'I fell in love with Hungarians, they are very much like us Israelis - open, with short fuses, but very warm and natural' - producer Yehonatan Carmi This October, the Budapest State Operetta Theater will arrive in Israel with a gala evening at the Israel Opera house. The large scale show will bring with it 80 participants - singer and dancers - adorned in colorful costumes and surrounded by spectacular sets and fragments from the best operettas of all time including The Bat, The Merry Widow, The Land of Smiles and Countess Maritsa. With all due respect to occasional efforts to revive operetta in Israel, nothing of this magnitude has ever been seen on our shores. This is operetta at its best - sweeping melodies, captivating waltzes, polkas, cancans and touching, simplistic story-lines. The ensemble features top national stars. Some, like Marika Ozswald, are living legends of the Hungarian stage, while others are very young, like 21-year-old David Szabo. At a press conference that took place after one of the ensemble's shows in Germany, Szabo, who started acting in his early childhood and is a graduate of the Operetta Theater's studio, said that at first he simply could not believe he would be performing opposite Ozswald. "She already was the number one star when I was a child," he explained. "Now we plan our repertoire together." Oszwald responded, saying, "In my advanced age I need young men to feel young again." It's difficult to believe she doesn't already feel young given the somersaults she performs on stage. Some of the soloists in the show combine opera and operetta careers, like Monika Fischl, who has such top opera roles as The Queen of the Night to her credit. Fischl says that singing in the two genres helps her to develop different ranges of her vocal instrument. Her dreams reflect the difference between the genres she equally loves: "I want to sing the role of Christina in The Phantom of the Opera and also to die on stage in some tragic operatic role - in operetta, with its inevitable happy ending, you simply have no chance for it!" THE MAN responsible for bringing the Budapest State Operetta to Israel is the successful Munich-based Israeli producer Yehonatan Carmi. Before finding his calling, he tried numerous professions, from photojournalist to waiter, restaurant manager to flight steward. By chance, he landed a job as a sound technician for a huge German show in Spain 18 years ago and has been working for the same company ever since. "I started as a shoe shine boy and now I am the CEO and co-owner of the Entertainment Value, a company that produces shows and presents artists throughout the world," says Carmi, adding that despite all his success he still feels like "a boy from Ashdod, who escaped from school after the ninth grade because I believed they taught us useless things, while I yearned to enter the university of life." Carmi was invited to pick up the operetta gala production two years ago when its previous producer got seriously sick and could not manage it properly. "People predicted a financial disaster at first, but I saw an excellent product that simply needed to be marketed in the right way. I fell in love with Hungarians. They are very much like us Israelis - open, with short fuses, but very warm and natural." Today, the operetta tours the world successfully, presenting fragments from operettas in Europe, the US, Canada, Asia and the Far East. "When I took [artistic director of the Budapest Operetta] MiklÃ³s-GÃ¡bor KerÃ©nyi back to the airport after our first successful show in Munich, I asked him if he wanted to bring his theater to Israel. Kerenyi, who is a son of Holocaust survivors, had never been to Israel and he was thrilled by the possibility. At the time, I had no idea how to bring this plan to fruition, but I promised him that it would happen one day." Being rather skeptical regarding Israeli bureaucracy at the beginning ("People say tomorrow and it means two months from now"), today Carmi has nothing but praise for his counterpart, the Israel Opera, which is providing its facilities and services to the Budapest Operetta. "I was happy to find understanding among the opera house administration and a highly professional and dedicated team." With a smile, he adds, "Look, I am a bon vivant both by nature and by profession. My motto is to enjoy life and bring joy to other people. Sometimes after the show I stand at the exit of the hall and look at people's smiling faces - believe me, this is what it's all about. Now, I want it to see it happen in Israel." The Israeli Chamber Orchestra under Hungarian maestro Istvan Sillo will participate in the concert. For more details visit www.galaoperetta.co.il. For reservations call (03) 604-5000 or go to www.TKTS.co.il.