Quipping that the first 30 years are the hardest, Israel Opera General Director Hanna Munitz outlined an ambitious 30th anniversary program in opera, dance and music for 2014- 15 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
The season offers seven operas plus two – yes, two – Masada events, 10 dance concerts and the four mainstays of “Music at the Mishkan,” or the liturgical, symphonic, jazz and the Saturday morning opera series, each of which has a different theme, such as “Death by Opera.” The singers are usually from the Opera Studio.
The opera season includes new productions of The Barber of Seville by Rossini, Verdi’s monumental Nabucco and – drum roll – a new Israeli opera. It’s a double bill to be exact, composed by, respectively, Haim Permont and Yoni Rechter; The Lady and the Peddler, based on a story by Shai (Shmuel Yosef) Agnon, and Schitz for which the late, great Hanoch Levin wrote the libretto. Ido Ricklin directs; his IO debut.
Nurturing our own opera is a Munitz imperative; just think of Yosef Bardanashvili’s powerful Journey to the End of the Millennium (2009) and Gil Shohat’s wrenching The Child Dreams (2010), based on his play by Hanoch Levin.
Other productions include a revival of Omri Nitzan’s saucy Israeli take on Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, and two visiting shows. They are the Budapest State Operetta with Emmerich Kalman’s La Bayadere and, from the New Moscow Opera, The Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky Korsakov.
There’s also another Puccini, La Rondine, about the agony and ecstasy of young love. One of the sopranos singing Magda is the magical Angela Gheorghiu, whose voice set the opera world alight at her 1990 debut.
Every year the IO has to do something new and this anniversary season is no exception. Nabucco will be screened live at 10 different locations throughout the country and this year’s opera at Masada features not only Puccini’s Tosca but a multimedia extravaganza of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Turning to dance, the IO has commissioned from choreographer Stanton Welch, and for the Israel Ballet, a ballet version of Madama Butterfly, set of course to Puccini’s haunting music. The Zurich Ballet comes with Romeo & Juliet – the Prokofviev score, and the Bad Boys of Dance return with Rock the Ballet 2. Other returnees include Momix, Sankai Juko, the Boris Eifman Ballet and the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Handel’s Messiah and Britten’s moving War Requiem enrich the liturgical series of four concerts.
The Symphonic Series has nine – one of them is an all-Beethoven conducted by Daniel Oren (who’s also conducting Nabucco and Tosca). Jazz has terrific treats in store with three concerts from the hottest current names in jazz, including Jose James, trumpeter Christian Scott and winner of the 2014 Grammy for best vocal jazz album Gregory Porter.
There are also the children’s opera hour and Nitza Shaul’s Magical Sounds. It’s not for nothing that Hanna Munitz dubs the IO “the spearhead of Israeli culture.”