Music Reviews: Taking the magic out of the flute

There are not many outstanding French composers, and it was not quite clear why Ravel should have been singled out for a whole program of his works at the opening concert of the Israel Festival.

By URY EPPSTEIN
June 6, 2006 11:10
2 minute read.
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beatrice uria monzon 88 . (photo credit: )

 
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Israeli Opera The Magic Flute Tel Aviv Opera House May 24 In the Israeli Opera's recent staging of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," the most serious emphasis was placed on William Kentridge's set and direction. The performance was a never-ending, pretentious succession of gimmicks: a play of light and shadows accompanied by projections of slides and films as background. Entertaining and mildly amusing at the beginning, these manipulations became irritating and increasingly tiresome as they dragged on. They all seemed intended to demonstrate the importance of being deadly earnest, depriving this enchanting fairy tale opera of its inherent charm and of Mozart's inspired inclination to smile at himself. The singers, disappointingly, appeared to be one of this production's lesser concerns. Most faithful to his character was bass-baritone Vladimir Braun in the minor role of the Speaker. Most major roles were models of miscasting. Soprano Milagros Poblador, as the Queen of the Night, rendered her coloraturas cleanly, but without expressing any trace of "hell's revenge boiling in her heart." As Tamino, tenor Claude Pia sounded weak and failed to convey in his opening love aria the passion of finding Pamina. In the role of Sarastro, Andrea Silvestrelli's unsteady bass sounded more like hollering than dignified vocal work, and he failed to reach the final low note in his aria, "In These Hallowed Halls." Pamina's innocent, frail, and immature personality was not portrayed convincingly by soprano Sharon Rostorf. The opera's comic character, Papageno, was forced and ridiculous rather than humorous as portrayed by baritone Peter Edelman. The Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, conducted by Dan Ettinger, sounded well-rehearsed, but it also interpolated some superfluous piano solos that Mozart certainly would have indicated himself if he really wanted them to be there. Israel Festival Opening IPO All-Ravel Program Jerusalem International Convention Centre May 27 There are not many outstanding French composers, and it was not quite clear why Ravel should have been singled out for a whole program of his works at the opening concert of the Israel Festival. What made the concert more than worthwhile, though, was Beatrice Uria-Monzon's performance of "Sheherazade." The concert proved a rare musical experience not only because of her enchanting, rich mezzo-soprano. The singer's captivating performance conveyed the subtlest nuances and demonstrated a forceful transmission of sensuous intensity. Uria-Monzon's performance alone justified the remainder of the Israel Festival. The rarely performed, highly demanding "Daphnis and Chloe" was brilliantly presented by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Singers, which were conducted authoritatively by Yoel Levi. For a welcome change, the all-too-frequently performed "Bolero" was spiced with a choreography by Emanuel Gat, Roy Assaf and Alex Shmork.

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