There are so many ways to approach this beautiful film, about the recent revival of Halévy's opera La Juive. At one level, it is a "making of" film, featuring a "making of" video -- the director Sidney Lumet directs a video of the main aria -- but it confronts issues so large and so prevalent in the world today that we may as well not be watching the story of an opera written almost 200 years ago. La Juive had been performed hundreds of times before it was banned by the Nazis in 1938, as part of a nationwide suppression of all Jewish art. On its most basic level, it tells the story of a Jew and his family, their persecution, and the dilemma they face about whether to renounce their faith to save their lives. The lead role of Eleazar was one of Enrico Caruso's favorites, and it is proposed to Neil Shicoff, master tenor, to revive it and set the opera in Nazi Germany. Shicoff initially questions the wisdom of mounting this opera, pointing to the fanaticism and intolerance all over the world, and the availability of other, more contemporary stories of persecution than Germany in the late 30's. The issues raised gain added salience thanks to Shicoff's astounding approachability, intelligence, and humor, which propel this fascinating film. As Shicoff himself states: "The point of this opera is that there is another avenue to peace." This is a film for anyone who believes in art, culture, and the transcendent power of history to teach us about our world today.
After an extensive career in finance, Paula Heil Fisher became a producer for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including the Tony-award winning revival of Damn Yankees, David Mamet's Oleanna, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, and the musical series Rogers and Hart Rediscovered. In 1992, Heil Fisher and director Eric Fraad founded Millennial Arts Productions (MAP), a New York City-based nonprofit that produced Stravinsky's Pulcinella, Handel's Messiah, and a dramatic presentation of Handel's Esther. MAP also staged many original, opera premieres including La Fete d'Atreus (French Baroque), La Contessa del Canto, and La Caccia al 'Amore (The Hunt for Love). Finding Eléazar is her feature directorial debut.