With the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra, life is never boring. Its artistic director, pianist cum conductor Yaron Gottfried, always knows how to bring a special touch to its programs, adding extra value to a purely musical experience.

This time, one of the country’s oldest orchestras tours Israel with a program dedicated to the music of Mozart and Salieri – and once again questions the legend according to which the latter, a mediocre composer, poisoned the former out of jealousy of his immense talent.

The program features Mozart’s Requiem and his Serenade K. 388, as well as fragments from Salieri’s Requiem. Two fine choirs participate in the concerts: Moran under Naomi Faran; and Collegium Tel Aviv, directed by Avner Itay.

Soprano Sharon Rostorff Zamir, contralto Avital Dery, tenor Itay Drory and bass Aleksey Kanunnikov are the soloists, while Gottfried conducts.

The life story of Avital Dery is probably the most unusual among those of the concert participants.

She combines her music and academic careers and is not going to give up either one.

Born in Jerusalem into a family of a university professor father and a Yoga instructor mother, Dery was attracted to music as long as she can remember. She wanted to play violin from a very early age, but it took her years to convince her parents to let her study the instrument, which her mother found unattractive. She also sang in choirs and always knew that music would play an important role in her life, but she never saw herself as a professional musician. The change came when she was deeply involved in the study of physics.

“I was in my third year at Givat Ram University when my boyfriend at the time gave me a birthday present.

Knowing about my attraction to the vocal art, he paid for six solfeggio lessons. Following recommendations, I sought out Jerusalem Music Academy teacher Marina Levit, who just laughed in my face. ‘What can one learn in six lessons?’” Dery recounts.

Nonetheless, they gave it a try. Levit told Dery that she had a rare mezzo-soprano voice and that it was a pity she was not a student at the academy.

“There, you will have a lot of opportunities,” Levit told her. “You will learn, you will participate in productions and what not.”

Dery, who was 23 at the time, thought that Levit – who later became her teacher for five years and to whom she says she owes a lot – was probably right. She entered the music academy to develop her skills in the field, which she still regarded as a hobby. But at the end of her first year at the academy, she felt it was still not enough and was ultimately drawn into the world of professional music-making.

Dery sang with various Israeli orchestras and has been singing for years with the Israeli Bach Soloists (“the ensemble that has become my home and where I have learned a lot”).

Her music career was on the rise. “I sang a minor role at the concert performance of Rigoletto with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, which was an unforgettable experience. Then I traveled to Germany to perform with the International Choir and sang solo with Christoph Eschenbach conducting and was later invited to perform at a gala concert at Opera Bastille in Paris,” she says.

However, the more Dery advanced in her music career, the more she felt unsure that she was built for that kind of life. “I immediately knew that opera was not for me. I thought maybe that my music future was about conducting kids’ choirs – and I did it for a year in Jaffa – which was not me.”

She kept trying to find her place in the world of music, finally coming to the decision that she should return to the academic world. So Dery entered the Weizmann Institute and is currently working on her master’s degree.

“This is the place that every science student dreams of, and I enjoy my studies a lot. That said, the world of music has enriched me immensely in many ways, and I can only pray that I will be able to divide my time between the two worlds that are so dear and so important to me.”

The Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra concerts take place on June 16 in Nahariya; June 17 at TAPAC in Tel Aviv; June 21 in Netanya; June 23 at Kibbutz Givat Brenner; June 24 in Ashkelon; June 26 at Ein Hahoresh; and June 30 in Modi’in. For reservations, call (09) 960-4757.

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