Looking for acceptance

Mixing high culture music with dance and theater, a bunch of up-and-coming artists take on Tel Aviv.

Gropius 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gropius 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This is a match made in heaven - and in the minds and hearts of eager young artists. Itai Tiran (Hamlet, Mozart) is a vastly talented actor who also plays a mean piano. Matan Porat is a young composer whose works are in demand at festivals around Europe. They are teaming up with Gropius, which was founded in 2005 and is led by up-and-coming Israeli conductor Daniel Cohen; it is an equally up-and-coming musical ensemble that actively seeks to encompass other disciplines, such as theater and dance. Named for groundbreaking architect Walter Gropius, the ensemble unabashedly promotes high culture, from the greats to the new and exciting born from the Israeli milieu. On January 2, therefore, Gropius, Tiran and Porat present Stravinsky's A Soldier's Story and MonkeyMan at the Cameri Theater, the latter featuring a Concerto for Toy Piano, supposedly "composed" by monkey-man Tiran who plays it. The real composer is, of course, Porat, who wrote the piece specifically to fit the players and their movements in the special spaces of Cameri 3. "I have known Matan for 10 years," says Cohen from a Berlin train station, on the way to his "day job" playing the violin with the Oriol Ensemble. "We studied together. I met Itai last year when we worked on the Stravinsky, and thanks to him, the Cameri sort of adopted us." In A Soldier's Story, the soldier sells his soul to the devil in return for stock-exchange tips. MonkeyMan is taken from "A Report to an Academy," Franz Kafka's famous tale of an ape who describes to a group of assembled scientists how and why he became a man. Teaming MonkeyMan with the Stravinsky makes sense, says Cohen, because both deal with loss of self. A product of the horrors of World War I, "the soldier, with no concept of right or wrong, endlessly drifts in search of meaning. The ape, an alien within a larger group, is looking for a way to be accepted." In addition to working with Gropius, the busy Cohen leads his own Eden Symphonia, which recently made its debut in London's prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall; and last year, he became the principal conductor of the Jersey Chamber Orchestra. Performances in Cameri 3 on Friday, January 2 are at noon and 9 p.m.