Monika Rittershaus / OnP

Opera

New

Jephtha

Georg Friedrich Haendel

Palais Garnier

from 13 to 30 January 2018

3h05 with 1 interval

Jephtha

Palais Garnier - from 13 to 30 January 2018

Synopsis

When Jephthah, a biblical parable adapted from the Book of Judges, begins, the people of Israel are under the yoke of neighbouring nations which pillage and oppress them. Jephthah, destined to become their saviour, has grown up in the desert until becoming a powerful military leader. On leaving for battle, he swears to the god Jehovah that he will sacrifice the first person he meets on his way home. Alas, as he returns victorious, it is Iphis, his only daughter, who comes to meet him… Claus Guth directs this oratorio in which grief‑stricken voices interweave as they confront an apocalyptic situation. The drama seems to lead to a tragic denouement,

in accordance with Handel’s injunction: “It must be thus”. But must it really be thus?

Duration : 3h05 with 1 interval

Language : English

Surtitle : French / English

Artists

Oratorio en three acts


Creative team

Orchestre et Choeur des Arts Florissants
Coproduction avec De nationale Opera, amsterdam

Media

  • Podcast Jephtha

    Podcast Jephtha

    Listen the podcast

  • Handel at the peak of his art

    Handel at the peak of his art

    Read the article

  • Refusing the end

    Refusing the end

    Read the article

Podcast Jephtha

Listen the podcast

"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" - by France Musique

07 min

Podcast Jephtha

By Judith Chaine, France Musique

"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" offers original incursions into the season thanks to broadcasts produced by France Musique and the Paris Opera. For each opera or ballet production, Judith Chaine (opera) and Stéphane Grant (dance), present the works and artists you are going to discover when you attend performances in our theatres.    

© Oscar Ortega

Handel at the peak of his art

Read the article

Interview with William Christie

03 min

Handel at the peak of his art

By Octave

Founder of the Arts Florissants, pioneer of the rediscovery of Baroque music, the Franco-American conductor William Christie is the architect of one of the most remarkable musical adventures of the last thirty years. Currently conducting Jephtha at the Palais Garnier, he spoke to us about Handel’s oratorio.


Can you situate Jephtha within Handel’s career?

William Christie: Jephtha marks both the end and the culmination of Handel’s career. Whilst working on his oratorio the composer was struck with blindness, which obliged him to stop work for several months. Handel was a public figure and news of the tragedy quickly spread throughout London: a composer who could no longer compose. I think most musicians and musicologists agree that this oratorio represents the summit of his art from both a musical and dramatic point of view.

The theme of a father forced to sacrifice his daughter to honour a vow made to heaven seems rather archaic to us today. What can Jephtha have to say to our era?

In the Bible, Jephtha sacrifices his daughter. In the oratorio, in the end she is saved thanks to the intervention of an angel: in European intellectual circles during the Enlightenment, the idea that someone could be killed in that fashion was inacceptable. One sees this in Mozart’s Idomeneo. Handel was above all a great humanist, in the tradition of the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The most moving passages in Jephtha are those in which the composer comments on the biblical tragedy. He goes to great lengths to lay bare the father beneath the warrior chief, – a father devastated at the idea of sacrificing his daughter.” His moments of bravura are always tinged with melancholy, incertitude, incomprehension… In Theodora, which is also one of his last compositions, Handel had already shown his extraordinary capacity for empathy with human suffering.
“Handel takes particular care to lay bare the father beneath the warrior chief, – a father devastated at the idea of sacrificing his daughter.”

Handel devoted his life to composition, beginning with opera seria and finishing with oratorio. What, in your view, constitutes the difference between the two genres?

Being an oratorio does not make Jephtha any more contemplative or any less dramatic than an opera seria. On the contrary. For me, what really distinguishes oratorio is the presence of one essential element of the genre, totally unknown in opera, or nearly so: the chorus. This is without doubt the most striking element for the listener. And the choral passages in Jephtha are among the monuments of Handel’s career. They are as stunning as those in Bach’s B minor Mass, and for the same reasons: incredibly sophisticated writing coupled with gripping theatricality.

© Eléna Bauer / OnP

Refusing the end

Read the article

Interview with Claus Guth

04 min

Refusing the end

By Yvonne Gebauer

Invited to stage Handel’s oratorio, Claus Guth has chosen to seize the bull by the horns and question the very notion of fatality that governs the work: “Must it really be this way?”


The myth of Jephtha deals with the question of oaths and sacrifice. How do these themes speak to us today?

In effect, before leaving for battle against a neighbouring tribe, Jephtha promises God to sacrifice the first living creature he encounters on his return. Having won the battle, the first living thing he meets on his way back is his only daughter. Not wishing to break his oath, he sacrifices her. At first sight, this story appears archaic, dry and brutal, very disturbing also since, in all evidence, it stages a human sacrifice. The reception of the work has been marked by this for centuries and the story, which offers no explicit moral message, has been the subject of much questioning. Is this an illustration of religious faith misunderstood, or that of human hubris? Is Jephtha a criminal or a victim of circumstances? It is significant that, even at this time, human sacrifice was not common in Israel where, on the contrary, it was forbidden; it was a more widespread practice among Israel’s enemies.

How do you interpret his gesture?

We have chosen to narrate part of the story's antecedents as of the overture, in order to show where Jephtha was coming from and the burdens he had to carry during his life. What do we know of the reasons that prompted Jephtha to make this vow? The Bible tells us nothing on this subject … After undergoing so many setbacks, after all those years spent isolated from the world, in utter solitude, he finds himself in a state of euphoria, of excessive pride, of hubris. The fact that he has been sought out, that he begins to feel that reparation might be possible, excites a sort of megalomania in him. He believes himself to be in a position to negotiate with God, offering to sacrifice a human life in exchange for his help in securing a victory.

How have you compensated for the Bible’s omissions?

We have drawn on the novel Jefta und siene Tochter (Jephtha and his daughter) by Lion Feuchtwanger, a work that delves into the historic sources whilst opening up an imaginative dimension within the narrative. In it one learns something absolutely essential to the story: Jephtha is illegitimate, a marginal, an underdog whose family history reveals some important incidents. At the point at which the oratorio begins, many things have already taken place: Galaad, his father and a celebrated judge, had three sons (in Handel, there are two) only two of whom are legitimate, Jephtha, the youngest, being the son of a prostitute. He is, nevertheless, his father’s favourite; but when his father dies, Jephtha is disinherited and denied succession to the position of judge. His family casts him aside. He has to leave his homeland and seek refuge in the desert where he remains for eighteen years.

Handel’s oratorio deviates from the myth…

Yes. The end of the Bible story is brutal and shocking and shows Iphis sacrificed by her father. When the work was first performed, such an ending was unthinkable for an oratorio: so an angel appears, saving Iphis’s life before the sacrifice can take place. This raises questions for us about the reasons for this deliverance. The appearance of the angel is without doubt the librettist’s most interesting modification of the biblical narrative. We have taken this angel very seriously and completely literally, but we also asked ourselves the following question: in what state of delirium must one be to see a vision of an angel? What is the psychological state of those about to witness the appearance of an angel or the performing of a miracle?

  • Jephtha - Trailer
  • Jephtha - Georg Friedrich Haendel

    — By In partnership with France Musique

Access and services

Palais Garnier

Place de l'Opéra

75009 Paris

Public transport

Underground Opéra (lignes 3, 7 et 8), Chaussée d’Antin (lignes 7 et 9), Madeleine (lignes 8 et 14), Auber (RER A)

Bus 20, 21, 27, 29, 32, 45, 52, 66, 68, 95, N15, N16

Calculate my route
Car park

Q-Park Edouard VII16 16, rue Bruno Coquatrix 75009 Paris

Book your parking spot

At the Palais Garnier, buy €10 tickets for seats in the 6th category (very limited visibility, two tickets maximum per person) on the day of the performance at the Box offices.

In both our venues, discounted tickets are sold at the box offices from 30 minutes before the show:

  • €35 tickets for under-28s, unemployed people (with documentary proof less than 3 months old) and senior citizens over 65 with non-taxable income (proof of tax exemption for the current year required)
  • €70 tickets for senior citizens over 65

Get samples of the operas and ballets at the Paris Opera gift shops: programmes, books, recordings, and also stationery, jewellery, shirts, homeware and honey from Paris Opera.

Palais Garnier
  • Every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until performances end
  • Get in from Place de l’Opéra or from within the theatre’s public areas
  • For more information: +33 1 53 43 03 97

Palais Garnier

Place de l'Opéra

75009 Paris

Public transport

Underground Opéra (lignes 3, 7 et 8), Chaussée d’Antin (lignes 7 et 9), Madeleine (lignes 8 et 14), Auber (RER A)

Bus 20, 21, 27, 29, 32, 45, 52, 66, 68, 95, N15, N16

Calculate my route
Car park

Q-Park Edouard VII16 16, rue Bruno Coquatrix 75009 Paris

Book your parking spot

At the Palais Garnier, buy €10 tickets for seats in the 6th category (very limited visibility, two tickets maximum per person) on the day of the performance at the Box offices.

In both our venues, discounted tickets are sold at the box offices from 30 minutes before the show:

  • €35 tickets for under-28s, unemployed people (with documentary proof less than 3 months old) and senior citizens over 65 with non-taxable income (proof of tax exemption for the current year required)
  • €70 tickets for senior citizens over 65

Get samples of the operas and ballets at the Paris Opera gift shops: programmes, books, recordings, and also stationery, jewellery, shirts, homeware and honey from Paris Opera.

Palais Garnier
  • Every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until performances end
  • Get in from Place de l’Opéra or from within the theatre’s public areas
  • For more information: +33 1 53 43 03 97

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