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The Israel Opera has a suprise hit on its hands with its community outreach production of Donizetti's The Elixir of Love. Last season, the comic opera was presented in Ashkelon and in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood. This Sunday a production will be mounted in Ramle - a diverse town not normally associated with European culture.
"The idea is to take opera to not-so-operatic places," says artistic administrator Michael Ajzenstadt, "and to involve the entire community."
Sitting in his workroom in the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, the tall and somewhat disheveled Ajzenstadt speaks about productions he's staged far from traditional venues with the participation of audiences unfamiliar with the genre. This time it is Elixir, Gaetano Donizzetti's opera about a romantic affair in a village somewhere in the Mediterranean, which will be performed November 6 at Ramle's Heichal Ha'tarbut (Cultural Center).
In addition to the production's five soloists from the Israel Opera and the Symphonette Orchestra, there are also some 100 people - both Jews and Arabs - from the local community taking part. "The soloists are sort of swallowed by them," Ajzenstadt says.
The local amateurs appearing in the show include actors, singers, dancers and acrobats. The project lasts about six months, and is coupled with other musical activities.
"What we actually do is try and infect people with the opera bug," says Ajzenstadt "And it always works. You feel it as soon as the show starts."
The current production follows Israel Opera community outreach adaptations of Bizet (Carmen in Tel Aviv) and Rossini (The Barber of Hatikva, a title referring to a poor neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv neighborhood).
Elixir is staged by Yulia Pevzner, and soloists include Ira Bertman, Yotam Cohen, Noah Briger, Vladimir Braun and Anastasia Klevan.
After Ramle, the next stops for Elixir are Sderot and Netanya.
The project, initiated by the Israel Opera, is supported by the Culture and Education Ministry, United Jewish Communities in Israel and the Rich Foundation for Education, Culture and Welfare.