‘I miss Israel, I miss Tel Aviv, and I am looking forward to performing in this city again,” says the renowned Georgian bass singer Paata Burchuladze, speaking from his Berlin home a few days before he is due to perform in Tel Aviv (December 18 in the Smolarz Auditorium). In the concert Burchuladze, together with Israeli soprano Larisa Tetuev, will perform popular operatic arias and duets, accompanied by the Israeli Soloists Symphony Orchestra under maestro Evgeny Tzirlin.The charismatic Burchuladze has been a welcome guest in Israel since he first appeared here in Boris Godunov at the Israeli Opera inauguration production in 1994. He has since participated in many productions of the Israeli Opera, both indoors and at the Masada festival shows, and performed recitals showcasing his rich vocal instrument and impressive acting skills. A year and a half ago, celebrating his 55th birthday on the stage of the Tel Aviv Opera, Burchuladze received the symbolic keys of the city from the Mayor Ron Huldai, thus becoming an honorable citizen of the city, a beautiful addition to another title he received lately – that of Commendatore, from the president of Italy, the highest title a foreigner can be granted in Italy.An event that took place here in 2004 is especially memorable, and not only because of its musical aspects. Burchuladze established the international Iavnana foundation, a charity aimed to support the orphans and needy families in his native land, and he chose the Tel Aviv Opera House for the inauguration concert.“In Georgia, life can be wonderful,” says Burchuladze. But it was not always like that. “The civil war has torn Georgia apart, leaving thousands of children orphaned and sending tens of thousands below the poverty line. Parents, unable to support their kids, had to leave them in foster homes. Out of a population of four million in Georgia, half a million became refugees,” he says.His foundation has held dozens of concerts and charity events to raise money for these orphans and impoverished children.“Due to our foundation’s activity, many families have been reunited with their kids, and sometimes, at the end of the concert, people received keys from their new homes,” says the singer.For that and other activities, Burchuladze was recently appointed the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to Georgia, on top of all his other titles.But important as the charity is for Burchuladze, it’s music that is the essence of his life. He performs on the world’s most prestigious stages and mentions only two of his recent performances – The Barber of Seville at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and a special evening dedicated to Placido Domingo’s 40 years at London’s Covent Garden. “Three final acts from three operas were presented – Othello, Rigoletto and Simone Boccanegra – and Domingo sang in all of them. It was a great evening!” The Paata Burchuladze concert takes place on December 18 at the Smolarz Auditorium in Tel Aviv. Tickets are available at the local online booking offices.