Forskning ved Københavns Universitet - Københavns Universitet


Rachel the Jewess in Copenhagen

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapportBidrag til bog/antologiForskningfagfællebedømt

This chapter examines the performances of Pauline Rung (née Lichtenstein)
in the role of Rachel in Halévy’s opera La juive in Denmark in 1838
and 1842. It seeks to understand these performances in relation to their
contemporary context in several respects. First of all, the performances
are considered in relation to the local critical discourse on operatic performances
at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in general – a context which, in
1842, involved the phenomenon of a competing and quite successful Italian
opera company at the nearby Court Theatre. This situation generated
a general trend of positioning “southern” and “Nordic” qualities vis-à-vis
one another. The contemporary appreciation of certain “southern” qualities
in Rung’s performances is interpreted in relation to this critical discourse,
as well as in relation to the “Jewishness” of the character of Rachel.
Consequently, the contextualisation of Rung’s performances here involves investigating the implications of “Jewishness” in Copenhagen at this time
and of the ways in which the sound of Rung’s vocal performances may have
served to define Rachel as an example of the literary stereotype of the
“beautiful Jewess”. Finally, the contextualisation includes an investigation
of Rung’s biography, both with respect to her professional career as a singer
and the possibility that her father might have been of Jewish birth. Since the
performances in 1838 over-exerted the voice of the young Pauline Lichtenstein
(as she was then called), her voice, as it gradually recovered, seems
to have been characterised by a rather lower compass. The performance
material used by the Royal Theatre in the nineteenth century, preserved in
the archives of the Royal Library in Copenhagen, suggest that several passages
in La juive, particularly those containing passionate outbursts, were
altered at some point, probably in 1842, in order to accommodate a voice
having problems performing pitches higher than f2 or g2 (approximately).
This tendency towards a lower-sounding voice can also be observed in a
concert given by Rung early in 1842, in which the voice was associated
with a more bizarre brand of exoticism (a song in which she sings the character
of a witch). The author concludes that the vocal rendition of Pauline
Lichtenstein as the “beautiful Jewess” in 1842 was probably the sound of a
relatively low voice, as compared to the type of soprano for which the part
was originally written, and a sound associated with certain “southern” and
“exotic” qualities, although these seem to have been balanced against other
qualities perceived as more “Nordic”. The tendency to associate Pauline
Rung’s performances with “Nordic” qualities apparently increased in the
latter part of her career.
TitelOpera on the Move in the Nordic Countries during the Long 19th Century
RedaktørerAnne Sivuoja, Owe Ander, Ulla-Britta Broman-Kananen, Jens Hesselager
Antal sider29
Udgivelses stedHelsinki
ForlagDocmus Research Publications
Publikationsdato30 dec. 2012
ISBN (Trykt)978-952-5959-45-1
StatusUdgivet - 30 dec. 2012
NavnDocmus Research Publications

Bibliografisk note

Peer reviewed


  • Det Humanistiske Fakultet - Opera, jewish music, Pauline Lichtenstein, Halevy (Jaques-Fromental), La juive, Andersen (Hans Christian), 1840-1849, Rung (Pauline), Cultural transfer, Voice, Goldschmidt (Meïr Aron) , En jøde (1845), Wagner (Richard), belle juive, beautiful jewess

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