Fiddler on the Roof

October 8, 2013

Possibly Grange Park Opera’s most ambitious production…ever. World superstar, Bryn Terfel, takes on the role of Reb Tevye, the milkman of a rural village in pre-revolutionary Russia. Tevye has five daughters, no money for their dowries, but one firm idea: to hang on to the traditions of his Jewish forebears. His daughters have other ideas – as do the Tsarist forces that begin to threaten not only the village but a whole way of life.

ACT I

During the Prologue, Tevye, the milkman, explains about his village, Anatevka, and the role of God in keeping balance in the villagers’ lives. We meet Tevye’s daughters who all hope the Matchmaker, Yente, will find each of them the man of their dreams. Yente arrives and tells their mother Golde that Lazar Wolfe, the village butcher, will be a match for Tzeitel. Tevye asks God whom it would hurt ‘If I were a Rich Man’. Perchik, a student, arrives with news of a pogrom in the nearest village. Tevye invites him to join his family for the Sabbath.

During the Sabbath preparations, Motel the tailor tries to ask Tevye for Tzeitel’s hand in marriage but he gets too nervous. They all sit down and welcome the Sabbath together. Tevye heads to the local tavern to meet Lazar Wolfe. They agree the match with his daughter. But when Tevye returns home with the news, there is a mixed reaction: Golde is delighted, but Tzeitel tells her father that she wishes to marry Motel instead. Tevye reluctantly agrees.

While the villagers gossip about the changes in the community, Chava, another of Tevye’s daughters, is taunted by a group of Russians. Fyedka, a Russian youth, tries to speak to her but Motel distracts him, as he prepares for his wedding. Golde and Tevye reflect on their children growing up as the wedding party gathers (‘Sunrise, Sunset’) and the whole village join in the celebration (‘The Wedding Dance’). A group of Russians arrive and disrupt the wedding, leaving the family to clean up the mess.

ACT II

Perchik tells Hodel that he has to leave for Kiev to work for the revolution. He asks for her hand in marriage and she accepts, saying he will send for her as soon as he can. Tevye breaks the news to the astonished Golde and asks if she is still in love with him.

Yente tells Tzeitel that she has seen Chava with Fyedka and the news spreads through the village. Meanwhile Hodel breaks the news that she is going to join her beloved Perchik who has been exiled to Siberia. Tevye reluctantly takes her to the railway station.

A new sewing machine arrives at Motel’s shop and the village gather round to admire it. Fyedka and Chava are worried about telling Tevye that they are in love as he refuses to listen and forbids her from speaking to him about Fyedka ever again. They get married secretly and Tevye tells her that she is dead to their family.

The Constable arrives to tell the villagers that they have three days to move out. They are shocked, but begin to pack up and bid farewell to Anatevka. Tzeitel and Motel stay in Warsaw before moving to America, leaving Hodel and Perchik alone in Siberia. Chava tries to say goodbye to her father but he refuses, and she leaves with Fyedka. Tevye begins to pull his cart as the villagers slowly leave, their lives now as unsteady as a ‘fiddler on the roof’.

 

Recommended recordings:
Original Broadway Cast on RCA (find it on Amazon or iTunes)
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on EMI (find it on Amazon or iTunes)

 

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