From Tokyo to the Tower of David

This year’s Israel Festival offerings draw on varied inspirations

The bee521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The bee521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This year’s Israel Festival kicks off on May 23 and ends on June 22. As usual, the lineup includes a variety of genres, taking in dance, classical music, theater, Israeli music, and jazz and world music, with the perennial offering of free outdoor events. The concerts and other productions will take place at a wide range of locations all around the city, including the main venue of the Jerusalem Theater, as well as the Tower of David, Sultan’s Pool, YMCA, Gerard Bechar Center, Old Railway Station and Hansen Hospital.
The variety of sites incorporated in the program, says festival director Yossi Tal-Gan, presented the performing artists with some interesting logistical and artistic issues. “We wanted to expand the festival audience’s spectator experience as much as possible, so we placed the emphasis on special projects but also on hosting them at sites steeped in history that are unique to Jerusalem,” explains Tal-Gan. “That faced the Israeli and foreign artists with the challenge of tailoring their work to the nature of the sites in question.”
Tal-Gan adds that he and his team endeavor to devise the festival program according to cultural consumer needs. “Israeli reality is impacted by the fast pace of daily life. So this year, we aimed to spread shows over long weekends, in order to allow the members of the public to enjoy a relaxed touristic and cultural experience, and to purchase tickets in packages or for individual shows.”
The dance side of the lineup features a first visit to this country by the Grand Théâtre de Genève company of Switzerland. This veteran outfit was founded in 1876, and in recent years has focused on contemporary dance. The company will perform two productions here – Glory, to music by Handel with choreography by Adonis Fondiadakis, and Les Noces, to music by Stravinsky with choreography by Didi Veldman.
On the semi-local side of the dance section, the Emanuel Gat Dance troupe will perform The Goldlandbergs. The company was established at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Jaffa in 2004 and relocated to France three years later. The Goldlandbergs incorporates two very different kinds of sonic backdrops – The Quiet in the Land, a radio documentary devised by legendary classical pianist Glenn Gould, and a recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” performed by Gould.
The theater section includes Igloo, written and directed by Yehezkel Lazarov, which tells the story of childhood friends Lennie and Rafi, who both have some serious emotional baggage with which to contend. Rafi was secretly in love with Lennie when they were youngsters and, many years later, he notes that Lennie is cooking up a dastardly plan to take revenge on the man who assaulted her. Then, from Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, in collaboration with compatriot outfit Noda – Map, will perform The Bee, which feeds off the cataclysmic events surrounding the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Meanwhile, the younger crowd’s side of the theatrical entertainment section includes a performance of Shiraz’s Heart by the Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth.
Classical music fans will, no doubt, be enthralled with the performance of Handel’s Esther oratorio by the New Israeli Vocal Ensemble and the Israeli Baroque Collective. Meanwhile, there will something of a vocal music extravaganza at the Tower of David and the YMCA, when the Latvian State Choir joins forces with the Hortus Musicus ensemble of Estonia.
The concerts, which will take place on May 31 and June 1, will feature works by a wide range of composers from different eras, including Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruckner, Part, Grieg and Tavener. Earlier in the week, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra will perform Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
The jazz side of this year’s festival is light, with the only jazz-oriented offerings featuring clarinet and saxophone player Don Byron and the New Gospel Quintet, and the Avital Meets Avital show with mandolin player Avi Avital and bassist Omer Avital, and guest artists jazz pianist Omer Klein and ethnic percussionist Itamar Doari. The World Music spot features Brazilian accordionist Renato Borghetti.
On the more commercial Israeli music side, there will be yet another long-awaited reunion by seminal ’70s pop group Kaveret, as well as a slot by pianistvocalist Shlomi Shaban.
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