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The first feminist music work, Handel’s Italian Cantata Apollo and Dafne (1710), composed centuries before the concept of political feminism was coined as a fashionable term, was performed recently by the Barrocade ensemble.
Rather than yielding to the harassment of an arrogant male deity, Dafne courageously takes revenge by metamorphosing herself into an unharassable laurel. This early work, a predecessor of Handel’s later Italian operas, becomes a highly dramatic confrontation of two strong ego-ridden personalities.
As Apollo, Oded Reich’s forcefully resonating, nuance-rich bass and captivating stage personality, finally mellowing to a moving lament when realizing, too late, that his aggressiveness has cost him the object of his desires, was thoroughly convincing. Einat Aronstein’s bright, clear soprano did not, at first, express the gentle, mild character of a nymph desperately attempting to escape from her aggressor, but sounded too hard and shrill on the high notes, making it hard to understand Apollo’s infatuation with her.
Curtain raisers were Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1 and Telemann’s Concerto for Recorder and Viola da Gamba. The soloists, Shai Kribus and Amit Tiefenbrunn, performed in perfect coordination.
The orchestra, conducted by Yizhar Karshon, frequently overshadowed the soloists. This is a common characteristic of inexperienced conductors, who tend to get carried away by the orchestra instead of restraining it and turning its volume down to let the soloists have their say. Phrases were not always articulated clearly, but tended to flow into each other, without breathing space.