna Netrebko -
Lucia di Lammermoor - Mad Scene - 2009
Halevy, usually known as Fromental Halévy (French: [fʁɔmɑ̃tal
alevi]; 27 May 1799 – 17 March 1862), was a French
composer. He is known today largely for his opera La
Halévy was born in Paris, son of the cantor Élie
Halfon Halévy, who was the secretary of the Jewish
community of Paris and a writer and teacher of
Hebrew, and a French Jewish mother. The name
Fromental, by which he was generally known, reflects
that he was born on the feast-day of that name, 7
Prairial, in the French Revolutionary calendar,
which was still operative at that time. He entered
the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of nine or ten
(accounts differ), in 1809, becoming a pupil and
later protégé of Cherubini. After two second-place
attempts, he won the Prix de Rome in 1819: his
cantata subject was Herminie. As he had to delay his
departure to Rome because of the death of his
mother, he was able to accept the first commission
that brought him to public attention: a Marche
Funèbre et De Profundis en Hébreu for three part
choir, tenor and orchestra, which was commissioned
by the Consistoire Israélite du Département de la
Seine, for a public service in memory of the
assassinated duc de Berry, performed on 24 March
1820. Later, his brother Léon recalled that the De
Profundis, "infused with religious fervor, created a
sensation, and attracted interest to the young
laureate of the institute." Halévy was chorus master
at the Théâtre Italien, while he struggled to get an
opera performed. Despite the mediocre reception of
L'artisan, at the Opéra-Comique in 1827, Halévy
moved on to be chorus master at the Opéra. The same
year he became professor of harmony and
accompaniment at the Conservatoire de Paris, where
he was professor of counterpoint and fugue in 1833
and of composition in 1840. He had many notable
students, See: List of music students by teacher: G
to M#Fromental Halévy.
With his opera La Juive, in 1835, Halévy attained not only
his first major triumph, but gave the world a work that was
to be one of the cornerstones of the French repertory for a
century, with the role of Eléazar one of the great favorites
of tenors such as Enrico Caruso. The opera's most famous
aria is Eléazar's "Rachel, quand du Seigneur". Its
orchestral ritornello is the one quotation from Halévy that
Berlioz included in his Treatise on Instrumentation, for its
unusual duet for two cors anglais. It is probable however
that this aria was inserted only at the request of the great
tenor Adolphe Nourrit, who premiered the role and may have
suggested the aria's text. La Juive is one of the grandest
of grand operas, with major choruses, a spectacular
procession in Act I, and impressive celebrations in Act III.
It culminates with the heroine plunging into a vat of
boiling water in Act V. Mahler admired it greatly, stating:
"I am absolutely overwhelmed by this wonderful, majestic
work. I regard it as one of the greatest operas ever
Other admirers included Wagner, who wrote an enthusiastic
review of Halévy's grand operas for the German press in 1841
(Wagner never showed towards Halévy the anti-Jewish animus
that was so notorious a feature of his writings on Meyerbeer
Halévy was elected to the Institut de France in
1836, but after La Juive,his real successes were
relatively few, although at least three operas,
L'éclair, La reine de Chypre and Charles VI received
some critical and popular acclaim. Heine commented
that Halévy was an artist, but 'without the
slightest spark of genius'.
He became however a leading bureaucrat of the arts,
becoming Secretary of the Académie des Beaux-Arts
and presiding over committees to determine the
standard pitch of orchestral A, to award prizes for
operettas, and so on. The artist Delacroix offers a
chilling portrait of Halévy's decline in his diaries
(5 February 1855):
I went on to
Halévy’s house, where the heat from his stove was
suffocating. His wretched wife has crammed his house
with bric-a-brac and old furniture, and this new
craze will end by driving him to a lunatic asylum.
He has changed and looks much older, like a man who
is being dragged on against his will. How can he
possibly do serious work in this confusion? His new
position at the Academy must take up a great deal of
his time, and make it more and more difficult for
him to find the peace and quiet he needs for his
work. Left that inferno as quickly as possible. The
breath of the streets seemed positively delicious.
Prométhée enchaîné was premiered in 1849 at the
Paris Conservatoire, and is generally considered the
first mainstream western orchestral composition to
use quarter tones.
Halévy died in retirement at
Nice in 1862, aged 62, leaving his last opera, Noé,
unfinished. It was completed by his former student Georges
Bizet, but was not performed until 10 years after Bizet's
own death. Bizet married Halévy's daughter Geneviève in
1869. After his death she became a famous salonnière.
(French pronunciation: [la ʒɥiv]) (The Jewess) is a
grand opera in five acts by Fromental Halévy to an
original French libretto by Eugène Scribe; it was first
performed at the Opéra, Paris, on 23 February 1835.
La Juive was one of the most popular and admired
operas of the 19th century. Its libretto was the
work of Eugène Scribe, one of the most prolific
dramatic authors of the time. Scribe was writing to
the tastes of the Opéra de Paris, where the work was
first performed – a work in five acts presenting
spectacular situations (here the Council of
Constance of 1414), which would allow a flamboyant
staging in a setting which brought out a dramatic
situation which was also underlined by a powerful
historical subject. In addition to this, there could
be choral interludes, ballet and scenic effects
which took advantage of the entire range of
possibilities available at the Paris Opera. Because
of the story of an impossible love between a
Christian man and a Jewish woman, the work has been
seen by some as a plea for religious tolerance, in
much the same spirit as Nathan the Wise, which
premiered in 1779, Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots
which premiered in 1836, a year after La Juive, as
well as the 1819 novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
which deals with the same theme. At the time of
composition, the July Monarchy had liberalised
religious practices in France. Meyerbeer and Halévy
were both Jewish, and storylines dealing with topics
of tolerance were common in their operas. However,
reviews of the initial performances show that
journalists of the period responded to the
liberalism and to the perceived anti-clericalism of
Scribe's text, rather than to any specifically
Some believe that the libretto of La Juive has a
goal of reconsidering the status of Jews in French
society. Others believe that the clichéd portrayal
of the Jew Eléazar as secretive, vengeful and
materialistic does not bear out this interpretation.
Cornélie Falcon as Rachel (1835).
Portrait by A. Colin.
Performance history The opera's first,
ornate production, costing 150,000 francs, was conducted by
François Habeneck. The performances of the soprano Cornélie
Falcon in the title role and the dramatic tenor Adolphe
Nourrit as Eléazar were particularly noted.
Nourrit had significant influence on the opera: Eléazar,
originally conceived as a bass part, was rewritten for him,
and it appears that it was largely his idea to end act 4 not
with a traditional ensemble, but with the aria "Rachel,
quand du seigneur" for which he may also have suggested the
The production was
notable for its lavishness, including the on-stage
organ in Act I, the enormous supporting cast, and
the unprecedentedly elaborate decor. Richard Wagner,
who admired La Juive, may have 'borrowed' from it
the act 1 organ effect, for his 1868 opera Die
Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Moreover, Eléazar's
tapping at his goldsmith's work is echoed by Hans
Sachs's cobbling during Die Meistersinger.
La Juive enjoyed an
international success comparable to that of
Meyerbeer's grand operas. It made its American
premiere at the Théâtre d'Orléans in New Orleans on
13 February 1844. The work was also used for the
inaugural performance at the newly constructed
Palais Garnier in Paris on 5 January 1875 (the title
role was sung by Gabrielle Krauss).
The opera was produced by New York's Metropolitan
Opera in 1919 as a vehicle for its star tenor,
Enrico Caruso. Eléazar was the last role Caruso sang
prior to his death in 1921. Giovanni Martinelli
succeeded Caruso in the role at the Met and both he
and Caruso recorded the opera's best known aria,
"Rachel! Quand du seigneur".
The opera was
programmed regularly until the 1930s. Modern
revivals have been staged at the Vienna State Opera
(1999), the Metropolitan Opera (2003), La Fenice in
Venice (2005), the Paris Opera (2007), the Zurich
Opera House (2007), the Staatstheater Stuttgart
(2008), De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam (2009),
the Tel Aviv (Israel) Opera (2010) and the Göteborg
In Zurich, the action was changed from the 15th
century to late 19th century France when
anti-Semitism was rampant during the Dreyfus affair.
In addition, the Royal Opera, London presented
concert performances at The Barbican in 2006, with
Dennis O'Neill and Marina Poplavskaya singing the
roles of Eléazar and Rachel.
The synopsis below reflects the original version of
the opera. Modern performing versions often somewhat
adapt this storyline for convenience.
Events before the opera begins
The following is a summary of events which took
place before the first act of the opera, some of
which are only revealed in the course of the action.
When he was young,
the Jew Eléazar had lived in Italy near Rome and
witnessed the condemnation and executions of his
sons as heretics by Count Brogni. Eléazar himself
was banished and forced to flee to Switzerland.
During his journey,
Eléazar found a baby near death, abandoned inside a
burnt-out house which turned out to be the home of
the Count. Bandits had set fire to the house,
attempting to kill the entire family of Brogni but
unaware that the Count himself was in Rome at the
time. Eléazar took the child, a girl, and raised her
as his own daughter, naming her Rachel. Brogni
discovered the ruins of his house and the bodies of
his family upon his return. He subsequently became a
priest and later a cardinal. At the beginning of the
opera, in 1414 Rachel (now a young woman) is living
with her adopted father in the city of Constance.
The forces of the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund have
defeated the Hussites, in battles where Prince
Leopold has distinguished himself. The Council of
Constance, convened by Antipope John XXIII, has been
arranged to resolve Church matters.
John XXIII is represented there by Cardinal Gian
Francesco Brogni, who was a historical personage.
His part in the story of the opera is, however,
Act 1 of the original 1835 production, design by Charles
Séchan, Léon Feuchère, Jules Dieterle, and Edouard
A square in the city of Constance in 1414
Eléazar is a
goldsmith. The crowd condemns him for working during
a day dedicated to Church festivities. He is saved
from a lynching by the arrival of Brogni, who in the
process recognises Eléazar as his old adversary.
arrives in disguise as a young Jewish artist Samuel.
Rachel is in love with Samuel and knows nothing of
his true identity. Local laws reflect prejudice
against the Jews: if a Jew and a Christian have
sexual relations, the Christian is excommunicated
and the Jew is killed. Léopold is thus taking a
great risk in this affair, especially as he is
already married to the Princess Eudoxie. The crowd
returns to attack Eléazar, but 'Samuel' secretly
instructs his troops to calm things down. The act
closes with a grand triumphal procession.
Inside the house of Éléazar
Rachel has invited
'Samuel' for the Passover celebration in Eléazar's
house. He is present while Eléazar and the other
Jews sing their Passover prayers. Rachel becomes
anxious when she notices that 'Samuel' refuses to
eat the piece of unleavened bread that she has given
him. He reveals to her that he is a Christian,
without telling her his true identity. Rachel is
horrified and reminds him of the terrible
consequences of such a relationship.
enters to order from Eléazar a valuable jewel as a
present for her husband, at which point Samuel
(Prince Léopold) hides.
leaves, Léopold promises to take Rachel away with
him. She tries to resist, worrying about abandoning
her father, but as she is about to succumb to his
advances, they are confronted by Eléazar, who curses
Léopold before the latter runs off.
Rachel, who has
followed 'Samuel' to the Palace, offers her services
as a lady's maid to Princess Eudoxie. Eléazar
arrives at the palace to deliver the jewel. He and
Rachel recognise Léopold as 'Samuel'. Rachel
declares before the assembly that Léopold seduced
her and she, Eléazar and Léopold are arrested and
placed in prison, on the instructions of Cardinal
A Gothic interior
asks to see Rachel in prison, and persuades her to
withdraw her allegations. Rachel agrees; Cardinal
Brogni agrees to commute Léopold's sentence, and to
spare Rachel and Eléazar if they convert. Eléazar at
first answers that he would rather die, but then
makes plans to avenge himself. He reminds the
Cardinal of the fire in his house near Rome many
years before and tells the Cardinal that his infant
daughter did not die.
He says that she was saved by a Jew and that only he
knows who he is. If he dies, his secret will die
with him. Cardinal Brogni begs him to tell him where
his daughter is, but in vain.
Eléazar sings of the vengeance that he will have in
dying, but he suddenly remembers that he will be
responsible for the death of Rachel. The only way to
save her is to admit that the Cardinal is her father
and that she is not Jewish but Christian.
The act ends with the opera's most famous aria,
Eléazar's 'Rachel, quand du Seigneur'. He does not
want to sacrifice Rachel to his hatred of
Christians, and renounces his revenge.
However, when he hears the cries from a pogrom in
the streets, he decides that God wants him to bear
witness in death with his daughter to the God of
Design for Act 5 of the original 1835 production
A large tent supported by Gothic columns
Eléazar and Rachel are
brought to the gallows where they will be thrown into a
cauldron of boiling water. Rachel is terrified. Eléazar
explains that she can be saved if she converts to
Christianity. She refuses and climbs to the gallows before
him. As the people are singing various prayers, Cardinal
Brogni asks Eléazar if his own daughter is still alive.
Eléazar says that she is and when Cardinal Brogni asks where
she can be found, Eléazar points to the cauldron, saying
"There she is!" He then climbs to his own death while the
Cardinal falls on his knees. The opera ends with a chorus of
monks, soldiers and the people singing "It is done and we
are avenged on the Jews!"
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Placido Domingo - Rachel, quand du
The Three Tenors in Concert - Live in
Conductor: James Levine
With Orchestre de Paris
Camille Saint-Saëns, in full
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (born October 9, 1835, Paris,
France—died December 16, 1921, Algiers [Algeria]), composer chiefly
remembered for his symphonic poems—the first of that genre to be
written by a Frenchman—and for his opera Samson et Dalila.
Saint-Saëns was notable for his pioneering efforts on behalf of
French music, and he was a gifted pianist and organist as well as a
writer of criticism, poetry, essays, and plays. Of his concerti and
symphonies, in which he adapted the virtuosity of Franz Liszt’s
style to French traditions of harmony and form, his Symphony No. 3
(Organ) is most often performed.
A child prodigy on the piano,
Saint-Saëns gave his first recital in 1846. He studied organ and
composition at the Paris Conservatory, and in 1855 his Symphony No.
1 was performed. He became organist at the famed Church of the
Madeleine in Paris in 1857, an association that lasted for 20 years.
Liszt, whom he met about this time and with whom he formed an
enduring friendship, described him as the finest organist in the
world. From 1861 to 1865 he was professor of piano at the
Niedermeyer School, where his pupils included Gabriel Fauré and
André Messager. In 1871 after the Franco-Prussian
War, he helped found the National Society of Music, which promoted
performances of the most significant French orchestral works of the
succeeding generation. In the same year, he produced his first
symphonic poem, Le Rouet d’Omphale (Omphale’s Spinning Wheel),
which, with Danse macabre, is the most frequently performed of his
four such works. His opera Samson et Dalila, rejected in Paris
because of the prejudice against portraying biblical characters on
the stage, was given in German at Weimar in 1877, on the
recommendation of Liszt. It was finally staged in Paris in 1890 at
the Théâtre Eden and later became his most popular opera.
In 1878 Saint-Saëns lost both of
his sons, and three years later he separated from his wife. Over the
following years, he undertook extensive tours throughout Europe, the
United States, South America, the Middle East, and East Asia,
performing his five piano concerti and other keyboard works and
conducting his symphonic compositions.
As a pianist, he was admired by
Richard Wagner for his brilliant technique and was the subject of a
study by Marcel Proust. From roughly 1880 until the end of his
life, his immense production covered all fields of dramatic and
instrumental music. His Symphony No. 3 (1886), dedicated to the
memory of Liszt, made skilled use of the organ and two pianos. In
the same year, he wrote Le Carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of
Animals) for small orchestra, a humorous fantasy not performed
during his lifetime that has since won considerable popularity as a
work for young people’s concerts. Among the best of his later works
are the Piano Concerto No. 5 (1895) and the Cello Concerto No. 2
Though he lived through the period
of Wagner’s influence, Saint-Saëns remained unaffected by it and
adhered to the classical models, upholding a conservative ideal of
French music that emphasized polished craftsmanship and a sense of
form. In his essays and memoirs, he described the contemporary
musical scene in a shrewd and often ironic manner.
Danse Macabre (first performed in
1875) is the name of opus 40 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.
The composition is based upon a
poem by Henri Cazalis, on an old French superstition: Zig, zig, zig,
Death in a cadence, Striking with his heel a tomb, Death at midnight
plays a dance-tune, Zig, zig, zig, on his violin. The winter wind
blows and the night is dark; Moans are heard in the linden trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass, Running and leaping in
their shrouds. Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking, The bones of the
dancers are heard to crack— But hist! of a sudden they quit the
round, They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
According to the ancient
superstition, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween.
Death has the power to call forth the dead from their graves to
dance for him while he plays his fiddle (represented by a solo
violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of
scordatura tuning). His skeletons dance for him until the first
break of dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next
The piece opens with a harp playing
a single note, D, twelve times to signify the clock striking
midnight, accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This
then leads to the eerie E flat and A chords (also known as a tritone
or the "Devil's chord") played by a solo violin, representing death
on his fiddle. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute
and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin. The rest
of the orchestra, particularly the lower instruments of the string
section, then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and
the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the
orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing
the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes at this
point; the full orchestra playing with strong dynamics.Towards the
end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now modulating,
which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final
section, a pianissimo, represents the dawn breaking and the
skeletons returning to their graves.
The piece makes particular use of
the xylophone in a particular theme to imitate the sounds of
rattling bones. Saint-Saëns uses a similar motif in the Fossils part
of his Carnival of the Animals.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Artwork: Remedios Varo,"Les
Played by: National Philharmonic Orchestra,
conductor: Leopold Stokowski.
(October 11, 1835 – January 4, 1905) was an American
violinist and conductor of German birth. He is
considered the first renowned American orchestral
conductor and was the founder and first music director
of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1891–1905).
Theodore Thomas, in
full Theodore Christian Friedrich Thomas (born
October 11, 1835, Esens, East Friesland, Prussia
[Germany]—died January 4, 1905, Chicago, Illinois,
U.S.), German-born American conductor who was
largely responsible for the role of symphony
orchestras in many American cities.
A violin prodigy,
Thomas moved with his family to New York City, where
he was to become a shaping force in practically
every aspect of the city’s musical life.
While in his 20s, he instituted a chamber concert
series that drew praise from both sides of the
Atlantic, and he also conducted for the Brooklyn
In 1862 he initiated the Irving Hall Symphonic
Soirées and a year later began an outdoor summer
series. The Theodore Thomas Orchestra set out in
1869 on the first of its North American tours.
appointed conductor of the New York Philharmonic in
1877, leaving for a short period to found the
Cincinnati College of Music (1878–80).
In 1891 the enticement of forming a full-time
resident orchestra took him to Chicago, and he led
the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until his death.
His interpretations of the standard repertoire were
highly respected, and he premiered works of many
contemporaries, including Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,
Johannes Brahms, and Richard Strauss.
Henryk Wieniawski, Henryk also
spelled Henri (born July 10, 1835, Lublin, Pol., Russian
Empire [now in Poland]—died March 31, 1880, Moscow, Russia),
Polish violinist and composer, one of the most celebrated
violinists of the 19th century.
Wieniawski was a child
prodigy who entered the Paris Conservatory at age 8 and
graduated from there with the first prize in violin at the
unprecedented age of 11.
He became a concert violinist at
age 13 and began touring Europe with his brother Joseph, a
pianist. His wide-ranging concert tours brought him
In 1860 he was appointed violin soloist
to the tsar of Russia, and from 1862 to 1869 he taught at
the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
In 1872–74 he toured the
United States, playing with the pianist Anton Rubinstein,
and he subsequently taught for a time at the Brussels
As a violinist Wieniawski
was admired for his rich, warm tone, glowing temperament,
and perfect technique.
His own compositions for violin are
Romantic in style and were intended to display his
He composed two violin concerti, one in F-sharp
Minor (Opus 14) and a quite popular one in D Minor (Opus
His other compositions include Le Carnaval russe (Opus
11), Legende (Opus 17), Scherzo-tarantelle (Opus 16), and
études, mazurkas, and polonaises.
Polish Nationwide Music Schools'
Symphonic Orchestras Competition.
Bukowski School of Music Symphony Orchestra, Wrocław (Wroclaw,
Breslau, Vratislavia) Poland
Aleksandra Juszczak - violin
Artur Wróbel - conductor
Ogólnopolski Konkurs Orkiestr Szkolnych Szkół Muzycznych II stopnia
Orkiestra Symfoniczna Państwowej
Szkoły Muzycznej II stopnia im. Ryszarda Bukowskiego we Wrocławiu,
Henryk Wieniawski Polonez koncertowy D-dur op.4