The way she is

Here to kick off the gala 90th birthday party for her old friend President Shimon Peres and perform two sold-out shows, the iconic Barbra Streisand is ready to take Israel by a storm. Grab onto something and hold on tight

June 13, 2013 12:08
Barbra Streisand accepts  applause after performing 'Memories'

Barbra Streisand accepts applause after performing Memories. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni )

She may not be the Queen of England, but for some, Barbra Streisand’s excursion to Israel next week is generating the excitement level of a royal visit. of course her majesty never co-starred in a Ben Stiller comedy sequel film. But even sidesteps like Meet the Fockers haven’t been able to dim the towering celebrity stature the 70-year-old diva has carefully assembled through decades of celebrated musical landmarks, memorable Hollywood heights and high-profile exposure.

As soon as Streisand lands at Ben-Gurion Airport for her nearly week-long stay, there will be no rest for the notoriously aggressive paparazzi intent on sneaking a shot of her at a trendy Jaffa humous bar or poolside, at a posh Jerusalem hotel.Diehard fans who weren’t quick or solvent enough to nab tickets to one of her two performances on June 20 and 22 at Bloomfield Stadium will also be wide-eyed during her visit to grab a glimpse of their beloved Babs.

They may have two opportunities besides the concerts.

Streisand will be receiving an honorary doctor of philosophy degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem at a Monday ceremony during the 76th Hebrew University International Board of Governors Meeting. The award will be presented to Streisand, according to the university, in recognition of her professional achievements, outstanding humanitarianism, leadership in the realm of human and civil rights, and dedication to Israel and the Jewish people.

“Barbra Streisand’s transcendent talent is matched by her passionate concern for equality and opportunity for people of every gender and background. Equally important, her love of Israel and her Jewish heritage are reflected in so many aspects of her life and career,” said HU President Menahem Ben-Sasson in a statement.

The evening after the ceremony, Streisand is touted as the featured guest and performer at the invitation-only gala 90th birthday party for old friend President Shimon Peres that launches the Fifth Israeli Presidential Conference, “Facing Tomorrow,” taking place on Wednesday and Thursday at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Even seasoned performers are flustered over Streisand’s far-reaching influence. One of Israel’s greatest voices, David D’Or, told The Jerusalem Post that one of his dreams was to sing a duet with her for Peres on “Aveinu Malkeinu.”

“Have you heard her version? It’s wonderful. I think that would be a very beautiful moment for me if she’d agree to sing it with me,” he said.

Although it remains to be seen if that dream will be realized, Streisand hinted last week that in a press briefing released by her management that she had “something special” planned for her Israeli audiences, and Yediot Aharonot reported that Streisand was preparing to perform a song in Hebrew.

Anything seems possible for the Brooklyn native who made her Broadway debut at age 19. She’s won Oscars for Best Actress (Funny Girl) and Best Original Song (“Evergreen”); received eight Grammy Awards; her combined album sales total more than 120 million; her first book My Passion For Design debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list; she’s a generous philanthropist, with Israeli and Jewish causes being prominent recipients; and a committed supporter of civil rights.

So, when she decided to launch an eight-concert concert tour this year, Streisand did it in typical style; a 60-piece orchestra, full choir and guest appearances by her son Jason Gould, her sister Roslyn Kind and noted trumpeter Chris Botti.

The concert features an opening video montage career overview reminder of what makes her such a legend, and includes 23 songs encompassing well-known classics from “On a Clear Day” to “People,” all interspersed with between-song anecdotes from the star.

“I’m always amazed at how many songs I’ve actually recorded from which to choose,” said Streisand. “This time around I’m choosing some songs that I’ve never sung before and some older ones that I like to reinterpret.

I’ve always been blessed to sing songs by the best composers and lyricists throughout the decades. I love finding new meanings in these great songs, whether old or new. If you stick with great material, you can always find inspiration.”

Following the tour debut on June 2 at London’s O2 Arena, a review described Streisand’s magnetism as “folksy grandiosity.”

“Streisand... isn’t just a star – she’s a world view, a style of being, an entire cosmology, with the highest possible thread-count sheets. You don’t just come for the music; you come for the whole church service.”

However, a reviewer for The Daily Mail in London wrote that “Streisand put on a half-baked show that fell short of the mark,” blaming her inclusion of family members for diluting the show’s strength.

“Streisand is lucky that her loyal legion of fans are happy to put up with paying extortionate prices and the nauseating family promotion,” wrote the snippy reviewer.

Streisand rejected the criticism, telling the press, “I just try to put together a wonderful show for the audience and in this particular instance it’s a delight for me to have my family along... my very gifted son, Jason, and my sister, Rozzie.”

Fans with tickets to her Bloomfield Stadium shows don’t seem to mind the special guests or the evidently carefully scripted and teleprompter-read between-song remarks.

“I’ve heard that she suffers from terrible stage fright, so I completely understand her wanting to use a teleprompter,” said Jerusalem resident Laura Messinger, who grabbed a ticket to one of the shows as soon as it went on sale.

“I didn’t think twice about it, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My mother always listened to her music and I saw Funny Girl about six times.

She is a musical icon,” added Messinger.

Streisand sounds reciprocal in her enthusiasm about coming back to Israel for the first time since 1984, calling the country “a shining beacon of hope in the world.”

On her last visit, in addition to attending the Israeli premier of her film Yentl, Streisand established the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish Studies on HU’s Mount Scopus campus in honor of her father.

“Of course I thought of my father [when I was told of the HU honorary doctorate],” she said. “The thing that I love most about the university is that people of all faiths and philosophies are welcome to study there.”

Streisand has also been active in raising funds for the Friends of the IDF in US, and involved through The Streisand Foundation in issues ranging from fostering women’s equality and health, protecting human and civil rights, advancing the needs of at-risk children in society and preserving the environment.

She has also been an instrumental backer of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which was renamed The Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.

But it’s music that remains her driving force, and that’s where the attention will return at Bloomfield Stadium. Even with the show-business trappings, the glitz and the spectacle, it all comes back to a funny girl and her amazing vocal stylings.

“When I’m on stage it doesn’t matter to me whether I’m in a nightclub or an arena... I try to be truthful to the music and the lyrics and that has always guided me throughout my career,” said Streisand. “I always feed off the energy of a live orchestra and a live audience.”

For one week, anyway, Israel will be Barbra Streisand’s world, and we’ll all just be visiting. And if you weren’t one of the lucky thousands to nab a ticket to one of her shows or catch her at that humous joint, don’t worry. You can always watch a DVD of Meet the Fockers. ■

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