Artists show us what matters. Great artists make it stick. So it has mostly been with the Israel Festival in the 60-plus years of its existence. Reaching out to the audacious and the visionary among our own and visiting talents, the Israel Festival’s organizers have afforded them the space to do just that.
In an era when the individual, personality, even community are being swallowed up by and via endless digital prattle, this year’s festival artists “direct their gaze toward the individual and individual identity,” says artistic director Itzik Giuli.
“‘What you see here, you don’t see there’ epitomizes the idea that the festival does things differently,” says festival board chairman Dan Halperin.
The Israel Festival Jerusalem 2017 runs from June 1 to June 18, is concentrated mostly in and around the Jerusalem Theater and is this year “dedicated to the memory of [Israel Festival artistic director 1994-2001] Micha Loewensohn who left us much too soon... His artistic vision, his humanity, epitomized the festival’s basic values and greatly contributed to its recognition and prestige here and abroad,” says CEO Eyal Sher.
Highlights include Japanese choreographer director Toco Nikaido; Israel Galvan, the “Nijinsky of flamenco”; choreographer Lucinda Childs and her company; local theater giant Yossi Yizraely; an homage by the Israel Symphony Orchestra to the Book of Psalms and (a first) Night Shift, an interdisciplinary, multinational event that lasts through the small hours.
There’s always an opening blockbuster and this year’s East/West meld at the Sultan’s Pool is billed as a Groove Celebration, with acts such as Tippex, Firkat al-Noor, Knessiyat Hasechel and many more.
In 75-year-old theater titan Robert Wilson and Samuel Beckett, it’s two giants on one stage. Wilson has designed and directs himself in Krapp’s Last Tape
, written by Beckett, in which the 69-year-old Krapp struggles with the present, memory and self as he listens to a tape he recorded on his 39th birthday. Wilson is regarded by many as the world’s foremost experimental theater director.
His most famous work is Einstein on the Beach
(1975), his seminal collaboration with composer Phillip Glass and Lucinda Childs [see below]. (Sherover, June 5/June 6)
To understand Spain’s Angelica Liddell we need to know that post-dramatic theater means a theater that’s more about the how, why and wherefore of performance in any given context than about the drama itself. Her post-dramatic What Shall I Do with This Sword
probes the darknesses of human nature based on two real and awful events, one of which is the 2015 terrorist attack in the Bataclan nightclub in Paris. Four-and-a-half hours; partial nudity; performed in Spanish, Japanese and French. (Sherover, June 9) Crazy Girls Save the World
is the ultra-high octane piece by Toco Nikaido and her company, 45 minutes of explosive action that asks, “Supposing the young took over the world.” The audience gets issued with raincoats! (The Studio, June 2/June 3)
Our own Yossi Yizraeli is never content to rest on his considerable laurels. He, his Incubator theater ensemble and composer Yosef Bardanashvilli bring us Job
, a theatrical oratorio that shines a light on Job’s wife, thought by some commentators to be Satan’s emissary. The piece stars the great Sasson Gabay as Job, Keren Hadar as his wife and Arik Eshet as God. (Henry Crown, June 4)
From Switzerland Thom Luz brings the witty When I Die – a Musical Ghost Story
, based upon the astounding experiences of Rosemary Brown, who claimed that she’d been visited by spirits of the great composers, such as Lizst, Bach, Schubert and others. With no musical training, she produced sonatas, symphonies and more; their work, she insisted. We are always wistful for what we can no longer have, so perhaps there can be ghosts. Are there? (Rebecca Crown, June 5/June 6)
To tease our senses and to ask questions about identity, Ensemble Can offers Operation Silk Gloves in which the audience encounters the Israel Museum in ways that challenge convention. (June 6/June 9/June 13/June 16) And for a bit more fun, we have Slapstick Sonata from the rambunctious Laputyka Circus from the Czech Republic exploring Czech pub culture twice a day for free at Zion Square in downtown Jerusalem. (June 7/June 8)
Dance is a work “belong[ing] as much to the future as to the present,” said The Washington Post
when the work premiered in 1979. Now epoch-influencing Dance creator Lucinda Childs is bringing her piece to the festival. Live dancers mesh with film by the late conceptual artist Sol Lewitt, to the music of Phillip Glass (again). (Sherover, June 17)
Flamenco artist Israel Galvan brings his own contemporary twist to Spain’s national dance form. “To write that Galvan is a wonderful dancer is like saying that Albert Einstein was pretty good at physics” – Daily Express, 2011. He and his six musicians perform his FLA.CO.MEN. (Rebecca Crown, June 2/June 3)
Completing the dance roster are French choreographer and multidisciplinary artist Christian Rizzo and Brazil’s Lia Rodrigues. Rizzo’s work explores how movement connects among individuals and hence the link between community and dance. His is a kind of “futuristic folklore” piece – Based on a True Story. (Sherover, June 13).
Bringing with her the energy of Rio’s favela, Rodrigues and her company bring us the tumultuous Pindorama, a theatrical torrent that pits man against nature with the audience and cast almost under each others’ feet. Pindorama is also part of Night Shift (see below). (Sherover, June 14/June 15)
Music at the festival celebrates the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs – sometimes together.
Austria’s Ars Antiqua ensemble led by renowned violinist Gunar Letzbor plays “Viennese” music – written by Viennese composers whose work was influenced by outsiders and by composers drawn to Vienna from the Empire’s outposts. (Henry Crown, June 2)
17th- and 18th-century music is the province of the Czech Ensemble Tourbillon, led by virtuoso violist de gamba Peter Wagner. The program of arias also features Israeli soprano Revital Raviv. (Henry Crown, June 9)
Ensemble Sarband led by percussionist Vladimir Ivanoff arrives from Turkey with a program that lies on the cusp between East and West, drawing from the many cultures that comprised the Ottoman empire. (Henry Crown, June 16)
The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has a program devoted to the Book of Psalms that includes “Song of Psalms” by Zvi Avni and Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” (Henry Crown, June 7); there’s a musical tribute to poet and lyricist Tirtza Adar who died 40 years ago (Henry Crown, June 8); and Sound Charter, an Israel/Poland collaboration that has music, musicians and singers tucked here and there in the Jerusalem Theater (June 7) to create a tapestry of sound encompassing the history of music. And as always, there’s the Saturday mornings of classical music in Ein Kerem. (June 3/June 10/June17)
Finally there’s Night Shift, featuring eight very different programs that end in the wee hours on June 16. They include Transfiguration by sculptor, biologist, etc., Olivier de Sarazan, who’ll invite the audience to be his eyes as he deconstructs/reconstructs identity. (Micro, June 14/June 15).
Greek performance artist Euripides Laskaridis’ wild and woolly Relic takes the ordinary to absurd heights (and depths). (Studio, 15/6)
Making its Israeli debut is the Danish indie rock band MEW whose music goes from dreamy pop to progressive. (Henry Crown, June 15)
Norwegian experimental and virtuosos jazz guitarist Stian Westerhus seeks new musical forms (Sherover, June 15), and the eclectic Icelandic electro-pop duo Kiasmos brings the nightshift to its end on the Sherover stage starting at 12:30 a.m. on June 16.
Tickets – and there’s the usual package deals and student/senior discounts – range from NIS 40 to NIS 200.
Energetic, colorful and out-of-the-box about describes the 2017 Israel Festival. Go for it.For more info and tickets: http://israel-festival.org
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