Love on a kibbutz

Gadi Shechter delights the capital with his take on comic opera 'L’elisir d’amore.'

The Israeli Opera rendition of ‘L’elisir d’amore’ is set on a 1950s kibbutz. (photo credit: YOSSI ZVAKER)
The Israeli Opera rendition of ‘L’elisir d’amore’ is set on a 1950s kibbutz.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZVAKER)
Anat Charney is looking forward to performing in Gaetano Donizetti’s ever-popular comic opera L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool on June 24 and 25 (both at 8 p.m.). The production is a revival version of Omri Nitzan’s creation, which first saw the light of day in 1997, with Gadi Shechter at the helm for the current Israeli Opera rendition.
Ethan Schmeisser will preside over the contribution of the Israeli Opera Chorus.
“This is a really fun opera,” says Charney, who plays the role of Gianetta. “There are no tragic stories here or suffering and death. It is a funny comic opera.”
Mind you, there is the odd more serious element, with a deep and abiding love that goes unrequited for most of the plot.
“You’re talking about true love,” notes Charney.
“When Nemorino is disappointed, he is really distraught. For him, his love is the most important thing in the world. But when everything works out, he forgets all the anguish he went through before.”
The said beau is a poor peasant who falls in love with Adina. The latter is a glamorous and wealthy landowner, who gives Nemorino a hard time.
The young man is desperate and will do anything to win the hand of his one and only love. He even resorts to trying out a magic potion that he hopes will help him to woo Adina. Betwixt all the amorous shenanigans, a handsome and conceited soldier rides into town and also tries to get in on the Adina act.
Gianetta doesn’t exactly always play it straight, either.
“Yes, she’s a bit of a tease,” says Charney. “She promulgates a few rumors, although she doesn’t spread lies, they are only truths. You can at least say that about her. She may spread rumors, but she isn’t a liar.”
In fact, Charney believes that her character is a good soul.
“I think Gianetta has a positive agenda behind all her playing around. She wants Adina and Nemorino to be together. I think she knows they were destined to be a couple, and she doesn’t really hurt anyone with her rumors. She just maneuvers things around in the way that she thinks it should all pan out,” she says.
Charney is also delighted to be performing in such a special setting. There aren’t too many outdoor venues that can compete with a backdrop of the Old City of Jerusalem, with the iconic Tower of David. Even so, singing al fresco comes at a price.
“There are the obvious things, such as logistics,” she notes. “Opera is an acoustic art form. Once, there were no microphones. Today, there are microphones that are very sophisticated. That means that we don’t have to change the way we sing. The audience still hears us as if we were in an acoustically enclosed setting. But you can have sound problems in opera houses, too.”
The Jerusalem shows are based on the original direction by Omri Nitzan, who intriguingly placed the storyline in a kibbutz setting, somewhere in the Jezreel Valley, around the 1950s.
Charney feels that the temporal transition of an opera that premiered in 1832 is a natural fit.
“The small town [in the original script] is a bit like a kibbutz or a small community,” she notes. “And you have the charlatan who gives away a present, a pink Cadillac [in the Nitzan rendition] – that’s a bit like the rich uncle from America. And when I sing my aria with the girls from the choir, we are placed in a kibbutz laundry, where people used to tell stories and exchange gossip. I think [the kibbutz setting] is still relevant, and everyone gets it.”
Charney has something of a kibbutz connection of her own.
“I got married a few months ago to someone who originates from a kibbutz. I told his parents that I was going to be a kibbutznikit for a few hours, and they were very happy,” she laughs. “I wear khaki shorts with a white blouse and [iconic Israeli] ‘Bible sandals.’ There are bundles of hay and sunflowers all over the place and orange trees. It’s very nostalgic and very Israeli. But it could just as well be a village somewhere in Italy. They have orange trees and sunflowers there, too.”
Naturally, being on an outdoor stage offers more movement possibilities, and Charney is pretty adept at nimble shifts of position.
“I loved danced as a kid, although I never performed professionally. I learned ballet and jazz and all sorts of styles, but I connected most strongly with classical ballet,” she says.
It was dance that led Charney to her current profession.
“We learned the basic dance movements according to the technique of the Royal Academy of Dance in London. They have a worldwide technique whereby every dance teacher receives CDs and booklets, with music by Chopin and so on. The teachers don’t just put on some music that they like. Each sonata has its own specific sonata,” says Charney. “That introduced me to classical music and a whole different world of art.”
Charney also had a penchant for exercising her vocal chords, and for entertaining.
“I always sang, and I studied theater. It’s strange in a way. I was very shy, and I was very shy about singing in front of other people. But I loved theater and I loved being on a stage, and I gradually found my voice – literally,” she recounts.
Opera, of course, has its fair share of theatricals, and Charney’s dance tuition also stands her in good stand.
“I know how to hold a position, and it is easier for me to move on the stage,” she notes. “I think my background in dance also helps me to remember the opera director’s instructions about how to move around. It all ties in.”
For tickets and information about L’elisir d’amore: and *6226.