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La Juive review at Barbican Hall London

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It’s been a long while since Fromental Halevy’s 1835 grand opera was staged in London, so the Royal Opera’s concert performances are welcome. An international hit during the 19th century, La Juive tells a dark tale of religious intolerance as Jews are persecuted in 15th century Switzerland. Its reappearance in the repertory could hardly be more timely.

And the Royal Opera makes a splendid case for it. The chorus is in magnificent voice, whether representing a vindictive populace or the Jews at their Passover ceremony. Dennis O’Neill triumphs in the complex role of the Jew Eleazar, half loving father, half vengeful fanatic, while Alastair Miles brings dignity to his equally ambiguous antagonist Cardinal Brogni, representative of the power of the church.

Cardiff competition winner Nicole Cabell has some dubious moments with the coloratura flights of Princess Eudoxie but establishes herself as a performer to watch. As her straying husband Leopold, Argentinean tenor Dario Schmunck is fluent and assured.

But the revelation of the evening is Marina Poplavskaya’s mesmerising reading of the title role, to which she brings a full armoury of vocal and dramatic skills. Fully inside the horrific plight of Rachel, she provides a genuine star-is-born moment for the audience, which hangs on her every phrase.

Conductor Daniel Oren leads an emphatic account of the outstanding score, which impresses throughout and builds to a disturbing climax. La Juive comes back with a vengeance. It deserves a full staging by one of our major companies.

Production Information

Barbican Hall, London, September 19, 21

Fromental Halevy
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Marina Poplavskaya, Nicole Cabell, Dennis O’Neill, Dario Schmunck, Alastair Miles
Running time
3hrs 25mins

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