It was 20 years ago today

The 20th season of the Raanana Symphonette opens with appearances by some of the world’s best in classical music

Omer Welber311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Omer Welber311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Raanana Symphonette Orchestra (RSO), it could be said, is something of a misnomer. While based in, yes, Raanana, most of the 42 members of the ensemble hail from the former USSR, and the orchestra spends much of its time on the road.
“We do about 400 concerts and workshops a year,” states orchestra founder and director general Orit Fogel. “There’s almost nowhere we don’t go to perform and to educate the public.”
Almost 20 years on since she thought up the idea of the ensemble, Fogel has a proud track record to show for her efforts, on numerous fronts.
“I was working with the Ministry of Absorption at the time and I saw all these musicians coming here from the former Soviet Union. I realized that offering them an opportunity to work in their profession was the best way of facilitating their absorption into Israeli society. They may not have known too much Hebrew when they arrived but music is a universal language. As long as they could play their instrument they would feel at home.”
Fogel says the orchestra and its members have come a long way in the intervening two decades. “The same members of the ensemble who landed here with a bag in one hand and a violin in the other, today feel more Israeli and patriotic than most people who were born here. They have raised families here, their children have served in the army and they really have become Israelis in every sense.”
The same players, as the orchestra begins its 20th season, continue to provide a valuable service in furthering the creative efforts of local composers. “We have commissioned and performed in excess of 50 new works by Israeli composers,” says Fogel. “That’s part of our agenda – to advance young Israeli musicians.”
With that in mind it comes as no surprise to note that the RSO’s musical director, Omer Welber, is also on the young side. The 28- year-old conductor was just a child when Fogel got the RSO up and running but says he owes his entire to career to the ensemble.
Now an international name, with positions at Milan’s celebrated La Scala opera house and more recently at the opera house in Valencia, Spain in his burgeoning resume, Welber says that the RSO is now a staple feature of the Israeli cultural makeup. “I am proud to be the musical leader of the RSO, and to also help position it in the international arena.”
Two decades on the RSO shows no signs of slowing down. The new season is jam-packed with goodies from an eclectic range of musical areas. There is an intriguing synergy with the Haifa Theater, with a production of the Tom Stoppard- Andre Previn play Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour, written by Stoppard and first performed in 1977.
Interestingly the story takes place in Soviet Russia and the orchestra plays a major role in the performance, not just as a supplier of commensurate musical support.
Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour will be performed in September at the Haifa Theater and at the Opera House in Tel Aviv.
Elsewhere in the upcoming season there is a program devoted entirely to different takes on the story of Romeo and Juliet, including a Chinese version called The Butterfly Lovers. There will also be an impressive procession of guest conductors, including Asher Fish, Carlo Goldstein, Noam Sheriff – the latter making his RSO debut – and Salvador Brotons. The season program also features some stellar soloists, including pianists Roberto Prosseda and Murad Adigezalzade, and an intriguing work by Gil Shohat called Sheva Brachot, which features a female cantor as soloist.
With Persian music and jazz also lined up for the coming season, whatever your musical tastes, the RSO should be able to keep you suitably entertained in the months ahead.
For more information about the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra, go to: pEng