Reality Opera

David Sebba’s new parody ‘Divas’ goes behind the scenes of the costumes and the conflict.

David Sebba (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
David Sebba
(photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
"Today, in the age of reality shows, I have decided to create a reality show of our own, that of the opera world,” says multi-talented artist David Sebba, who will present his new show Divas at the Upper Galilee Voice of Music Festival.
“The audience is very familiar with the glistening aspect of the opera world, the one they see on stage. But that world is very artificial. Just think of a noble count who, after being lethally stabbed with a huge dagger by a villain, starts singing instead of dying and doesn’t stop. But there is another side to opera – the one behind the stage, with solfege lessons, a double cast, colleagues who behave not so collegially on stage, opera critics and what not. And there is also the pressure of daily life, when a singer comes from her home and kids and has to immediately forget her family problems and become someone else. So we are going to present to the public both facets of the opera world,” he says.
Quite often, such parodies are created and performed by the artists, which have never found their place in the opera world. But this is not the case, stresses Sebba. The titular divas are two Israeli singers with successful local and international careers – Keren Hadar and Hila Baggio.
“They will sing arias from popular operas,” says Sebba, who also participates in the show as piano accompanist, singer and actor. “The show is staged by Shirit Lee Weiss,” he says, “a very successful director of the younger generation.” Sebba takes on several roles in the show, one of which is the music critic.
“This critic is seen through the eyes of a singer who comes on stage, and the first person she notices in the concert hall is the music critic. She sings her musical phrase, and she sees that he immediately writes his own phrase, and that is how it goes on,” he says.
Sebba is a very serious musician. He is a conductor who has led all the Israeli orchestras, as well as orchestras abroad; he is a singer, a pianist, he teaches at the Jerusalem Music Academy, he has translated several opera librettos into Hebrew and heads the Young Artists Program at the Israeli Opera.
That said, when you look at him, you somehow know that if he is not smiling, his face can brighten up in a moment. He thinks he has come to the world of musical parody because he takes his life’s work as a musician so seriously.
“There is a lot of wisdom in humor,” he says, “and quite often this world is so artificial, so false, that you have a strong urge to make fun of it.”
Sebba is also a composer. His new piece, which is part of the Divas show, is about an overbearing voice teacher who doesn’t give her students a chance to open their mouths and sing.
When asked how he has managed to be successful in several fields, Sebba says that at first he was rather frightened by the scope of his musical interests.
“Some people told me, ‘It can’t continue like this; you have to make your choice and concentrate on something specific.’ But I think that is wrong. Nowadays, we live in an interdisciplinary world. The borders between the arts and specializations are very unclear. And I always say, don’t try to fit yourself into an existing framework but create a framework that suits you.”
Divas will be performed on July 31 at 9 p.m. at the Upper Galilee Voice of Music Festival. For more information and reservations, call (04) 681-6640.