(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Daniel Hertz, 29
From Copenhagen to Tel Aviv, 2010
Within a year and a half of making aliya from Denmark, Daniel Hertz found a
satisfying job in his profession as a tailor at the Israeli Opera and married
one of the opera’s upand- coming stars, mezzo-soprano Ayala Zimbler.
first came to Israel on one of the programs run by Masa, the organization run by
the Jewish Agency and world Jewish communities to enable students to study for
at least a semester and up to a year in Israel, with a view to encouraging
aliya. For several months he was able to volunteer in his profession at the
Opera and after officially becoming an immigrant was quickly taken on in the
wardrobe department. A conversation with him gives a fascinating glimpse into
what goes on behind the scenes at the Tel Aviv home of Israel’s magnificent
Carrying on in the best Jewish tradition, he became a
tailor – although it happened somewhat by accident.
“I was in technical
school in Copenhagen studying to be an electrician, and in the last month I had
to take a supplementary class. I had to choose from several options and I
wandered into a sewing class full of girls and I thought it looked nice and I
would try it.”
He discovered that he loved sewing, having grown up in a
home where his mother was always doing some kind of needlework, and he decided
to take a four-year course to become a tailor. After learning the basics, he
graduated to more complex tailoring, all the time feeling he wanted to move to
“The Danish people are not anti-Semitic but I was confronted with
my religion on a daily basis,” he says. “They didn't mean it in a bad way
but I was forever having to answer questions. No matter where I studied or
worked, eventually the conversation would come round to my
While he feels that the Danish people are essentially cold,
he has been overwhelmed by the warmth he has encountered here from Israelis who
really appreciate that Western immigrants still come.
He was brought up
on Bnei Akiva and Jewish tradition is important to him and something he wants to
pass on to his children. And more than anything, he wanted to find a wife –
Copenhagen is full of beautiful girls but not Jewish ones – all good reasons for
moving to Israel. For a year before his arrival he had been working on a
freelance basis in different theaters in Denmark and gaining a lot of experience
in costume- making. Joining the Israel Opera was a continuation of the work he
had been doing and he found it quite daunting at first. The wardrobe department
is one of the biggest in the company, with 15 or 16 workers, “mostly Russian,”
he adds with a smile. They were a little perplexed to find a young Dane becoming
part of the team.
It turns out that the company makes its own original
costumes for only one opera every other year; the rest are rented from companies
abroad. Two years ago, original costumes were made for Hanoch Levin’s The
Child’s Dream and this year they are creating the wardrobe for Brecht and
Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which the opera is putting
on next year. Hertz will be in his element creating all the men’s suits
necessary for the 1930s musical.
The rest of his time is spent altering
the rented costumes that come from different companies in Europe.
costume we nearly always have to make them bigger,” he explains. “There’s no
problem doing the alterations – in fact, it’s part of the agreement.”
met his wife after he started work at the opera and they married two months ago.
She has already played in several solo roles, the most recent as Lola in
Cavalleria Rusticana, which was the latest production mounted by the opera
together with its eternal partner Paglicacci. In previous productions she has
sung Cherubino and Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro and the Cheshire Cat in
the world premiere of Alice in Wonderland. Hertz confesses that he has learned a
great deal about opera in the last year and a half.
Financially it is not
easy to manage on their combined earnings. He is paid very close to minimum wage
and she makes good money when she is appearing and rehearsing but does not
receive a salary.
“Our financial situation is rather precarious,” he
However, Ayala has some good parts coming up and they are hopeful
they will be able to make ends meet in the years ahead.
The future is
uncertain. They are aware that many singers go abroad and that parts for
mezzo-sopranos are limited and rarely make their owners into international
“She has to move on,” he says. “On the other hand, I didn't come
to Israel in order to leave. We will have to see.”