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Rachel Synopsis
Music Video
Directors Notes
Palm Springs
The Rachel Aria

Eléazar sings the heart-rending aria, Rachel, quand du Seigneur” in Act IV of La Juive. The aria is considered the most gripping and anticipated moment in the opera. Adolph Nourrit, the first tenor to sing the part, urged the composer Halévy to write the music for the aria and then Nourrit wrote the words. The aria has become a showpiece for tenors, including Enrico Caruso who performed it many times.

The aria comes at a pivotal moment in the opera. Because Eléazar’s beloved daughter Rachel has broken a law that prohibited romantic relationships between Jews and Christians, they have both been condemned to death. The Cardinal Brogni has given Eléazar a chance to save himself and his daughter from execution if he renounces his faith and converts to Christianity. During the 7-minute aria, Eléazar struggles with his decision. His emotions range from despair and compassion to revenge and hatred. Alone in his cell and wrought with remorse, he is about to save Rachel’s life by informing the Cardinal that she is actually the Cardinal’s own daughter. But when Eléazar hears the mob outside demanding his blood, his moment of weakness vanishes. Revenge overwhelms him. Rachel will remain Jewish in everyone’s eyes, and she will never be one of them. The music and the words sink into the soul.

Here’s an excerpt from the aria:

“Rachel, when the Lord entrusted
Your cradle to my hands
I pledged my entire life to your happiness,
And it is I who now deliver you to the executioner.
I hear a voice calling to me: I am young, I want to live,
Dear father, spare your child.
Oh Rachel, it is I, your loving father,
Who delivers you to the executioner.”