It’s a few minutes before the dress rehearsal of Giuseppe Verdi’s beloved opera “La Traviata” and the heroine, Violetta, steps out of a tent to walk to the stage. Even with a full moon and dim light streaming from the tent it is too dark to see well in the middle of the Judean desert.

Aurelia Florian, the Romanian-born soprano, is wearing an enormous red crinoline ball gown with gold puffed sleeves and a towering white wig. As she walks, her feet encounter a pebble and, for a precarious instant, she trips but regains her balance despite the weight of the dress and wig. She laughs musically in soft soprano. After all, pebbles on the ground are the least of the problems encountered when staging a world-class opera on a windswept desert plateau with Masada as the backdrop.

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