Barbra Streisand accepts applause after performing Memories.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni )
She may not be the Queen of England, but for some, Barbra Streisand’s excursion
to Israel next week is generating the excitement level of a royal visit. of
course her majesty never co-starred in a Ben Stiller comedy sequel film. But
even sidesteps like Meet the Fockers haven’t been able to dim the towering
celebrity stature the 70-year-old diva has carefully assembled through decades
of celebrated musical landmarks, memorable Hollywood heights and high-profile
As soon as Streisand lands at Ben-Gurion Airport for her nearly
week-long stay, there will be no rest for the notoriously aggressive paparazzi
intent on sneaking a shot of her at a trendy Jaffa humous bar or poolside, at a
posh Jerusalem hotel.
Diehard fans who weren’t quick or solvent enough to
nab tickets to one of her two performances on June 20 and 22 at Bloomfield
Stadium will also be wide-eyed during her visit to grab a glimpse of their
They may have two opportunities besides the
Streisand will be receiving an honorary doctor of philosophy
degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem at a Monday ceremony during the 76th
Hebrew University International Board of Governors Meeting. The award will be
presented to Streisand, according to the university, in recognition of her
professional achievements, outstanding humanitarianism, leadership in the realm
of human and civil rights, and dedication to Israel and the Jewish
“Barbra Streisand’s transcendent talent is matched by her
passionate concern for equality and opportunity for people of every gender and
background. Equally important, her love of Israel and her Jewish heritage are
reflected in so many aspects of her life and career,” said HU President Menahem
Ben-Sasson in a statement.
The evening after the ceremony, Streisand is
touted as the featured guest and performer at the invitation-only gala 90th
birthday party for old friend President Shimon Peres that launches the Fifth
Israeli Presidential Conference, “Facing Tomorrow,” taking place on Wednesday
and Thursday at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.
seasoned performers are flustered over Streisand’s far-reaching influence. One
of Israel’s greatest voices, David D’Or, told The Jerusalem Post that one of his
dreams was to sing a duet with her for Peres on “Aveinu Malkeinu.”
you heard her version? It’s wonderful. I think that would be a very beautiful
moment for me if she’d agree to sing it with me,” he said.
remains to be seen if that dream will be realized, Streisand hinted last week
that in a press briefing released by her management that she had “something
special” planned for her Israeli audiences, and Yediot Aharonot reported that
Streisand was preparing to perform a song in Hebrew.
possible for the Brooklyn native who made her Broadway debut at age 19. She’s
won Oscars for Best Actress (Funny Girl) and Best Original Song (“Evergreen”);
received eight Grammy Awards; her combined album sales total more than 120
million; her first book My Passion For Design debuted at No. 2 on the New York
Times bestseller list; she’s a generous philanthropist, with Israeli and Jewish
causes being prominent recipients; and a committed supporter of civil
So, when she decided to launch an eight-concert concert tour this
year, Streisand did it in typical style; a 60-piece orchestra, full choir and
guest appearances by her son Jason Gould, her sister Roslyn Kind and noted
trumpeter Chris Botti.
The concert features an opening video montage
career overview reminder of what makes her such a legend, and includes 23 songs
encompassing well-known classics from “On a Clear Day” to “People,” all
interspersed with between-song anecdotes from the star.
amazed at how many songs I’ve actually recorded from which to choose,” said
Streisand. “This time around I’m choosing some songs that I’ve never sung before
and some older ones that I like to reinterpret.
I’ve always been blessed
to sing songs by the best composers and lyricists throughout the decades. I love
finding new meanings in these great songs, whether old or new. If you stick with
great material, you can always find inspiration.”
Following the tour
debut on June 2 at London’s O2 Arena, a review described Streisand’s magnetism
as “folksy grandiosity.”
“Streisand... isn’t just a star – she’s a world
view, a style of being, an entire cosmology, with the highest possible
thread-count sheets. You don’t just come for the music; you come for the whole
However, a reviewer for The Daily Mail in London wrote
that “Streisand put on a half-baked show that fell short of the mark,” blaming
her inclusion of family members for diluting the show’s
“Streisand is lucky that her loyal legion of fans are happy to
put up with paying extortionate prices and the nauseating family promotion,”
wrote the snippy reviewer.
Streisand rejected the criticism, telling the
press, “I just try to put together a wonderful show for the audience and in this
particular instance it’s a delight for me to have my family along... my very
gifted son, Jason, and my sister, Rozzie.”
Fans with tickets to her
Bloomfield Stadium shows don’t seem to mind the special guests or the evidently
carefully scripted and teleprompter-read between-song remarks.
heard that she suffers from terrible stage fright, so I completely understand
her wanting to use a teleprompter,” said Jerusalem resident Laura Messinger, who
grabbed a ticket to one of the shows as soon as it went on sale.
didn’t think twice about it, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My mother
always listened to her music and I saw Funny Girl about six times.
a musical icon,” added Messinger.
Streisand sounds reciprocal in her
enthusiasm about coming back to Israel for the first time since 1984, calling
the country “a shining beacon of hope in the world.”
On her last visit,
in addition to attending the Israeli premier of her film Yentl, Streisand
established the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish Studies on HU’s Mount
Scopus campus in honor of her father.
“Of course I thought of my father
[when I was told of the HU honorary doctorate],” she said. “The thing that I
love most about the university is that people of all faiths and philosophies are
welcome to study there.”
Streisand has also been active in raising funds
for the Friends of the IDF in US, and involved through The Streisand Foundation
in issues ranging from fostering women’s equality and health, protecting human
and civil rights, advancing the needs of at-risk children in society and
preserving the environment.
She has also been an instrumental backer of
the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which
was renamed The Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.
But it’s music
that remains her driving force, and that’s where the attention will return at
Bloomfield Stadium. Even with the show-business trappings, the glitz and the
spectacle, it all comes back to a funny girl and her amazing vocal
“When I’m on stage it doesn’t matter to me whether I’m in a
nightclub or an arena... I try to be truthful to the music and the lyrics and
that has always guided me throughout my career,” said Streisand. “I always feed
off the energy of a live orchestra and a live audience.”
For one week,
anyway, Israel will be Barbra Streisand’s world, and we’ll all just be visiting.
And if you weren’t one of the lucky thousands to nab a ticket to one of her
shows or catch her at that humous joint, don’t worry. You can always watch a DVD
of Meet the Fockers. ■