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Rachel Synopsis
Music Video
Directors Notes
Palm Springs
The Rachel Aria
Director's Notes

“Rachel, Quand du Seigneur”
(Rachel, when the Lod’s saving grace”)
from the French Grand Opera
“La Juive” (The Jewess)

Film director Sidney Lumet attended the recording session of the “Rachel” aria and loved the music, but what hooked him were the complex characters. “I was really quite enchanted and intrigued, and at that point it fortunately worked out in scheduling.” Once Lumet signed on, a concept had to be finalized. Rather than set the music video in 1414 as in the opera, Lumet thought it was perfectly plausible to place it at the end of the 19th Century. And historically, the pressure to convert to Christianity was common at that time which also fits with the piece.

Once the setting was determined -- a transformed synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the perfect location for a Jew who is trying to survive in a Christian society -- Lumet wondered how to introduce a video of an aria to an audience. “They’ve never seen this kind of thing before. Out of the blue, a guy is going to start singing. And most people don’t know the opera. So, two things I felt -- number one, he could not start singing right away.

And then, to put it in a context. And the best context would be the most honest one -- ‘Hey folks, we’re making a video.’ So, let’s see him being made up in his dressing room, and begin with what would be in movie terms a ‘voice-over,’ like a narration -- which is to start orchestrally, and then with the actual singing, without seeing him sing it. And that gave birth to the running to the synagogue, because he’s in a terribly upset state. He’s just come to the realization that in making his own decision for himself, he is condemning his daughter to death, which is really what the aria is about.

“Therefore the refuge is to pray and see if he can find his way through this horror. He bursts into the synagogue and now for the first time joins the voice-over in synch singing. It is predominantly a prayer, and in that prayer Rachel materializes in his imagination. Then, as no solution presents itself, he feels that even God has failed him, and so, in a burst of violence, he tears the Torah, which is an unbelievable sin beyond anything you can imagine -- beyond murder, anything.” The tearing of the torah wasn’t in the original script. Shicoff believed a fanatical character like Eléazar so full of rage could do such an unspeakable thing. It was an act of desperation. Lumet added, “That’s all for the good as far as I’m concerned.”