The Israeli Opera Ponchielli: La Gioconda The Opera House May 15 Ponchielli's opera La Gioconda, despite its nonsensical plot, paints a heavily romanticized picture of the superstitions, intrigues, mob incitement, class conflicts and passions of 17th century Venetian society. What rescued the silly plot in the Israeli Opera's production, not conducted by Asher Fisch as advertised, but by Omer Wellber, were Jean Louis Grinda, Eric Chevalier and Nicolas de Lajatre's tasteful direction and sets, and the many excellent singers. The minimalist direction and sets conveyed something of the Venetian ambience. Crowd scenes were lively and colorfully choreographed. The "Dance of the Hours" was graceful and elegant. Too many outstretched arms contributed a too-conventional touch to the acting of too many singers. Still, most of the singers were thoroughly enjoyable. The title role was played by Michele Crider, with her radiant, pure soprano and intense expression. Her final scene, movingly dramatic without slipping into melodrama, was one of the performance's highlights. Laura Brioli's rich, sonorous mezzo-soprano impersonated a genuinely emotional Laura Adorno. In their rivals' duo, the two singers matched each other perfectly. Enzo was an irresistibly impassioned lover as rendered by Hugh Smith's forceful lyric tenor. Outstanding was Paata Burchuladze's powerful basso profundo in the role of an appropriately frightening Alvise. In this production, the singers were tailor-made for their roles. The Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion sounded well rehearsed under Wellber.