A behind-the-scenes look at tenor Neil Shicoff's preparation for his much-praised perf in long-banned opera "La Juive" (The Jewess), and director Sidney Lumet's musicvideo of a seven-minute aria from it, "Finding Eleazar" will be of keen interest to fans but plays to the unwashed as cringingly pompous.

A behind-the-scenes look at tenor Neil Shicoff’s preparation for his much-praised perf in long-banned opera “La Juive” (The Jewess), and director Sidney Lumet’s musicvideo of a seven-minute aria from it, “Finding Eleazar” will be of keen interest to fans but plays to the unwashed as cringingly pompous. Festival dates will continue, with skedded October tube bow in Austria a harbinger of quality TV and ancillary life elsewhere.

“Shicoff is never boring,” says a Vienna opera honcho, and that’s true onstage and off. Whether bringing the house down as the Jewish jeweler forced to choose between a daughter and a religion in the 1835 Fromental Halevy opera the Nazis banned in 1936, or refusing to budge on his opinions during the “concepting” of the vid, the son of a Brooklyn cantor is a forceful presence. Yet as with much art, it’s far more interesting to glimpse the finished product than the often self-important process itself. Helmer Paula Heil Fisher inserts herself and her Millennial Arts shingle collaborators to a distracting degree, though in the end, there’s no denying the powerful message of tolerance in Shicoff’s reading of “La Juive.”

Finding Eleazar

U.S.-Austria

Production

A Millennial Arts, Paula Heil Fisher, ORF presentation of a Millennial Arts production, in association with Peter Rosen Prods. (International sales, ML Banks, New York.) Produced by Paula Heil Fisher. Executive producer, Jack Lehman. Directed by Paula Heil Fisher. Screenplay, Fisher, Jody L. Jorgensen, Matthias Visser.

Crew

Camera (color), Peter Rosen; editor, Jorgensen. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Documentaries of the World), Aug. 30, 2004. (Also in Tribeca, Palm Springs festivals.) Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Neil Shicoff.
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