Premieres a high point at Jaffa's Int'l Opera Workshop

Making its world premiere is Janice Hamer and Mary Azrael's Lost Childhood (July 29), based on the autobiography by Dr. Yehuda Nir.

Nearly 100 aspiring opera singers from Israel and around the world will be giving their vocal cords a full workout in the coming weeks during the annual International Opera Workshop, which kicks off Monday and runs through August 4 at the Jaffa Music Center. As usual, the event- and studies-packed four weeks will feature master classes open to the public, as well concerts, recitals, staged operas and the kind of individual coaching in voice, language, acting and interpretation that most can only dream about. All this will be taking place under the leadership of Joan Dornemann, the head vocal coach at New York City's Metropolitan Opera and the woman who instituted the workshop 21 years ago. Despite its decades-long history, this year's IOW is also a little different, featuring one opera's world premiere alongside the Israeli debut of another, as well as master classes with a world-renowned baritone and two extraordinary young singers who have, uncharacteristically for the workshop, been singled out from the rest of the students. The twosome includes Chinese bass-baritone Shen Yang, the 23-year-old winnner of the BBC's Cardiff Singer of the World contest earlier this year. A graduate of Dornemann's IOW in Shanghai, he'll be joined at the workshop by the young Mexican tenor David Lomeli, the winner of Placido Domingo's Operalia contest last year. It's a safe bet that they'll both attend master classes given July 12 and 16 by Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard, who catapulted to fame as Papageno in Ingmar Bergman's 1975 film adaptation of The Magic Flute, and who retired from the stage only last year. Making its world premiere is Janice Hamer and Mary Azrael's Lost Childhood (July 29), based on the autobiography by Dr. Yehuda Nir. The production, which gradually reveals Nir's childhood memories of the fight for survival in Nazi Poland, also deals with his post-war conversations with Richard Wagner's great-grandson, Gottfried, through the characters of two psychiatrists who meet at a conference. The Israeli debut is The Dwarf by Jewish composer Alexander Zemlinsky, a tragic one-acter based on Oscar Wilde's The Birthday of the Infanta. Elsewhere on the workshop schedule, Dornemann will give master classes July 9, 11, 17 and 19, as will singer Mignonne Dunn (July 15) and director John Norris (July 20). Other operas to take the stage include The Barber of Seville, La Boheme and The Marriage of Figaro. Tickets, which range between NIS 45 and 90, go fast - just as they should.