Act I

Description: Tevye, the milkman, sits in front of his house. The fiddler from Chagall’s paintings plays on the roof… Tevye and other villagers perform the introductory theme Tradition presenting the people of Anatevka and their family customs. The milkman has a quarrelsome wife, Golde, and three daughters. Yente, the local matchmaker, comes to Golde with a marriage proposal for her eldest daughter, Tzeitel. The suitor appears to be a wealthy butcher, Lazar. Unfortunately, Tzeitel is in love with a poor tailor, Motel, who hopes to earn enough money to buy his own sewing machine. Inspired by Yente’s visit, the girls sing a beautiful song about matchmaking (Matchmaker, Matchmaker). Tevye comes home exhausted — his horse has gone lame and he has had to pull the milk cart himself. He addresses God: “You created many, very many poor men. Of course I know it is no shame to be poor, but it is not a great honour either”. Then Tevye sings the famous song If I Were a Rich Man in which he wonders why God does not give him more money, since it cannot bring Him any harm. The village people gather to gossip. Abram brings the news of the expulsion of the Jewish community from the village of Rayanka. Perchik arrives, a university student from Kiev who represents revolutionary intelligence. Tevye is fond of quoting the Bible and Talmud and the newly-arrived Perchik corrects his imprecision. Tevye invites the student home for the Sabbath and Perchik becomes his daughters’ tutor. Golde wants her husband to talk to Lazar about his marrying their daughter Tzeitel and Tevye agrees to do it after the Sabbath. At the inn Lazar celebrates his engagement. Tevye joins him and agrees to let the butcher marry Tzeitel. However, he gives his consent unwillingly as he would much prefer a younger son-in-law. 12—13 In the street a constable warns Tevye that there is going to be a pogrom. Perchik lectures a girl on his class interpretation of the Bible. He and Hodel, one of Tevye’s daughters, develop a fondness for each other. Tevye returns home and talks with Tzeitel about her marriage to Lazar. When he sees his daughter in despair, he gives way. Happy Motel sings Miracle of Miracles. To change Golde’s mind Tevye tells her about a dream he has had in which Tzeitel’s grandmother appeared demanding that Tzeitel should marry Motel. It is here that one of the funniest scenes in the whole musical occurs: the dramatized dream. The terrified Golde also gives way. News of the planned marriage of Tzeitel and Motel spreads through the village. In the meantime, a Russian boy, Fyedka, clearly begins to feel something for Tevye’s third daughter, Chava. The wedding takes place in front of Tevye’s house with the participation of a rabbi. Everybody sings Sunrise, Sunset, a song about the passing of time. During the celebration the constable arrives with his men, but thanks to his liking Tevye the pogrom has a rather formal character. The only victim is Perchik, who has attempted to resist the authorities.

Act II

Description: ACT II Act II begins with Hodel’s taking leave of Perchik, who as a member of a conspiracy must return to Kiev. They become engaged and Perchik promises to send for his fiancé when the moment is right. Their song Now I Have Everything is a touching, amorous LIBRETTO SUMMARY dialogue between two people who think they really do now have everything, and even a little more, an awareness of the sense of it all. Tevye is displeased at the news of their engagement and rather unwillingly gives them his blessing. Love… What is love? The milkman unexpectedly asks his wife: “Do you love me?” Surprised Golde answers: “I have been cooking, washing, cleaning, giving birth to your children and milking the cow for twenty-five years… For twenty-five years I have been living with you, struggling, starving and sleeping with you. If that is not love, then what is?” And in one of the most beautiful scenes of American musical theatre, husband and wife for the first time say that they love each other… The fantastic and ever more remarkable news of Hodel and Perchik’s wedding spreads round the village. Hodel leaves for Siberia, wishing to join the arrested Perchik there. Tevye sees her off. The girl says goodbye to her father singing the touching song Far from the Home Love. Tzeitel’s pregnancy causes uproar in the village, while Motel buys his own sewing machine, the object of universal admiration. Sadly, the joy is diminished by Chava’s eloping with Fyedka. Tevye, who has in many matters renounced his traditional principles, cannot be reconciled with his daughter’s departure. Rumours of expulsion, later confirmed by the constable, spread among Anatevka’s inhabitants. The Jews have three days to leave the village. Tevye and his family begin their journey.


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    Dec 17, 2021