Synopsis by Mark Deming
In 1835, French composer Jacques Fromental Halevy created a sensation with his opera La Juive, which told the story of Eléazar, a Jewish merchant who rescues and adopts a Gentile daughter, but is later forced to choose between his child and his religion. The show was widely acclaimed, and the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso once declared Eléazar his favorite role. But after La Juive was banned in Europe during the Nazi occupation of World War II for its condemnation of anti-Semitism and intolerance, the opera fell out of favor until celebrated classical vocalist Neil Shicoff took it upon himself to bring the work back into circulation. After spearheading a production of La Juive at the Vienna State Opera, Shicoff was cast as Eléazar in a production at New York's famous Metropolitan Opera House, with filmmaker Sidney Lumet agreeing to make a music video based on one of the show's arias. Finding Eléazar: Portrait of a Tenor and a Role offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Met's production of La Juive, as well as Shicoff's often temperamental relationship with his collaborators and his own convictions about the opera as the son of a cantor.
behind-the-scenes, career-retrospective, compassion, leading-role, message, opera-singer, struggle, tenor, tolerance