It’s 50. The Israel Festival Jerusalem that started as a wee series of classical
concerts in Caesarea in 1961 has grown into a three-week celebration of the
performing arts encompassing dance, theater, jazz, classical, Israeli and world
music. The performers come from all over the world and increasingly, happily,
over the last two decades from Israel. The festival itself has a respected place
and a sterling reputation among the world’s many other international
“The Israel Festival,” wrote the International Festival
Association magazine, “is an excellent example of the importance of
cross-cultural dialogue beyond the borders of Europe.”
Now ain’t that
This year the festival runs from May 23 to June 18, and there are 12
premieres of works the festival has commissioned from Israeli artists such as
Ohad Naharin and the avant-garde Clipa Theater, as well as a roster of
performers from some 18 countries including Chile, Georgia and Japan.
of the hottest tickets will no doubt be the June 4 recital at Binyenei Ha’uma by
Dame Kiri de Kanawa, who last sang at the festival nine years ago. She’s 67 now,
doesn’t sing so much opera, but the voice remains luminous and the lady
Her career took off when she sang the Countess in The Marriage
of Figaro at Covent Garden in 1971 and has been a diva ever since.
own Clipa theater has provided Israel Festival enchantment five time since 1998.
This year it offers (A View), which starts in darkness, with the audience
comfortably cocooned on a soft floor. Then the multisensual images
From Chile comes Teatro-Cinema de Chile, a ground-breaking visual
theater company that combines live action and film. It’s bringing Sin Sangre
(Without Blood), a story of love, murder and revenge. They have a kiddie show
too, The Man Who Fed Butterflies, but it’s not for the under
In dance, the Merce Cunningham Company is coming with three
works, Split Sides, Soundance and Events. The latter piece takes place in the
galleries of the Israel Museum.
This is the last time we can see this
company because, according to the terms of Cunningham’s will – he died in 2009
at the age of 90 – it will disband on December 31.
Ohad Naharin, who
dazzled audiences with Anaphase in 1992 and Z/Na in 1995, is back with the
jubilee year’s opening event, temporarily entitle Fields.
early music consort enchanted audiences in 2004. This year they’re back with
soprano Gillian Keith playing music by Bach, Vivaldi, Pergolesi and
There will also be host of jazz, Israeli and world music
ON THE theatrical stage, Berlin and Moscow are sending a couple
of great classics given breathtakingly contemporary interpretations by
prize-winning auteur directors. From Berlin’s Schaubühne theater comes Thomas
Ostermaier’s view of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which six actors play all the
characters. “Ostermeier’s Hamlet confronts contemporary theater head on, full
force and with a wicked grin,” writes an Australian critic. Take note: The
performance runs two and a half hours without intermission. It’s in German with
Hebrew titles, “and we’re working on incorporating English titles for all
foreign language theater,” says Israel Festival CEO Yossi Talgan.
Russian import is Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya starring Russian movie and TV star
Sergey Makovetsky in the title role. The production won the Golden Mask in
Moscow last year and is presented in collaboration with our own Gesher Theater,
which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The Studio Premieres Project
showcases upcoming young Israeli artists and takes place at the Studio in the
One such premiere is My Father Is Not a Bird by Shahar
Phoenix and Shir Goldberg, based on Bruno Schulz’s Cinnamon Shops. It tells the
story of a little boy trying to come to grips with his father’s growing
insanity. Another is Ruth Kanner’s Flight of the Dove, adapted from Yuval
Shimoni’s book of that name. In it, alternative realities coincide in the story
of a lone woman and a tourist couple in Paris. A respected theater artist,
Kanner is known for the intellectual rigor of her text combined with exquisite
The Stage Company Jerusalem presents Oedipus 2011, a new
look at the archetypical Greek tragic hero by Yagil Eliraz and Ido
IN THE dance domain, UK-born choreographer Tim Rushton’s work
“strikes like a thunderclap,” as one critic puts it. Since 1991 Rushton has been
artistic director of the Danish Dance Theater, each of whose dancers comes from
a different country. It’s bringing two programs: the world premiere of Love
Songs, which features singer Caroline Henderson and a jazz trio; and a
repertoire evening – Kridt (chalk), Cadance and Enigma. This year, Rushton
received an MBE for his services to dance.
In Eastern culture the note
“la,” or A on the scale, represents life. Choreographer Nimrod Fried and
composer Israel Breit have collaborated to create La, a piece that marries
“sound and movement, emotion and color” – another studio premiere.
classical music vein, harpsichord virtuoso Aapo Häkkinen founded Helsinki
Baroque in 1997. It specializes in works that have never been performed and in a
new forum for well-known ones. Häkkinen will play an evening with fellow
harpsichordist Enrico Baiano, and the ensemble presents a program that includes
Bach, Vivaldi and Legeti.
Austria’s Hagen Quartet – all Hagen family
members except for violinist Rainer Schmidt – is celebrating its 30th
anniversary this year and will play a program of Brahms, Haydn and Bartok.
They’re also great champions of new music.
Yet another anniversary
belongs to Gustav Mahler. It’s a century since he died and the traditional
marathon, hosted as usual by pianist/composer Gil Shohat, celebrates his work,
especially his beautiful Songs of the Earth. Shohat accompanies mezzo-soprano
Svetlana Sendler and tenor Guy Mannheim. It happens June 3.
piano – this time from Russia’s Nicolay Petrov and his star pupil, Alexander
Ghindin, who will perform a program that goes from Strauss (Richard) to
And yet more piano – this time when the winner of the 13th
Rubinstein Piano competition that takes place during the festival gives a
concert at YMCA Jerusalem. East meets West in Out of Egypt – From Slavery
to Freedom in a musical encounter between Handel’s oratorio and two pieces by
Yair Dallal. It’s performed by a Baroque orchestra, Jewish soul singers, a boys’
choir, percussionists and more. The world premiere will be in Berlin a week
before the festival.
The main venue for the performances is mostly in and
around the Jerusalem Theater complex. This year, other venues will include the
Targ Center, Gerard Behar and other Jerusalem venues, as well as Holon, Dimona
and other communities. And there will be performances at historic sites in the
north and south of Israel, such as Tel Hai and Kfar Mordecai.
a positive note to end on. Never in all its history has the Israel
Festival been canceled because of the security situation. And with very
few exceptions, the performers have all turned up, too.
Tickets to all events are available at