Israel Festival welcomes Polish influence

From May 24 to June 22 Poland will send a treasure chest of its best in contemporary theater and music.

Cosmos224.88 (photo credit: Stefan Okolowicz)
(photo credit: Stefan Okolowicz)
Poland is this year saluting Israel's 60th birthday and acting as the guest of honor at the annual Israel Festival. From May 24 to June 22 in Jerusalem, Herzliya and Holon, Poland will send a treasure chest of its best in contemporary theater and music to the festival. Of course, there will also be plenty of Romanian fizz, Brazilian sizzle, Neapolitan ardor, British cool and a generous dollop of Israeli theater, music and dance. These last range from a new work by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak to an explosion of events from the School of Visual Theater (SVT) and the 180th anniversary of Schubert's death. Below is a condensed preview of some of this year's highlights. Dance To create Hydra, Pinto and Pollak connected with several international bodies, including the Saitama Arts Foundation in Japan where Hydra premiered last November. A fusion of Japanese and Western aesthetics, and incorporating Japanese dancers Shintaro Oue and Kaiji Moriyama, it's about the latent beauty and hope in promises that never seem to pan out. Ballet Preljocaj (France), Grupo Corpo (Brazil) and Henri Oguike (UK) have all been here before. One of Europe's foremost choreographers, Angelin Preljocaj and his company return with White Tears (1985), a dance about feeling trapped by daily life, and Wedding (1989), an event Preljocaj sees as a tragedy in which "the bride is like an IOU." The Brazilians' explosive energy and enthusiasm have made a lot of local fans. This trip they offer Oncoto and Parabelo. "Oncoto" is dialect for "where am I?" especially in relation to the uneasy fit between Western and Brazilian culture. "Parabelo" is named for the German pistol, the Parabellum, that is named for the Latin tag sivis pacem para bellum - "if you desire peace, be ready for war." The multi-award winning Oguike, born in Wales to Nigerian parents, first appeared in DancEuropa in 2004. He and his company are dancing four of his pieces, including Little Red, set to music by Vivaldi, Touching All and All Around, part of a series that explores the body, and Green in Blue, a jazz piece. Theater Polish theater leads the pack with Dybbuk and Cosmos that will be performed in their native language with Hebrew subtitles. Our own Orna Porat will be seen as the Rabbi in the TR Warsawa production of director Krzysztof Warlikowski's Dybbuk that has been performed worldwide and now makes its Israeli debut. For the drama Warlikowski combined S. Anski's classic with a short story by Hanna Krall in which an American is possessed by the soul of his half-brother who died in the Warsaw Ghetto - a possession he does not want to relinquish. This is a play about continuity and about the ability of memory to afford redemption. A couple of men arrive at a country inn for a holiday, but are dismayed by the weird people they meet. This is the plot of Cosmos by Nobel nominee Witold Gombrowicz (1904-69) that is described as a sort of metaphysical "whodunit" in which the villain is human instinct. The production originated at the Warsaw National Theater, first established in 1765. To salute the Habimah National Theater on its 90th birthday, the festival presents a quartet of multidisciplinary works whose theme is the dybbuk. The Dybbuk starring Hanna Rovina was Habimah's first production in both Moscow and Tel Aviv. David Arveiller's aunt was Alfred Dreyfus's granddaughter, so it's natural that the French actor would take the lead in The Dreyfus Affair in which Dreyfus, sitting in his Devil's Island cell, tries to make sense of what happened to him. Director Stephane Russel contends that the play is a wake-up call against intolerance. It is in French with Hebrew translation. Yehoshua Sobol also tackles Dreyfus in I'm Not Dreyfus. Alex Anski plays the anti-Semitic French army officer Ferdinand Esterhazy, the actual spy for whose crime Dreyfus was convicted. The whole family will have fun with the non-verbal Semianiki from Russia's Licidei Theater which clown Slava (Snow Show) Polonin founded in 1968. It's a clown show about a very, very dysfunctional family. Rondo, an allegory on Israel and its people from the Theater Group Jerusalem, will be staged in what used to be Jerusalem's central prison during mandatory times. Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958) was a German Jewish author whose specialty was the historical novel, and Spanish Ballad is director Yoram Falk's adaptation for the Beersheba Theater of Feuchtwanger's The Jewess from Toledo. The story is based on the true-life romance between Alfonso, King of Toledo, and Rachel, the daughter of Ibn Ezra - the former an advocate of war, and the latter of peace. Classical, jazz and other music There's so much music on this festival's schedule that we can only offer highlights. Let's begin with the Schubert marathon, a four-and-a-half-hour salute to Franz Schubert, who died in 1828. Pianist/composer Gil Shohat will play and host the performers, who include violist Amichai Gross and the Jerusalem Quartet (which also plays at this year's Edinburgh Festival). The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir will perform in both an a-capella program and with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The Ensemble Accordone will play Via Toledo, a program of early music from the Italian south, most of it folk-music handed down from family to family. Then there's the wonderful Juilliard Quartet playing Verdi, Beethoven and a work by Elliot Carter, a US composer celebrating his centenary. Making its local debut is Les Arts Florissants from France. It brings Zadok the Priest and Ode for St. Cecilia's Day by Handel and In Exitu Israel by the lesser known J.C. de Mondonville, conducted by Paul Agnew. Founded in 1979, Florissants specializes in the baroque. This will be a hot ticket, as will Toby Shippey's 12-member Salsa Celtica Scottish folk and salsa band - bagpipes and all. More ethnic sounds come from Yosef and One, a local band whose musicians play a mix of music from this area. Another crowd pleaser will probably be Taraf de Haidouks or The Righteous Robbers, a 12-member Roma band all from one Romanian village and all playing with enough energy to light a town. Jordi Savall, master of the viola da gamba, singer Monserrat Figuera, oud virtuoso Yair Dallal, and musicians from Hesperion XXI and La Capella Reial have teamed up to present Jerusalem's tri-faith history in music that spans the centuries. Karbido, from Poland, is a quartet whose instrument is a a very special table named for all four points of the compass, each with its own sound effects. "Amazing, crazy and funny," says The Scotsman. Nils Wogram and Root 70, the Bill Frisell Quartet and vibraphonist Stefon Harris are names that will set jazz fans aquiver. Add to those Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski (piano) and his trio, considered the cutting edge of European jazz, and the Anat Porat Trio with Alon Olearchik from our own vibrant jazz scene, plus jazz in the Jerusalem Theater foyer nightly, and fans can expect a blissful experience. Specials The School of Visual Theater offers The Visual Session, five days of multidisciplinary presentations from its students ranging from animated films to puppet theater and performance art suitable for the whole family from 5 to 11 p.m. A Japanese/Israeli collaboration between Nimrod Fried and Japan's KAYM is Peepdance. Out on the plaza of the Jerusalem Theater there will be seven "rooms" with 20 peepholes that allow viewers to watch Japanese and Israeli dancers give their own interpretation of the same music. Stay at one or wander. Fyodor Makarov usually works with Polonin. At the festival he'll present his very own version of Little Red Riding Hood. There will also be special programs for children in Holon, such as a new version of Emil and the Detectives. And not least, the ever-popular Enrico Macias will sing a concert of his all time greatest hits. This year, ticket prices are being subsidized again. Some are priced as low as NIS 10. The average is NIS 70 to NIS 220, and of course the usual package deals are available.