The sound of magic

Nitza Shaul introduces children to the world’s most famous composers when they were small.

Magical Sounds 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Yossi Zwecker)
Magical Sounds 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Yossi Zwecker)
Now in its 15th year, “Magical Sounds” is gearing up for another season of entrancing storytelling and mesmerizing music making, with its shows dramatizing the childhoods of the greatest composers of all time. The season opens with the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Tuesday at the Israeli Opera-Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
A string quartet, pianist, singer and dancers bring Mozart to life with stories of the young prodigy playing the piano blindfolded, composing his first work at the age of five and performing before the emperor and empress at seven.
After Little Mozart’s Grand Show runs for 11 performances in the North, South and Center, “Magical Sounds” will travel to 19th-century Italy, presenting Gioachino Rossini in Opera in Tomato Sauce, jump forward to 20th-century Russia with Aram Khachaturian in Saber Dance in a Masked Ball, hop over to Vienna with Franz Shubert in The Trout that Swims and Sings and close with Gypsy Celebration, a tour of Gypsy music, in July.
Nitza Shaul, the show’s creator, writer and narrator, and a veteran actress in both Israel and Britain, prides “Magical Sounds” on its musical diversity, but says what viewers, young and old, really connect to are the stories about the early lives of the great composers, whatever century and country they come from. Seven books have come out of these shows, she says.
“Everyone has a family, everyone has a house, a school,” says Shaul, who is married to Doron Salomon, the distinguished conductor. These are the stories children relate to easily.
And the bright costumes, interactive storytelling and excellent music with such artists as Janna Gandelman, concertmaster of the Jerusalem Symphony, make the shows enjoyable for young ones, parents and grandparents alike (the age range, she says, is roughly four to 99).
In a show last year on the childhood of French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saens, Shaul stood before the audience in a flowing black gown.
“I want to tell you about Camille Saint-Saens, the boy,” she says, eyes lighting up and broad smile shining across her face. “What did he love, where did he grow up, what did he listen to, and also just a drop about him as an adult.”
Her own children were the inspiration for these shows, says Shaul, the mother of two daughters, Etan, a 27- year-old singer-songwriter, and Gal, a 22-year-old actress.
“I was trying to see what would be the trigger, something they would feel naturally, not in an artificial way, not in a forced way, not in a history lesson; just to tell them a story about another boy who was very special.”
AFTER HAVING worked in television on Music Fun for Channel 2, animation shows that featured short musical compositions and produced videos for children, Shaul decided she didn’t want her girls sitting in front of the TV to experience music.
She began telling Etan and Gal stories of well known composers.
Shaul found her daughters especially loved hearing about their childhoods, the time periods in which they lived and enjoying the different musical styles. But her intention in “Magical Sounds” has never been to teach children about music, rather to present young listeners with a top quality show that gives them a taste of a composer’s work and a visual feast they can share with their family.
“Children deserve the best. They’re not second-class citizens,” Shaul says. “It should be really the best.
They detect it immediately.”
At first, people told her that children would never have the attention span or the ability to listen to classical music. But wrong they were, as hundreds of eager youngsters return year after year for more music and stories.
“I was quite amazed when I saw children listening to Baroque,” Shaul admits.
Over the years, she has noticed changes in those veteran viewers.
“Children who start with Mozart listen in a different way to Cuban music because you get some tools,” she says, of the Cuban shows last season.
She sees how the music has helped the children grow, how it “rests within you in your soul.”
“When I think of the stuff that they’re hearing, the music in their little heads and hearts, it’s quite amazing.”
Shaul, who starred in Israeli films in the 1970s and early ‘80s, but moved to London where she studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and then starred in such British series as Doctor Who (1984), C.A.T.S. Eyes (1985), and the film Until September (1984), later returned to Israel where she has appeared in television series Florentine (1997) and Ramat Aviv Gimel (1995), among others.
With an illustrious career behind and before her, Shaul still relishes each and every performance of “Magical Sounds,” from the smiles to the tears which says reach her audience members’ eyes.
“I’m telling you, every season is such a thrill. I don’t take it for granted,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing those little faces lighting up.”
To order tickets, call 03-6927777 or visit