The Israeli Opera Journey to the End of the Millenium Josef Bardanashvili and A.B. Yehoshua The Opera House December 3 Josef Bardanashvili and A.B. Yehoshua's Journey to the End of the Millenium, in its renewed performance, provided a welcome opportunity to make the acquaintance of conductor David Stern as the Israeli Opera's new music director. He conducted the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion with rhythmical poignancy and clear articulation, placing emphasis on highlighting the well-shaped instrumental solos. The orchestra sounded its best in those passages where there was no singing and therefore nothing to be overshadowed with a sometimes-too-loud volume - a common characteristic of conductors who still are in need of more experience with opera conducting. Occasionally it was necessary to seek refuge with the screened English text when the sung Hebrew was not intelligible enough. Another new face at this production was tenor Yosef Aridan. He convincingly impersonated a confused, irritated and helpless Abulafia. The climax, as in the previous performances three years ago, was soprano Ira Bertman's profoundly moving solos in the concluding scene. There was more than a mere touch of satire and bitter irony in the contrasting of the black-clad, mercilessly unrelenting Ashkenazim with the white-costumed, innocently bright-looking Sephardim - one of director Omri Nitzan's many strokes of genius in this performance. The final prayer, "We are not stubborn and obstinate," after the Second Wife's suicide, added a hint of hypocrisy to the characterization of the Ashkenazim. In total, the work is a powerful J'accuse against the Ashkenazim's stern, overbearing arrogance. Although Yehoshua carefully places the plot in 999 A.D., not much seems to have changed in the last thousand years.