These days it is becoming increasingly difficult to find uncharted artistic territory. It seems that practically every sound and genre has been proffered for wide public consumption, and all kinds of styles and cultural material have been combined to spawn world music, and crossover shows and recordings, ad infinitum.
Then again, there is “Re:play.”
Said production, which will take place at the Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv at 9 p.m. today (November 4), employs state-of-the-art technology to enable us to enjoy some visual and sonic blasts from the past and, almost corporeally, to get some late, lamented greats of yesteryear on stage together with the very much alive instrumentalists.
The show was created by The Revolution Orchestra, a definitively envelope-pushing enterprise founded 10 years ago by Zohar Sharon and Roy Oppenheim. Sharon is an experienced pianist and composer, and a past recipient of the Prime Minister’s Composer of the Year Award. He also teaches at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and engages in a wide range of projects.
To date the classically trained artist has worked with a host of top rock and pop acts the likes of Aviv Geffen, Barry Sacharoff and Ninet Tayeb. Sharon’s co-artistic director in the “Re:play” venture also brings impressive credentials to the multidisciplinary venture. Oppenheim is an experienced conductor and has a penchant for testing new creative waters – the perfect pair for today’s inventive musical escapade.
At first glance it seems that Sharon and Oppenheim must have hitched a ride in Dr. Who’s Tardis, and taken a trip back in time to meet such late iconic artists such as classical cellist Jacqueline Du Pré, explosive rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, chansonnière par excellence Edith Piaf, Argentinean nuevo tango pioneer composer and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla and Beatle John Lennon. The aforementioned greats, along with some other legendary performers, will be “present” on the stage together with The Revolution Orchestra, to play scores written by four contemporary Israeli composers that incorporate some of the late stars’ best known work.
The concept is a bit hard to grasp at first hearing, and it helped to have Oppenheim spell the plan out in plain, simple words: “There will be screens placed between various members of the orchestra, on which clips of the dead artists will be projected,” he explains. “The orchestra instrumentalists will actually play with the dead stars.”
Oppenheim has been there and done that, at least in terms of the rock-classical music encounter. He was very much on board, in a conducting capacity, for the Performing Arts Center’s ClassiRock series which paired the orchestra with the likes of rockers Dudu Tasa and Asaf Amdursky, and Tayeb.
The initiative for the beyond-the-grave recall came from Israel Opera general director Hanna Munitz.
“She asked Zohar and me to come with an idea to mark the opera’s 30th anniversary, and the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Performing Arts Center,” says Oppenheim.
“We told her that we thought it would be fitting to bring on to the stage artists who had never trodden the boards there, and would never be able to do so. Then we told Hanna we wanted to put on a live show with dead artists.”
The accent has always been very much on the live and kicking side of the project, however.
“We didn’t want to go on some sort of nostalgia tribute, or present a tribute to the stars of the past,” Oppenheim continues. “And – and this is even harder to grasp – we didn’t want to play the music of the dead artists. We will perform sampling renditions of their work which will form part of contemporary Israeli compositions.”
To take the venture to even braver frontier-testing areas, the writers in question all come from various parts of the musical spectrum. In addition to Sharon, there are works by film score composer Ariel Blumenthal who spends most of his time in Los Angeles, Orit Gur-El whose oeuvre includes scores for chamber ensembles and theatrical productions, and Amir Lekner who largely focuses on theatrical work.
The concert will comprise six movements of between seven and 14 minutes.
“Each movement will present a different mindset,” says Oppenheim. “You will be able to identify the original passages played by the dead artists, but we take them way beyond their original form and sound. We sample them and they act as raw material for the new Israeli compositions.
I call this show ‘art of context,’ because we present the source material in a new light.”
Oppenheim is sensitive to the fact that the concert may challenge some of the audience.
“When you pit Jimi Hendrix and Jacqueline Du Pré together on the stage there is a sense of sacrilege,” he says.
Then again, it is a daring departure which is also designed to offer the public a new means of appreciation of the original work.
“I think that Jacqueline Du Pré relates to her cello the way that Jimi Hendrix relates to his guitar,” suggest Oppenheim, adding that the end result is greater than sum of its parts.
“When you twin Astor Piazzolla with Edith Piaf you don’t end up with a chanson, you get a world music effect.”
There are more surprising confluences, including an intriguing head-to-head between Queen frontman Freddy Mercury and iconic opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. If that is hard to envisage, in theory it should be a lot easier to get a handle on the seemingly incongruent synergies this evening, as the video clips will provide the audience with a highly visual sense of the musical coming together, across the disciplinary divides, and of the living and domain of the deceased.
Oppenheim is at pains to point out that this is no stunt venture.
“We were not interested in just mixing genres for the sake of putting out something eye catching,” he says. “There has to be a genuine artistic reason for doing this.”
That is clearly the case here.For tickets and more information: (03) 692-7777 and www.israel-opera.co.il.