- Starting Time: 6 pm
- One intermission
Venue: Semperoper Dresden
Free introductory talk
- held in the Semper Opera House cellar 45 minutes before curtain-up
The world premiere of »Die Jüdin von Toledo« (The Jewess of Toledo) by German composer Detlev Glanert will be a unique experience in the final season of the Semperoper’s intendant, Peter Theiler. Having already written more than a dozen operas, Detlev Glanert has made a huge contribution to recent music-theatre history. The production is by the internationally renowned Canadian director Robert Carsen, here making his Semperoper debut.
In the five-act opera »Die Jüdin von Toledo«, the two men explore a tale of forbidden love between the Spanish King Alfonso VIII and his Jewish mistress Rahel – a drama of private passion and public duty. The work is based on the five-act play of the same name by Austrian playwright Franz Grillparzer. From this historical tragedy, Glanert has combined late Romantic sounds with traditions of the 20th century to create a singular and highly differentiated tonal language.
Although it is forbidden, young Rahel, followed by her sister Esther, climbs over the wall into the royal garden of the Palace of Toledo after hearing festive music emanating from the palace. King Alfonso VIII has left the banquet because he is tired of the court ceremonies and the continual talk of war and the imminent battle against the Moors. When he meets Rahel in the garden, he is immediately taken by her beauty. But they are interrupted by Don Garceran and his father, Count Manrique, who see Rahel as an enemy spy. The King places himself protectively in front of the two intruders and orders that the girls be permitted to leave the garden undisturbed. At the same time, he invites Rahel to visit him in his country house whenever she wishes. While Rahel and Esther are making their way outside, Rahel deliberately drops her scarf, which is picked up by the King. When Alfonso's wife Eleonore approaches with her mentally-ill son and entourage, Rahel and Esther barely manage to hide. The Queen accuses Alfonso of neglecting government affairs and particularly the battle against the Moors. Alfonso wants to avoid this confrontation, but she incites the members of the court against him. She also discovers Rahel's scarf in his hand and taunts him. When all have returned to the castle, Rahel and Esther leave their hiding place. Rahel wants to see the King again, but her sister warns her about going near him.
Rahel and Esther are waiting for Alfonso in the royal country house. When Alfonso appears, it is clear what he wants from Rahel. Manrique enters unannounced and informs the King about the imminent battle, but the King is interested only in his imminent amorous night with Rahel. He sends Manrique away and turns his full attention to Rahel. Seven months pass. Garceran unexpectedly enters the country house and reports that the Queen has convened the councilors and declared a state of emergency, since the King has lost his grip on his kingdom and the enemy is at the doorstep. When Garceran gazes with desire at Rahel, Alfonso becomes enraged and accuses Eleonore of treason and of staging a coup. Esther rushes in, believing that Rahel is in need of help. Garceran resumes his diatribe at Alfonso, reproaching him for his negligence and announcing that the councilors will soon take a decision. Alfonso interprets this as an attack on him and sets out hastily for Toledo.
In the palace, the summoned councilors, Garceran, Manrique, and the Queen convene and, spurred by Eleonore's authority, decide to end the truce and to attack. At the same time, Eleonore accuses Rahel of preventing the King from acting and of being a spy for the Moors. The assembly unanimously agrees that the King is no longer able to carry out his office and that the ruling authority should be transferred to the Queen in his place. Alfonso suddenly enters the hall and dissolves the assembly, remaining alone with Eleonore. A confrontation ensues. Alfonso lacks arguments to justify his behavior and, after substantial threats from the Queen, finally gives in. He distances himself from Rahel and assents to her being killed.
Rahel and Esther are waiting for the King in the country house. Esther advises Rahel to flee. But it is too late: henchmen rush in, fall upon Rahel, kill her, and loot the building. Esther manages to hide. Shortly afterward Alfonso enters the ravaged room and sees the dead Rahel. He kisses her and leaves the room. Esther returns and collapses over her sister's body.
In a ceremonial act of state in the cathedral involving the Cardinal, Alfonso, Eleonore, the Prince, and the court entourage, the weapons are consecrated for war. At the same time, Esther laments the murder of her sister and suspects that this is the beginning of something even more terrible. The Cardinal and all the others leave the house of worship, while the mentally-ill prince remains behind alone.