Concert Review: Peter and the Wolf, Verdi: La Traviata

Peter and the Wolf was good-humored amusement, approaching the festival’s end with a smile.

Peter and the Wolf 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Peter and the Wolf 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Festival
Peter and the Wolf:
The True Story
The Revolution Orchestra
Jerusalem Theater
June 9
The Happy End of the Israel Festival’s classical music events was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, performed by the Israeli Revolution Orchestra, conducted by Roy Oppenheim.
It was a play of interchanged identities. First, Prokofiev’s well-known classic version was presented authentically, with a hilarious animation film to illustrate the story. The orchestra was synchronized with the film to perfection.
Then the story was retold upside down. Peter became the bad boy, and the Wolf appeared as a friendly, playful animal, harmless and wishing to be on good terms with everybody. The witty music, in convincing Prokofievian style, was composed by Rafi Kadishson. The energetic, excellently trained orchestra not only played, but also sang, yelled and acted, and that’s what was revolutionary about it. The chicken-devouring children in the audience were admonished not to blame the wolf for swallowing a duck.
Meticulously polished as the performance was, it did not take itself too seriously. It was good-humored amusement, approaching the festival’s end with a smile.

The Israel Festival
Verdi: La Traviata
Sultan’s Pool
June 7
For presenting La Traviata, in a costumed concert performance at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool, the Israeli Opera, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conductor Yishai Steckler and the Israel Festival did their best under far-from-ideal conditions.
The audience, far from the stage, was assisted by amplification andenlarged screen projections. If it was intended to have the audienceaccept this performance as a miniature consolation prize for those whomissed the Israeli Opera’s mega-event of Nabucco at Masada, it was amodest success. The Old City walls were a fair compensation for themountain, and Traviata was even more popular than Nabucco, though itsubstitutes social sentimentality for patriotic sentiments.
In the absence of staging, the singers’ amateurish attempts at acting supplied some unintentional comicality of its own.
As Violetta, supposed to be gentle, loving and pneumonic, MirelaGradinaru’s soprano was so assertive, strained, shrill and unsteady onthe high notes that it was difficult to understand Alfredo’s love forit. Scott Piper’s radiant lyric tenor as Alfredo was intense, rich insubtle nuances of dynamics and expression, and represented a crediblelover.
Steckler proved to be a competent opera conductor. He held thefor-him-unfamiliar Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra firmly in his grip, andinspired it to dramatic and finely coordinated expression.