Mountain-moving music

The Israeli Opera festival at Masada and Jerusalem is as much about branding and marketing as it is about high culture.

Israeli opera at Masada 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli opera at Masada 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israeli Opera (IO) festival at Masada and Jerusalem from June 1 to June 12 is as much about branding, marketing and the preservation of nature as it is about high culture.
“It’s dizzying to think that we’re providing jobs, bringing in tourists, preserving the environment, extending outreach and putting the area on the map, all because of making music,” said Israeli Opera general director Hannah Munitz at a recent press conference.
Last year it was horses on stage for Verdi’s Nabucco for the first International Opera Festival at Masada. This year it’ll be 10 camels in Verdi’s Aida for the second festival, which also encompasses Jerusalem. The centerpiece of next year’s festival will be Bizet’s Carmen.
Daniel Oren, currently and brilliantly conducting Norma at the IO, will be on the podium for Aida as he was for Nabucco last year.
The Aida cast is “out of this world,” says Oren, pointing to American soprano Kirstin Lewis, 26, who’s singing Aida along with China’s Hei Hu. The opera, insists Oren, one of the leading opera conductors in the world today, is not about a struggle between two peoples but about the liberation of the soul.
The stats of this operation, which is employing some 2,500 people from the area, are dizzying. Just as a for-instance: the stage is more than 3,500 square meters. There are 7,700 seats, 10 kilometers of cables, 60 tons of lights, and so it goes.
As well as Aida, there’s a recital by tenor Andrea Bocelli, Verdi’s great Requiem with the Arena di Verona Orchestra conducted by Giuliano Carella, and in Jerusalem, IO music director David Stern conducts Verdi’s little-known opera Jerusalem at the Sultan’s Pool among the rest.
There’s a bonus. The whole of the Dead Sea area is one of seven finalists in the International New Seven Wonders of the world Competition, announced Tamar Regional