A true operatic gem

Yishai Steckler premieres as lead conductor the Israeli Opera's performance of 'La Traviata.'

La Traviata 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
La Traviata 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
There’s no need to promote La Traviata, one of Verdi’s major masterpieces, which has earned recognition from its very first performances,” says Yishai Steckler, who will conduct it in the Israeli Opera’s last production of this season. This is Steckler’s first full-stage production as lead conductor, as he has been conducting many operas in the Tel Aviv Opera House as a second conductor. Steckler led La Traviata in the open-air performance at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool last summer.
“This opera is the best example of the middle period of Verdi’s creation, which combines beautiful bel canto arias of his earlier operas with the harmonic complexity and dramatic power of his later works,“ he explains. “Moving between these poles is a challenge and a pleasure for a conductor. La Traviata features a classical triangle of soprano, tenor and baritone in well-developed roles.
In this opera you have everything – beautiful arias, captivating choir fragments and tragic finale, and not a single empty moment. This is a true operatic gem from the first to the last note.“ Steckler’s career is now on the rise.
As the chorus master of the Israeli Opera, he is in high demand in other places as well, conducting orchestras both locally and abroad.
But the road was long. Steckler was about 10 years old when he decided that he wanted to become a conductor: “I used to put on an LP of Beethoven or of some opera and conducted in front of the mirror. I studied piano and sang in children’s choirs Moran and Efroni, and I was 13 when I led a choir for the first time.
For some reason, our conductor failed to come to a performance and asked me to replace her. At that moment I realized that I not only wanted but also could do it.”
Steckler later studied singing and conducting at the Tel Aviv Music Academy and at the Royal College of Music in London. After being accepted to the Israeli Opera as a chorus master on his return, he soon started conducting opera productions.
His career received a significant boost in 2009 when he served as an assistant to conductor Daniel Oren in the production of Tosca.
The renowned maestro seemed to have appreciated his modest and dedicated younger colleague and took him under his wing. “This encounter changed a lot for me, both practically – I now work in Italy a lot – and professionally.”
When asked what he has learned from his tutor, Steckler says, “He gave me an inspiration. In addition to things like stylistics, accompanying the singers and balance, about which he is really obsessive, Daniel gave me this spiritual freedom. It is about courage to realize what it is you want, to believe that you have ability and the necessary tools to produce from your music the exact energy that you want. And again, not as a dictator but out of love of music and the adamant belief that this was what the composer meant. Because they all – Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Strauss and others – are my real bosses, and not anybody else. You approach their works with the utmost respect, you study and analyze the score, you decompose it, trying to understand what is more and what is less important, and only then your input starts.”
Steckler has nothing but compliments for the cast of the upcoming production, which includes baritone Gabriele Viviani, sopranos Oxana Dika and Mirella Gradinaru, and tenors Stefan Pop and Valls Juan Carlos.
La Traviata is performed by The Israeli Opera from June 22 - July 9. Additional programs: Before the show backstage tours: June 23 (6:45 p.m.); June 27 (6:45 p.m.); June 28 (6:45 p.m.); July 5 (6:45 p.m.). Opera Talkback: June 23, 27, 29 and July 5. For more details: www.israelopera.co.il/ For reservations: (03) 692-7777