The Israel Opera opens its season with the world premiere of The Child Dreams, an opera by Gil Shohat based on a play by Hanoch Levin, one of Israel's most well-known playwrights. The piece was especially commissioned for a celebration of The Israel Opera's 25th anniversary.
The best local and international artists have joined forces to create this new and important piece. Artistic director of the Cameri Theater, Omri Nitzan joined Shohat as director in transforming Levin's theater play into this opera libretto. Artist and stage designer Gottfried Helnwein is responsible for the visual aspects of the show and Avi Yona Buano (Bambi) takes care of the lighting. David Stern serves as both artistic director of the opera house and conductor.
"I was very moved by the text," says Stern, sitting in a street-side Tel Aviv cafÃ© just half an hour before a daily rehearsal starts. "I think [the play] could be understood on several levels. First is the fantasy of the author, the way he puts things together; the second is the Holocaust with its trauma of children being separated from their families and of parents making the most agonizing decision to allow their children to try and survive alone; and the third level is psychological. It's about us all, about our relationships with the world around us."
Regarding the opera's musical composition, Stern explains that "Gil is a very different composer than Hanoch Levin was a writer. They live in very different worlds. And I think that the clarity of Gil's music will allow the people to enter the text even more profoundly." At the end of the show, he continues, "the marriage between the two pieces is extremely touching." Stern emphasizes that he was moved by the honesty and directness of Levin's play.
"For some people it will be heart wrenching, for others mind wrenching. Both intellectual level and sentimental level are strong in this piece and we have to balance them both," he says.
When referring to his devotion to Levin's original production, Stern remarks: "The shading of the play has been completely transformed by the music, while the basic form, its essence of course is still there."
This is Stern's one project for the season at the Israel Opera, and he is proud to be working with this particular piece. "This is not just another Mozart - of course, nothing against Mozart! This is collaboration of all creators. We discuss all scenes, everything needs to be clear."
As for Stern's opinion of the show's performers, he states, "I have nothing but compliments to the young Israeli singers, who have their own ideas about their characters. Because of Hanoch Levin, everybody comes with a great respect to the piece."
Like his father, the late violinist Isaac Stern, the younger Stern also contributes to the Jerusalem Music Center. "In the days of my father, there were a lot of young and talented Israeli violinists."
Stern explains that his father, "who was overwhelmed by this wave" of new talent, "nurtured the young musicians."
Today, Stern says, "there are quite a few Israeli singers throughout the world, and I am happy being put in the position of the Artistic Director of the Israeli Opera, where I can form and support young singers."
The Child Dreams will have its world premiere at the Opera House of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on January 18, 2010 with further performances on January 20, 22, 23 and 25. For more info visit www.israel-opera.co.il
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