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In her homeland, Israeli soprano Sharon Rostorf Zamir is mostly known as an opera singer. But local music lovers also remember her appearances as a lieder (art song) performer, especially her stunning recital with pianist Itamar Golan and clarinet player Sharon Kam a few years ago. Thursday and next Friday (October 26 and 27), Zamir returns to present a Schubert program together with the promising young pianist Hagay Yodan at Tel Aviv's Stricker Auditorium.
Zamir, who recently moved to Italy ("Mostly for family reasons, as my husband Eric studies vocal therapy there," as she explains in a phone interview from her new Ravenna home), finds herself in high demand in Europe.
"I just returned from Germany, where I premiered and recorded a newly discovered oratorio by 18th-century composer Fabriccio Ponti, David Penitente."
Rostorf feels fortunate never to have been categorized as a singer of any specific genre: "I was lucky to touch music in various fields, to sing lieder not only of the romantic period but also contemporary pieces by Zemlinsky, Weber, Berg, as well as those of Israeli composers - Zvi Avni, Aharon Harlapp, Zeltzer, Betty Olivero, Gil Shohat - hope I have not missed anybody," she laughs
Asked what she finds special in lieder, Zamir explains: "Here, in one or two pages, you go through an entire emotional journey. Because of the literary quality of the text, lieder are able to reach emotional and philosophic heights that opera, more often than not, cannot. Take for example "Erik nig," composed for Goethe's poem. I hesitated a lot before before daring to perform it at the concert, because of its difficulty. Yet what drama, what richness!"
So what comes first, the words or the music?
"I reach the music through the text. I know there are singers who work on vocal line and vocal technique first, but for me it is the text that leads me through the entire piece."
Once a frequent guest soloist with the New Israeli Opera, Zamir does not criticize their decision to cut down on her appearances. "This is the only opera house in Israel, and they need to accommodate a new generation of singers - thank God, there are quite a few, partly as a result of the opera's ongoing efforts." But she did two major roles with the opera last season - Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute and in the Baroque opera, Giulio Cesare. "It was important for me to participate in the first Israeli production of a Handel opera," says the singer.
Rostorf admits that it was not easy leaving Israel. "My life here was good, and it was comfortable to raise kids. But now they are exposed to European life and learning one more language, which is always good." As for herself, she is "trying to get accustomed to a life without a war."
Prof. Arye Vardi hosts the all-Schubert concert, in which he joins pianist Pnina Saltsman to play Fantasy as well as Hungarian divertimento for piano four hands, while Shlomi Shem Tov will perform a sonata.
The concerts are at 8:30 on Thursday evening and at 11:30 a.m. the following Friday. Reservations at (03) 546-6228.