From Russia with love

Moscow’s Stanislavsky Opera makes its debut visit to Israel with Prokofiev’s fizzy comic opera Betrothal in the Monastery.

opera311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv’s Performing Arts Center will ring with sounds of laughter as The Stanislavsky Opera from Moscow will make its debut appearance in Israel with seven performances of Sergei Prokofiev’s comic masterpiece Betrothal in a Monastery, a story of mistaken identity, meddling parents and mismatched lovers. “It’s nice to see a comic opera for a change,” Michael Eisenstadt, the artistic director of the Israeli Opera told Billboard. “Operas are usually tragic stories that end in funerals, but here we are ending with three weddings.”
The opera is rare not only for its comedic and light-hearted nature. It is one of the only operas in the eastern European tradition to be based on the work of an English play-write, and to avoid social and political criticism.
Sergei Prokofiev adapted Betrothal in a Monastery from the 18th-century play The Duenna by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a former member of the British Parliament and owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Prokofiev was introduced to Sheridan’s play in 1940, and wrote about the work: “I was enchanted by its lambent humor, lyrical charm, vivid character sketches, movement of action, and thrilling plot, whose every turn is anticipated with great interest.”
The Russian born Prokofiev is revered as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, and admiration for his work is shared by both the Stanislavsky and Israeli Opera. Prokofiev composed his first opera at the age of nine, and as his musical career developed he earned a reputation as a rebel for his original compositions that experimented with dissonant harmonies and unusual time signatures. The Stanislavsky Opera was established in 1918, and merged with the Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre in 1941 to form the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre. This was the first Moscow based opera company to perform Prokofiev’s War and Peace, based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel.
The Israeli Opera and the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre have shared an informal friendship for many years based on a mutual respect for each other’s work. The Stanislavsky Opera was thrilled by the invitation to perform at the Israeli Opera, an opera house that has hosted many prestigious opera companies throughout the years. “We were pleased to accept [the invitation],” Alexander Titel, the Stanislavsky Opera’s artistic director, told Billboard. “Our human and cultural relationships with Israel are special, and we are bringing a production that we love very much.”
In May, the soloists and chorus of the award winningBetrothal in a Monastery will be joined by theIsraeli Opera Orchestra, and the Israel Symphony Orchestra RishonLezion under the direction of conductor Wolf Gorelik, the StanislavskyOpera’s musical director. Gorelik has family in Israel and has visitedmany times throughout the years. He told Billboard,“It is a great honor to work with the wonderful orchestra of theIsraeli Opera. I truly count on the high professional level andexperience of the musicians... and I’d be very glad and pleased if ourcooperation with the Israeli Opera continues.”
The opera will be performed in Russian with Hebrew and Englishsubtitles, and will be preceded by a 30-minute lecture, given inHebrew, for those who want to learn more about the production and thecomposer. Following the performance, there will also be a question andanswer period with the members of the cast.
Betrothal in a Monastery runs at the Opera House in Tel Aviv from May 7 through 14. For more information: