Early Exposure

The Israeli Opera presents three clasic Hebrew-language productions for children.

July 23, 2010 15:41
2 minute read.
REWORKED FOR the big stage. Hila Fahima and Gabrie

Alice 311. (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)

In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “The children are our future.” This summer, the Israeli Opera decided to adopt Houston’s ideology for the first time. They realized, explained Chana Munitz, artistic director of the Tel Aviv-based company, that the way to secure the future of opera in Israel is to create young fans. “With this project, we are building the next generation of opera lovers,” she declared, “and that means making operas for children.”

The project took flight last week at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center and will continue through the second week of August. Opera for All Ages includes Alice in Wonderland, The Magic Flute and Cinderella.

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The Magic Flute and Cinderella are both productions that have previously been mounted in other theaters. Alice in Wonderland, however, is a world premier, created in Israel.

“It started like this: I walked into Chana Munitz’s office and said I wanted to write an opera for children. She looked at me and said three words: ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ From there I went straight to work,” said David Sebba. He wrote the music and the libretto for Alice and will be the conductor for the entire engagement.

To make Alice extra-accessible for the little ones, the directors of this opera thought to bring in an animated element. As Hila Fahima sings the aria “Falling,” it appears as if her figure is descending into a deep animated well, projected on the enormous screen on stage at TAPAC. Costumes and lighting have also been especially designed to capture the attention of even the most restless tot.

“There is animation, magic and surprises throughout the entire opera,” said Sebba.

Of course, to many, arias and underagers don’t sound like a harmonious match. Operas are generally reserved for adults with sound attention spans. However, Moshe Kepten, director of Alice, feels strongly that attending an opera can be an enriching experience for children. “Kids are much more able to handle things than we think. We have to give them a choice,” he said, “and let them decide what they can and cannot sit through.”

Although Alice is the newest of the three shows, the designers of the opera have put a lot of effort into making sure that The Magic Flute and Cinderella are equally unique and interesting. Brazilian designer Franklin Tavares crafted a host of extravagant costumes for The Magic Flute. His glamorous gowns and awe-inspiring accessories give Mozart’s tale extra flair.

This initiative could not have been sustained by the opera house alone, explained Munitz. Bank Hapoalim partnered with the opera to make this dream a reality. Shelly Amir, head of community relations for Bank Hapoalim, expressed great excitement at the results of the endeavor. “Cultural life is part of our lives at the bank,” she said. “We aim to bring arts education to the community and to promote young artists in Israel, like these artists,” she went on, pointing to Sebba and Kepten. “We have invited our clients from all our branches to bring their kids to the opera.”

The price of these events surely exceeds what parents would allot for a day at the movies. Tickets run from NIS 130 to 180 a seat.

Each show is approximately one hour in length.

Opera for All Ages runs from July 15 to August 17. For tickets, visit www.israel-opera.co.il or call (03) 692-7777.

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