The best of the fest

The Israel Festival celebrates its 50th birthday with 12 local premieres.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Festival always finds a reason to celebrate, and that’s its joy. It’s our window on the world of the performing arts that opens not only to great performers and performances from abroad but also frames some of the best we’re creating ourselves.
This year the festival celebrates not only its 50th birthday but also the centennial of Teddy Kollek’s birth, the return of a great diva and a dance legend, and no less than 12 Israeli premieres.
It takes place between May 23 and June 18 mostly in and around the Jerusalem Theater complex, but also in Holon, Dimona and other places around the country.
Let’s begin at home, noting that Ohad Naharin, whose amazing Anaphase exploded on stage at the 1992 Israel Festival, returns for this one with his Batsheva Dance Company and Fields – a temporary title.
The avant-garde visual theater Clipa is another festifavorite and brings Mitzpe (Observation Point) to the 50th, together with more premieres from a group of cutting-edge Israeli artists, such as Ruth Kanner. Her piece is called Flight of the Pigeon.
The Kollek centennial will be a huge musical concert at Sacher Park, and composer pianist Gil Shohat presides over a tribute to Gustav Mahler at Ein Kerem.
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The diva is legendary soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, whose concert June 4 at Binyenei Ha’uma is one of the festival’s hottest tickets, while modern dance fans will rush to see Merce Cunningham’s company in Split Sides, Soundance and Events because the company disbands forever on December 31.
Cunningham, still dancing at the time, came to the festival in 1991. He was then 72. He died in 2009.
Other good bets Choreographer Tim Rushton has been artistic director of the Danish Dance Theater since 1991. DDT brings two of his programs, the world premiere of Love Songs that features singer Caroline Henderson and a jazz trio, and a repertoire evening – Kridt (chalk), Cadance and Enigma.
Chile is sending Teatro-Cinema de Chile, a groundbreaking visual theater company that combines live action and film. It’s bringing Sin Sangre (Without Blood), a story of love, murder and revenge. There’s a kiddie show too, The Man Who Fed Butterflies, for the over-10s.
And if theater, then two great classics: Hamlet – two and a half nonstop breathless hours from Berlin’s Schaubühne, and Uncle Vanya from Moscow’s Vakhtangov Theater starring Russian movie idol Sergei Makovetsky in the title role. We’re told there may be English as well as Hebrew surtitles.
In classical music, the Florilegium early music consort enchanted audiences in 2004. This year they’re back playing music by Bach, Vivaldi, Pergolesi and Purcell. The Baroque is represented by Finnish harpsichord virtuoso Aapo Häkkinen and his Helsinki Baroque – Bach’s in this program too.
Finally, East meets West in Out of Egypt – From Slavery to Freedom in a musical encounter between Handel’s oratorio and two pieces by oudist Yair Dallal.
Free events have yet to be decided.
The website will carry details closer to the time.