This year in Jerusalem

From dance, to theater to music, the 2010 Israel Festival has a lot on offer for the entire family.

tangokinesis 311 (photo credit: Diana Frey)
tangokinesis 311
(photo credit: Diana Frey)
To paraphrase Sir Thomas Morley, “Now is the month of Maying when the Festival is aplaying! Fa la la la la!” It’s the Israel Festival, of course, which runs May 25 to June 10, mostly in Jerusalem but also in Holon, Modi’in, Dimona and Haifa.
These are the shows that everybody loves and this year there’s tango from Argentina, a return visit from the Family Flöz, the Fingers Theater from Georgia, Schumann and Chopin marathons, Yehuda Poliker and a centennial tribute to poet Natan Alterman and composer Moshe Wilensky.
The four couples comprising Tangokinesis combine traditional tango with contemporary dance. Staged and choreographed by founding artistic director Ana Maria Stekelman, the show has four numbers including “4 Piazzollas,” with music by tango-great Astor Piazzolla.
The Berlin-based Family Flöz first came in 2007. This time they’re bringing Hotel Paradiso, and never a word is spoken in this daffy-chilly comedy thriller about bodies and other oddities in an Alpine resort hotel.
Make sure you get tickets up close for the Fingers Theater from Georgia,
whose Extravagansa is an exuberant display of international folk-dance, hip-hop, cabaret and fashion. Why close? Because all you’ll see of the actors is their beautifully costumed fingers.
Festival music advisor/composer/pianist Gil Shohat plays in and presents a five-hour bicentennial Schumann (1810-56) marathon. And the ever-popular weekend concerts at Ein Kerem this year feature the piano music of Frederic Chopin, also born in 1810. In this context, the Israel Symphony Orchestra – IBA, conducted by Nir Kabaretti, plays an all-Chopin program featuring Rubinstein Prize-winning pianists.
As for Poliker, Alterman and Willensky – Israeli icons all.
Two internationally renowned artists return to the festival.
Born in England to Bangladeshi parents, choreographer/dancer Akram Khan (Isfest 2001) leapt to prominence in the 1990s through his choreographies that combined the Kathak (Indian dance) traditions with modern dance. Khan returns with Gnosis, a solo performed to live music, and drawn in part from India’s great Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata.
Bill T. Jones came in 1994. The Bill T. Jones Company returns with Serenade/The Proposition, an examination of history through the life, words and work of Abraham Lincoln. Jones’s dance is characterized by a visual elegance and a breath-stopping movement language.
Shen Wei Dance Arts debuts with Re, a three-part work drawn from Shen’s travels through Tibet, Cambodia and along the ancient Silk Road to China. A multi-disciplinary creator, the Chinese-born Shen has lived in New York since 1995. Re premiered to acclaim at the American Dance Festival last year. Our own Vertigo presents Trilogy, which includes the pieces Birth of the PhoenixWhite Noise and Manna.
Who’s afraid of Shakespeare? Nobody? Good. Within the festival there’s a mini-one for the Bard. The biggies? Cutting-edge productions of Macbeth in Georgian from the Vaso Abashidze State Theater in Tblisi; and from the OKT-Vilnius City Theater comes A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lithuanian, with three Titanias! Hebrew subtitles only, so reread the plays before you come.
From Jerusalem’s Ma’abada comes That Bitch Can Be a Part of Me, a very, very free adaptation of Romeo and Juliet by German playwright Nuran David Calis, with more than a nod to Gangsta-rap. Shannon Kisch’s Shakespearusalem group and Bet Zvi drama-school students both offer their versions of Willie’s works.
There are also non-Shakespeare offerings from brand-new professional theater groups in Kiryat Shmona and Dimona, Kokotzu, from the ever-inventive Zik Group, and, from the London-based physical theater company, Gecko, a version of Gogol’s The Overcoat.
To begin with, opera fans can thrill to a concert performance by the Israel Opera of Verdi’s La Traviata with exciting young US tenor Scott Piper as Alfredo. Early music fans are also in for treats with Theatre of Voices (UK) and NYYD Quartet (Denmark) alternating medieval church music with works by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935); Le Poeme Harmonique, a vocal/instrumental ensemble from France that sings works by Monteverdi (1567-1643) and the lesser known Francesco Manelli (1594-1667); the marvelous a capella King’s Singers from the UK, six male voices singing songs from the 15th to the 20th centuries; and with the UK’s Taverner Singers together with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra and the New Vocal Ensemble in Purcell’s King Arthur, conducted by Andrew Parrott.
Other classical music includes the Germany-Iceland Ensemble Adaptar playing music by Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), a German-Jewish composer who killed himself on the French-Spanish border rather than be captured by the Nazis, and Itzhak Perlman conducting the festival’s closing concert.
For one there’s Lottie and Lisa from the Holon Mediatheque, and for the other, there’s Orna’s Magic, a play by Hagit Rechavi-Nikolayevsky about a little girl called Orna who saves a theater. It’s a tribute from the Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth to the lady for whom the theater was named – Orna Porat, whose vision founded the theater in 1970, who graced our stages for some 50 years, who won the Israel Prize for her contribution to Israeli theater, and who this year is the Israel Festival’s Honored Personage. A deserved tribute to a great Lady.
As the country’s premier cultural event one would expect the entertainment fare to be first class in all areas of the Israel Festival program. In fact the festival’s jazz acts are something of a mixed bag, ranging from acclaimed titans from the US, to a Polish classical-based jazz act to a jazzesque offering from a teenaged Israeli pianist which incorporates mixed-media and some pop content.
The undoubted heavyweight of this year’s jazz category is 72-year-old saxophonist/flutist Charles Lloyd, who last appeared on these shores at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in 2004. Memphis, Tennessee-born Lloyd has had a long and illustrious – albeit truncated – career and has mixed it with some of the greats of the blues and jazz pantheon, including BB King, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. It was with Jarrett, among others, that Lloyd recorded the smash hit jazz record Forest Flower at the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival. Several years later Lloyd significantly pared down his musical activity, returning with gusto in the late ’80s. Over the last two decades Lloyd has produced a string of acclaimed CDs with German label ECM, several of which included drummer Eric Harland, who will be in Lloyd’s quartet at the Israel Festival. The two will be joined by pianist Jason Moran and bassist Reuben Rogers.
The other – more mainstream – jazz heavyweight is 58-year-old saxophonist Joe Lovano, who will grace the festival stage with a quintet that includes pianist James Weidman, drummer Otis Brown, Cuban percussionist Francisco Mela and acclaimed young bass player Esperanza Spalding, who appeared in Eilat a couple of years ago. Lovano has made a name for himself as one of the foremost contemporary exponents of bebop, but the forthcoming concert will be based on Lovano’s 2007 album Folk Art, which spreads the artistic tapestry into freer and occasionally more ethnic areas.
Polish jazz musicians, it seems, have something of a fixation with Chopin compositions, and pianist Andrzej Jagodzinski is no exception. Jagodzinski will perform at the Israel Festival in a trio setting, with a program entitled “Sonata B Flat Minor.” The other members of the band – bassist Adam Cegielski and drummer Czeslaw Maly Bartkowski – have been with Jagodzinski since 1993, and they have recorded three Chopin-based albums together.
Considering he appeared in the Israel Festival only three years ago,and his naturally brief track record to date, the return of 15-year-oldpianist/composer/singer Tomer Bar and his quartet is somewhatsurprising. Bar will beef up his jazzy endeavor with pop artist DanielSalomon, with whom Bar appeared at last year’s Tel Aviv Jazz Festival,and veteran pop singer Mika Karni. The Bar slot will also be augmentedby visuals provided by the Beit Habatim Collective.
There will also be some jazzy elements in the Kibbutz ChamberOrchestra’s concert, under the direction of conductor Yaron Gottfried.The orchestra will host the Rimon School vocal jazz ensemble in arepertoire featuring George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Porgyand Bess” and Warlock’s “Capriol Jazz Suite.”
The ticket prices range from NIS 60 to NIS 240, and as usual,there are lots of “deals” and loads of free stuff. Fa la la la la. Formore information, visit