Blue skies guaranteed

2009 Israel Festival emphasizes country's international artistic abilities.

israel festival 88 (photo credit: )
israel festival 88
(photo credit: )
With 10 local offerings and six international collaborations, the emphasis is on Israel in this year's Israel Festival, which will run from May 24 to June 11. Add to that some cream-of-the-crop foreign visitors, and we're set. Let's take off with Momentum, a multimedia, interdisciplinary, high-energy spectacular for the family from Mayumana that opened the festival in 1998. Another festival familiar is from Klipa, the always startlingly original performance art company, making its fifth festival appearance with K. Based on Kafka texts, the show winds through the cells and other spaces of the former Palestine Prison in the Russian compound, which is today a museum. After a decade of directing musical and variety shows, mime Hanoch Rosenn returns to his vocation with Return of the Mime, a joyous trip through the human condition. For the kiddies, the festival commissioned award-winning Moshe Kaptan (Fiddler on the Roof) to direct revivals of The Soulbird and The 16th Sheep, both beloved Israeli classics. Composer and bass player Avishai Cohen features in a jazz special devoted to his latest album, Aurora, and - wait for it - 30 years on, fabled band Tislam returns with a two-hour Israeli rock special, complete with video clips from the glory years. International jazz at the festival also hosts the Joshua Redman Trio, Arcoluz from France and The Devil's Quartet from Italy, among the rest. Among collaborations, using puppets, video, objects and other visual effects to get the story across, the Swiss/Israeli Orlando tells of a young Elizabethan nobleman who lives for 300 years, partially as a woman. Another collaboration, in world music this time, is that between young (all of 20 years old) Azerbaijani singer Bayimkhanum Mirzoyeva and the Dagestan-born brothers Peretz and Marek Eliahu: the music of the Caucasus filtered through Jewish consciousness. Theater visitors include the Georgia State Theater from Tbilisi making its festival debut with The Lady and the Lapdog that combines puppet and human actors to tell the bittersweet story of an adulterous affair and its consequences. Tricicle 2, a trio of comedians from Spain, brings Garrick, a sort of homage to the great 18th century British actor David Garrick, who was reputed to be so funny that doctors sent their patients to him to be healed by laughter. Israelis appreciate Indian dance, so this year the festival hosts South Indian dance virtuoso Alarmel Vally, presenting her interpretations of the classic Bharatanatyam dance. Making its festival debut is Lines from the US, the Bessie-winning company created in 1982 by choreographer Alonzo King with Rasa, melding East and West, and Irregular Pearl, saluting the Baroque perception of beauty. The Montreal Grand Ballet from Canada and the Spanish National Ballet present works by their artistic directors, Gradimir Pankov and Nacho Duato, respectively. The festival's gala opening will be a concert of Polish music played by the Israel Philharmonic to mark the end of Israel/Poland Year of Culture. Conductor Michal Dworzynski, 30, is regarded as one of the world's rising podium stars. Early music enthusiasts can thrill to works by J.S. Bach and Henry Purcell - 350 years since his birth - by the UK consort Fretwork, as well as to a program that includes lesser known baroque composers such as Matthias Weckmann (1619-1674) and Johan Rosenmüller (1619-1684) from Germany's Cantus Coelln. And of course, there's music at Ein Kerem over the Shavuot weekend, celebrating Mendelssohn's birthday among the rest, and a Beethoven marathon with host/pianist Gil Shohat. There's lots more - mostly in Jerusalem, but also in Holon, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Modi'in. Tickets, in deference to the tight economy, range from NIS 80 to NIS 210. Also - blue skies are almost guaranteed.