The Israel Festival is back for another year. From May 25 to June 10, performers from here and abroad will offer a wide range of artistic performances.

The Israel Festival is the largest and longest standing of the impressive roster of festivals hosted across the country.  It has also been a kind of litmus test of the international status of the country. During the intifada years very few foreign artists came, and the ones who did were considered heroes.

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But in recent years, more has been said about the lack of integration of the festival’s program, even when it wasn’t short of international stars. The Israel Festival doesn’t have an artistic director as such, but its faithful director Yossi Tal-Gan assigns each artistic discipline its own adviser, something that certainly ensures a variety of tastes but sometimes deprives it of a homogeneous nature.

Israel Festival 2010 will open with a performance by the Shen Wei Dance Arts. Wei is an American-Chinese choreographer who uses a multicultural language, combining dance, rhythm and stills, to reflect his experiences from journeys to Tibet, Cambodia, the Silk Route and China. Multicultural art will also be represented by British-Bangladesh dancer and choreographer Akram Khan. He will perform a solo work entitled Gnosis in which he reveals his Hindu roots and counters them with the Western world in which he now lives. Also participating are the Bill T. Jones Company from the US and Tangokinesis from Argentina. The Vertigo Ensemble will represent the local dance performers with three different works.

The theater portion will feature a mini festival called “Who’s Afraid of Shakespeare?” in which three of the Bard’s plays will be performed. The Tbilisi Vaso Abashidze Music and Drama State Theater (Georgia) will perform Macbeth; the OKT Vilnius City Theater will feature A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and the Lab Theater will feature a special performance of Romeo and Juliet taken from an adaptation of a modern Armenian-Jewish Turkish environment written by playwright Noran David Kallis, the son of Armenian and Turkish immigrants to Germany.

The local flavor will be displayed by the Shakespearushalayim ensemble, which will perform highlights from Shakespeare’s plays.

Classical music will feature nine new works dedicated to the memory of German-Jewish intellectual Walter Benjamin, performed both here and in Berlin by the Adapter Orchestra, led by Manuel Naori.

The Revolution Orchestra, conducted by Roy Oppenheim, will perform a new adaptation of Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev and a performance of La Traviata to celebrate 25 years of the Israeli Opera.

Jazz music programs will feature saxophonists Charles Lloyd and Joe Libano from the US, as well as The Andre Zagodjinski Trio from Poland and an evening with Mika Karni and Daniel Salomon performing works by Israeli composer Tomer Lev.

The World Music section will be dedicated mostly to locally created music, based on ancient Jewish traditions with multicultural and modern influences. Making its debut appearance will be the newly formed Jerusalem New Orchestra, led and directed by bass player Omer Avital (US and Israel) and Yair Harel. The evening, called Ahavat Olamim, will combine traditional Jewish liturgy with modern and contemporary music, featuring paytan (liturgist) Chaim Lock, a choir and 30 musicians.

The Israeli side will close with an evening dedicated to the memory of composer Moshe Wilensky and poet Natan Alterman to celebrate the centenary of their births.

Outdoor performances will take place in the Jerusalem Theater foyer (jazz); at the Mamilla Alrov Mall with the Tel Aviv Conservatory band and the OhnO! Jazzband from Holland; special lighting in the plaza of the Jerusalem Theater; and a series of short plays based on Shakespeare’s works, performed by Shakespearushalayim at the Botanical Gardens.
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