(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The walls of Jerusalem’s Old City once again echoed with impassioned cries from
the Tower of David on Monday afternoon – not the voices of guards or soldiers
protecting the city from invaders this time, but the voices of tenor Yotam Cohen
and soprano Mirela Gradinaru from the Israeli Opera.
Accompanied by the
opera’s pianist, the pair wowed journalists in one of the citadel’s chambers
with arias and duets from popular operas.
The pertinent musical segments
highlighted the announcement that the annual opera festival would be expanded to
include Jerusalem. In attendance were Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov,
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Israeli Opera director Hanna
Drawing on the success of last year’s production of Verdi’s
Nabucco at Masada, which attracted thousands of opera lovers from here and
abroad, the Israeli Opera, and the Jerusalem Municipality and Development
Authority, with the support of the Tourism Ministry, decided to treat the
capital to a variety of opera and quasi-opera productions this summer.
June 2, the leading Italian orchestra Arena di Verona will give an opera gala in
the Sultan’s Pool.
Some 30 chamber and vocal concerts will take place
throughout 10 of the city’s historic sites and churches, including choral, vocal
and chamber pieces. On June 6, David Stern will conduct a semi-staged production
of Verdi’s rarely played opera Jerusalem at the Sultan’s Pool. The Israeli Opera
will also be performing Verdi’s Aida at Masada in the first half of June, and
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will perform a gala concert at the ancient fortress
off the Dead Sea on June 12.
Meseznikov noted the importance his ministry
saw in cultural events such as the planned opera productions, “which enable
people from all over the world to discover the quality of Israeli arts and
culture.” He also spoke of the growth in tourism to Israel, as evidenced by the
record 3.5 million tourists who came in 2010, and of the potential Jerusalem had
as a powerful brand name to draw visitors to the city and
Barkat, in turn, mentioned the growth in the city’s culture
budget, which he said would help continue to establish Jerusalem as one of the
world’s culture capitals.
“There is no better place in the world to have
an operatic production than Jerusalem, to hear the beautiful voices in the
electrifying air of the city. It is an honor and great fun for us to host the
festival here,” he told reporters.
When asked what his favorite opera
was, Barkat admitted that he wasn’t much of an opera fan.
“But I love all
beautiful music, like we heard today,” he said, adding that he’d definitely be
attending the June productions planned in the city.