The Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, which has experienced success in Israel in the past, returns for a concert tour throughout the country. The program includes a fully staged production of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci as well as a gala evening of opera, featuring solos and duets by Georgian composers including Zakaria Paliashvili, Otar Taktakishvili and Revaz Lagidze. Between the soloists, choir and orchestra, the musical force stands very strong at about 100 artists. These days it seems that Georgian musicians, opera singers in particular, are known throughout the world, appearing on the best stages in Europe and America. This could well be explained for the rich tradition of musicality and artistry that exists amongst the Georgians. At least this is the impression one receives in Georgia, where you hear people singing everywhere, in parks, the countryside and even the streets, not to mention weddings, parties, celebrations - just about every festive occasion. The first Western opera companies reached Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, by the middle of the 19th century. Additionally, as a result of its close proximity with conservatories in St. Petersburg and Moscow, the local music scene flourished. "Georgian opera is deeply rooted in our national folklore tradition," says Zaza Azmaiparashvili, the artistic director and principal conductor of the theatre. He adds, speaking by phone from his Tbilisi home, "Listening to Georgian opera is like taking a journey through our polyphonic folk music." The conductor explains that as a result of the mountainous character of Georgia, the folk music styles of different areas vary from one region to the next. "The Eastern Georgia polyphonic choirs are more serene in their character and feature one basso voice and two soloists singing the top two parts, for a while in Western Georgian choirs, every voice had its independent line." While traditional choirs trace their history centuries back, the urban musical influence of the 20th century has imposed its own characteristics of sentimental, lovelorn lyrics, often accompanied by the clarinet, guitar and other instruments. The gala evening is set to take place this evening, Friday, at the North Theatre at Kiryat Haim, Saturday night at the Performing Arts Center in Herzliya and, again on Sunday night, at Jerusalem Theatre with all nights scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. The following night, Monday, the event will begin at 8:30 p.m. at Rishon Lezion's Heichal HaTarbut, where the only performance of Pagliacci, a verismo style drama that tells the story of a woman who abandons her old, clown of a husband for a younger lover who is then killed by the disgruntled ex, will be performed.