Summer opera program brings big names to Tel Aviv

Famed singer and teacher Mignon Dunn says she feels as at home here as in New York.

Mignon Dunn 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Besor)
Mignon Dunn 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Besor)
The 23rd International Opera Summer Program is taking place in Tel Aviv between July 6 and August 1, with dozens of promising young singers from Israel and abroad coming to hone their art under the guidance of some of the best teachers around. The faculty is headed by Joann Dornemann, assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and founder of the workshop (as well as of the International Vocal Arts Institute), and includes artists, teachers, coaches, directors, conductors and managers from every major international opera house. Among them are such names as mezzo soprano Mignon Dunn and baritone Hakan Hagegard, as well as top vocal coach Lucy Arner, conductor Paul Nadler (both from the Metropolitan) and stage director Ned Canty of the Boston Lyric Opera and Washington National Opera. Most of the course activities are open to the public. The program features 10 master classes, six concerts and seven opera productions: Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Verdi's La traviata, Puccini's La Rondine, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande in Peter Brook's directorial version, and Fatal Song by librettist Kathleen Cahill, in which characters from 11 of the world's most popular operas meet in a comedy about their impending death. Dunn, who has been teaching in the program for many years, confides that she feels as at home in Tel Aviv as in New York. "I sang with the Israeli Opera founded by Edis de Philippe, appearing together with Placido Domingo, and later performed with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta," says Dunn in a phone interview from New York, adding that she has many good friends in Tel Aviv and is coming to Israel a day early "to sniff around on my own before we start working." Dunn, who has enjoyed international fame as opera singer, soloist and recitalist, says she has never seen herself as a great opera star, but as "a working singer. Granted, performing a premier is exciting, but I think that the big plus of making big parts in major opera houses is rehearsing on stage with an orchestra, working with excellent conductors, important directors, fine musicians." Regarding the summer course, Dunn, who started teaching voice in her days as a singer in the Metropolitan Opera, says that she tries "to help the students with technical problems which they may have." "I help them with the language, since I speak German, Italian and some French, and interpretation of the part," she explains. "There are certain things that a singer must know about breathing; most people have no idea of how much work and practicing it demands - we don't work only in the evening, but day after day after day." She continues, "I always say to the young people who are just entering the profession: Don't get depressed when you make a mistake, try to correct it when you perform it next time - and a wonderful thing about this course in Tel Aviv is that you have a lot of opportunities to perform. You can sing and fix your mistake and then sing again and fix something else. It's very intensive and very exciting." And, she says, "it's no less exciting for me as a teacher - to see that [a student] has improved is a great reward." he workshop takes place at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Music Center, Rehov Shearit Israel 10. The gala concert of the course participants and Israeli Chamber Orchestra under Paul Nadler will take place August 2 at TAPAC. For reservations, call (03) 521-5200 or go to