The new season at the Israeli opera started with tremors before the first aria was sung. Financial pressures led to last minute changes in the program of the season, including the cancelling of the traditional end-of-season grand finale at Masada, and the postponing of another more expensive (and interesting) staging with a more conventional choice. Yet, the program has still some highlights that make me curious and the first choice – Alban Berg’s Wozzeck – was already out of the beaten path. Opening the season with a 20th century work, based on a social and political drama involves risks. Already put on stage in 2005, this new version is directed by Manfred Beilharz, a well-known opera director with many well received operas put on German and European stages.




The performance enhances the belief that some of the more interesting theater in the last few years in Israel can be found on the stage of the New Israel Opera. Beilharz’s Wozzeck is a modern staging directed with cinematographic pace in very efficient sets that separate segments of the space visible to the audience in well positioned visual effects. His directing focuses mostly on the psychology of the characters and the relations between them, and less on the social or political comment which was perobably the more important aspect in versions starting with the premiere which took place in the effervescent Germany of 1925.


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From a musical point of view there are no dramatic changes from the previous seasons. The distribution pattern of young Israeli sopranos and imported tenors is being preserved also in this version of ‘Wozzeck’. English tenor Julian Tovey was a solid but not brilliant Woyzzeck, while Israeli soprano Merav Barnea proved both vocal and dramatic skills giving to her Maria not only quality of voice but also sensuality and fragility. Daniel Cohen conducted this last performance of this opera on Friday afternoon, but all the other performances were conducted by David Stern. The opera house was only half full, and this is a pity in my opinion, because this non-conventional opening of season would have deserved more audience. Those who stayed home were the losers.