A wolf in new clothing

There is plenty of Israel Festival fare outside of Jerusalem, including a multimedia staging of Prokofiev’s ever-popular ‘Peter and the Wolf’ by Rishon Lezion’s Israeli Revolution Orchestra.

Peter and Wolf 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Peter and Wolf 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Festival is, of course, the biggest event in the national cultural calendar, and it would be a shame not to catch at least one show from the 19-day program, even if you don’t live in Jerusalem.
Those who are worried about their car’s ability to make it up the hills – or just feel Jerusalem is a long way to go for a show – will be delighted to know that there is plenty of festival fare on offer elsewhere in the country. Tel Aviv and its environs, naturally, hosts most of the non-Jerusalem shows, but there are theatrical and music shows in Modi’in and Haifa, too.
The main extra-Jerusalem venue is the Holon Mediatheque, with three shows.
On May 29, it will stage a coproduction between the house theater company and the National Theater for Youth, based on the Erich Kastner book Lottie and Lisa, called Double Ora in the Hebrew version.
The book is a comedy which tells the story of two nine-year-olds who meet at a summer camp, and discover they are twins. One lives in the city and the other in the country; at the end of the camp, they decide to swap homes.
The show will take place in Holon on May 29, at 11 a.m.
A couple of weeks or so later (June 10), the Familie Flöz troupe from Germany will return for a third appearance at the Israel Festival, this time with a performance of Hotel Paradiso, described as “a theatrical nightmare infused with dark humor and a dose of melancholy.” The Familie Flöz actors wear masks and do not speak as they go through their highly physical routine, preferring the visual to the verbal.
There is more non-verbal entertainment on offer at the Holon Mediatheque on June 5 and 6, when the Fingers Theater of Georgia puts on its Extravagansa show. As the name suggests, the Georgian theater company “actors” are fingers which perform spectacular dance pieces, normally clothed in flashy costumes.
The theater’s repertoire incorporates a range of dance styles, from Georgian to Irish, hip hop to can-can – and even Michael Jackson-style choreography. Extravagansa is a combination of theater, dance and visual art designed to cover a wide emotional spectrum, from sorrow to joy, and from compassion to irony.
Meanwhile, down the road toward Jerusalem, at Heichal Hatarbut in Modi’in, there are some dance high jinks – not to mention high kicks – to be enjoyed at the Nuevo Tango show, courtesy of the Tangokinesis company of Argentina.
Tangokinesis creates cross-genre artistic dynamics through the use of traditional tango and modern dance, whereby the female dancers come from a classical ballet background while the men are tango dancers.
Nuevo Tango is choreographed by Ana Maria Stekelman and comprises four works that offer visual comedy, acrobatics and the ever-present underlying sensuality of tango. The show takes place in Modi’in on May 29, at 9 p.m.
Northern jazz fans can take advantage of the Andrzej Jagodzinski Trio’s trip to Haifa, where the Polish band will perform at the Krieger Center for the Performing Arts, on June 1 at 9 p.m. Chopin works are not only a popular repertoire for classical pianists; they have also provided the artistic bedrock for increasing numbers of Polish jazz acts in the last 20 or so years. Pianist Jagodzinski and his cohorts, bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Czeslaw “Maly” Bartkowski, will perform four numbers written by Jagodzinski, inspired by Chopin creations.
More eclectic musical fare will be available at Modi’in’s Heichal Hatarbut on May 26 at 8:30 p.m., when the world-renowned Grammy Award-winner the King’s Singers a cappella sextet performs a diverse program of songs ranging from material by 16th-century Franco-Flemish composer Orlandis Lassus, to the late-19th-century song by English composer Edward Elgar “O Happy Eyes,” closing with a titillating nine-minute piece by contemporary English composer Paul Drayton bearing the not inappropriate title of Masterpiece.
There is more English repertoire at the Rappaport Hall in Haifa on May 26 at 8:30 p.m., and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on May 27 (8:30 p.m.) when an Israeli-British lineup of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, the New Vocal Ensemble and the Taverner Consort Soloists of London team up to perform Henry Purcell’s King Arthur. The concert marks the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth, and Andrew Parrott will direct proceedings from the conductor’s dais.
Possibly the most intriguing Israel Festival slot taking place outside Jerusalem (at Holon Mediatheque on May 26, 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.), as well as at the Jerusalem Theater (June 9, 7 p.m.), is a multimedia performance of Prokofiev’s ever-popular Peter and the Wolf by the Israeli Revolution Orchestra from Rishon Lezion.
The show is divided into two parts. The first half features the 30-piece orchestra playing the Prokofiev work, with the alternative Oscar Award-winning British animation film of the story screened as a backdrop.
In the second half the ensemble plays a piece written by Rafi Kadishzon, with narration by Ephraim Sidon – and added, surprising, entertainment value and food for thought offered by actor Natan Datner, who plays a lawyer defending the wolf. Without letting the cat, or the duck, out of the bag, a word of caution to carnivores may be in order here.
Besides the artistic composition, there is philosophy behind the show too.
“When they say ‘a show for the whole family,’ they normally mean it’s something for little kids up to the age of seven who drag their parents along with them,” observes conductor Ro’i Oppenheim. “Peter and the Wolf is for children from the age of seven.”
Oppenheim says he wants to appeal to as broad an audience base as possible, without commercializing the “product.”
“There are, for example, 40,000 students at the Hebrew University, and very few of them go to classical concerts on campus, even if they are free. We have to change the image of the orchestra,” he says.
That, Oppenheim continues, entails using quality material in a thought-provoking setting. “The Revolution Orchestra is first and foremost a creative ensemble. There are plenty of excellent orchestras in Israel so there was no need to aim to add another. We commission work from contemporary Israeli composers. It is very important to promote that side of the arts here.”
Over the years, the orchestra has performed pieces by various young Israeli composers, and integrated work by a developing generation of animators from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.
“A work should provide the audience with an experience, and the music should become an integral part of the Israeli environment,” Oppenheim declares, adding that this approach informs the orchestra’s work ethic.
“In a way we operate like a rock group, and almost always work with our own material. We also want to convey the idea that animation is not only for kids, and classical music is not only for adults. I grew up on Peter and the Wolf, as well as Shalom Hanoch and The Beatles, but today I don’t want to hear a child-oriented version.
Still, that approach does present its own logistical challenges.
“These productions are complicated and expensive, so we can’t go on tour with them. This Peter and the Wolf production, for example, couldn’t have happened without the support of the Holon Mediatheque. But I think the end result is well worth the effort.”