Entries tagged with “Tel Aviv Opera House”.

‘Ernani’ is not one of the most popular operas of Verdi. Actually it us staged for the first time in Israel. Despite lacking any of the spectacular hit areas that made ‘Aida’ or’ ‘Rigoletto’ famous, it is a solid and interesting musical piece, with a strong dramatic structure, and a credible (well, in operatic terms) story which combines historical and personal elements.

source http://www.israel-opera.co.il/eng/

The story of the three men (king Carlos, Silva the rich and elder count and the outlaw Ernani) who fall in love with the same woman allows for three roles on stage for baritone, bass and tenor – all fully fledged and satisfying from a musical point of view. Staging leaves place for interesting interpretations, and this is the case with the current staging which is the result of the cooperation of the Israeli Opera and the opera houses of Poznan and Bilbao. The sets are really spectacular from a visual point of view, although the inclined plan the singers are obliged to sing most of the time risk to challenge beyond the reasonable.

(video source donthuis)

Romanian-born Israeli singer Mirela Gradinaru was a very convincing Elvira. She becomes one of the constant and stables stars on the Tel Aviv stage. I was not crazy about the American tenor Hugh Smith’s Ernani, but Ramaz Chikviladze’s Silva and Vittorio Vitelli’s Carlos balanced the overall musical balance of the evening to the positive side.


(video source lamermoor9999)

No clips from the current performance are available, so you will need to get fragments from performances at Scala in compensation :-)

It seldom happens that people go to an opera performance mainly for the stage sets. Here is one of these rare instances, as the sets of the New Israeli Opera staging of Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle are designed by no other than the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, originally for a performance at the Seattle Opera. It’s actually part of the return of Chihuly to Israel ten years after the exhibition of his works in the Tower of David in Jerusalem which brought to the capital of Israel more than one million visitors.  The Litvak Gallery located just behind the Opera building in Tel Aviv hosts a new exhibition of his works which also opened last week.

source http://www.israel-opera.co.il/eng/

The opera itself lasts about one hour, and in order to make the performance last a reasonable two hours is preceded by a soprano and orchestra performance the ‘Songs for Dead Children’ by Mahler. Inspired by a fairy take by Perrault the story takes us on the Gothic dark side with the young bride opening seven successive doors in the Duke castle until the last and forbidden one opens to the expected dark secret. It is probably one of the most serious and somber pieces of music written by the Hungarian composer., whose quality relies to a large extent on the two singers, as the whole opera is one continuous duet. The two singers in the Tel Aviv performance bass Vladimir Braun and soprano Svetlana Sander belong to the generation of Israeli singers who came from the former Soviet Union and are now at the pick of their artistic capabilities. Both perdormances were mature and consistent, with Sander’s passion balanced by Braun scene presence.

(video source franzhun)

I could find no picks from the performance on the Internet, so here is one fragment from a performance in London with Sir George Solti directing the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Sylvia Sass as Judith and Kolos Kováts as Bluebeard.

And the sets? Yes, they are beautiful. Next time however I would love to hear more music.

Gershwin’s (or The Gershwins’ as the performance program says) Porgy and Bess performances in Israel were not spared of some non-musical controversy, as a few weeks before the show there was big pressure on the Cape Town Opera to cancel the tour (apparently planned for four years) in Tel Aviv.  Luckily the South-African institution decided not to boycott the Israeli audiences and there I was last night enjoying a very different first performance as a subscriber of the New Israeli Opera new season.

(video source ntobekoleo)

The history of Porgy and Bess is not deprived of controversy at all, and this more recent would be just one added and probably not the last one. Composed by George Gershwin in 1933-34 on a libretto by DuBose Heyward and based on his novel, the opera is written for an almost all black singers team, and the lyrics are written by Ira Gershwin in an Afro-American dialect. Although the structure and the lyric material represent a very solid and self-contained operatic material the opera was premiered on Broadway and did not reach the Metropolitan Opera where the Gershwins dreamed to be mounted but after their death and 50 years after the premiere. While a popular film by Otto Preminger staring Sidney Poitier (doubled by a singer voice) made the opera famous world-wide, and the opening area ‘Summertime’ made it back to the first page of the big American songbook and famous jazz standards, part of the Afro-American community did not accept easily the opera as a cultural accolade but pointed to the racial stereotypes that accumulate in the story and its characters. I found a detailed and well-written description of the racial controversy around Porgy and Bess at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porgy_and_Bess#Racial_controversy. Having the performance staged at a major opera house in the country that walked the difficult road from a racist state to freedom and reconciliation is symbolic.

(video source Praguedive)

(video source korkhmmaregon)

The vision brought to stage by the Opera from Cape Town and the director Christine Crouse transplants the conflict from the South Carolina fisher’s village to the Soweto suburbs during the peak of the apartheid rule, using the sets and costumes designed by Michael Mitchell. It is the first time that I am hearing the opera sung in a full performance, so I had quite a strange feeling in some moments, as the more famous tunes sounded different than in their jazz or pop music variants. Yet it was a convincing version with the gospel vibrations coming up much stronger than some of the Jewish roots of a few tunes and motives in the score – but this was expected. The team of singers were good and authentic in their African rendition of the story, with baritone Xolela Sixaba impressing with his musical but also acting talent as Porgy, and with sopranos Philisa Sibeko (Clara) and Tina Meme (Serene) showing great vocal skills, better last night in my opinion than those of Sibongile Mngoma who was trusted with being Bess. The Opera Orchestra (which is also the Israel Symphony Orchestra from Rishon LeZion) directed by David Stern was uninspired and too loud but this seems to be an almost chronic problem of its performances.

I know Alvin Ailey’s company for a very long time. It was this company and choreographer and the one of another great artist Alwin Nikolais and his ‘Nikolais Dance Theater’ who came in tours in Romania at the beginning of the 70s and opened my eyes and soul to the world of modern dance, starting an interest in this form of art that continues until today.

While Nikolais’ company is gone after the death of his founder, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater founded in 1958 continued the tradition of its founder under the direction of Judith Jamison and is today one of the better known dance companies in the world. I have seen another performance of theirs a few years ago, in a theater on Broadway around the 51th street. Last night was my third opportunity to meet with their art. America changed radically since the company was founded and the world of dance changed as well, pushed ahead by artists like Ailey among other. If in 1958 the idea of a multiracial company was a novelty, as well as the use in modern dance of music and themes descending from the Afro-American tradition, today such groups are to be found almost any place around the world and jazz and gospels and blues and popular American music are an integral part of their creations. While Ailey created many of the performances of the theater, he also raised and opened the stage for many other creators to research, create and express their voices in the company performances. The expressiveness of the body as a whole which Ailey saw and developed starting from Martha Graham‘s style and the freedom that dancers express exposing their own perspective while remaining part of the ensemble, a method driven by Ailey from jazz music had become part of fundamental alphabet of modern dance.

The program last night at the Opera House, closing the fall dance festival in Tel Aviv, included an original creation by Ailey, another classic work from the 70s and two works from the last decade. Luckily I found on youTube fragments of all performances for me to remember and for the readers of the blog to get a glimpse of the wonderful experience that we enjoyed. The success was tremendous, the knowledgeable dance audiences in Israel spoiled with almost everything that modern dance can offer including a hot and innovative local scene know how to appreciate such a combination of high professionalism and attractive programs.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The performance started with one of the recent works of the company – Dancing Spirit created in 2009 by Ronald K. Brown – en exploration of the African roots of the Afro-American music and dance melted in a modern style and ambiance.


(video source danceconsortium)

Suite Ottis was created in 1971 by George W. Faison, a young choreographer at that time who further developed and became a well known creator and founded his own dance company. It’s a tribute to the music of Ottis Redding and a good opportunity of nostalgia for those who love the soul music of the 60s.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The shorter piece named Unfold completed the second part of the performance. It’s a duet on an opera aria which was interesting to watch not only by its own concentrated beauty but also as an indication of the direction the company may take in the future, as the choreographer is Robert Battle who will take over the direction of the company in the summer of 2011.


(video source andithankyou2)

The last part of the performance included the classic creation of Ailey Revelations. When created in 1960 it was one of the first pieces in the history of American dance to bring directly to stage the music and spiritual experience of the Afro-American community. Since then it became a classic and a reference piece, with new generations bringing their own perspective within the framework drawn by Ailey. It certainly is a crowd-pleaser any place in the world where it is presented, and an excellent closing for an evening of modern dance to remember.

The Web site of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater can be accessed at http://www.alvinailey.org/.

I discovered Max Raabe the last winter thanks to ARTE, and it was love from the first song. Raabe and his Palast Orchester specializes in the German cabaret music style of the 20s and early 30s. He has a scenic presence that combines elegance and humor. All the members of the band and especially violinist Cecilia Crisafuli and pianist Ian Wekwerth are remarkable musicians, they seem happy to play together and they make the audiences feel how good they feel about it. I was excited to hear that he comes to Israel and it was great to be in the audience in their first show tonight.

(video source fritz5125)

Although their repertoire is not limited to music from the 20s and the 30s (but all is played in this style) the program tonight was exclusively built of compositions to that period. All German songs were written before 1933, the year of the fall in the abyss of German and Raabe dully mentioned the year of the composition together with the title of every song. My Little Green Cactus is one of the examples of the German songs written in that period that Raabe presented tonight as well.

(video source MICHELMUSIK123)

From the more international repertoire here is the originally Yidish Bei Mir Bistu Shein and a more delicate version of Singing in the Rain which was to be made famous by Gene Kelly more than two decades after its first auditions.

The tour in Israel started tonight. They will be tomorrow again at the Opera House in Tel Aviv, then on Wednesday in Jerusalem at the Sherover Theatre and on Thursday in Haifa at the Krieger Centre for the Performing Arts. As in the concert tonight I expect the halls to be full of enthusiastic yekis.