Classical Review: The Jerusalem Opera

Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro Gerard Bechar Center, December 30.

Theater (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
A newly established Jerusalem Opera is a cause for congratulations and joy. Its performance of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro was a good-humored and well-rehearsed production, although stage director Ari Teperberg’s obsessive quest for innovative modernity was partly amusing and partly overdone. After all, how long can one watch tables being moved around the stage without becoming fed up? And a solo dancer dancing around Figaro during his first aria is effective only in diverting the audience’s attention from the singer. There was also no plausible reason for the Countess to be rolled to the stage in a wheelchair, or whatever it was supposed to have been.
Some cuts to the score, such as the deletion of the Overture (presumably because it was too difficult for the Ashdod Symphony), or the children’s chorus, or Figaro’s and Marcellina’s dialogue preceding Figaro’s Betrayal Aria, were not responsible for any sense of loss in those seing this opera for the first time. Some disregard for Mozart’s supposed intentions was quite daring. The Count lying in Susanna’s lap, for example. What mercifully remained faithful to the libretto was Susanna’s (repeated) slapping of Figaro’s face.
The cast of relative unknowns proved that one does not have to be a celebrity to be a remarkably talented singer and/or actor. In the lead role, Yuri Kissin displayed a resounding bass and amusing comic talent.
As the Count, Gabriele Ribis’ sonorous baritone sounded dignified and authoritative.
In the role of the Countess, Yasmine Levy-Ellentuk’s soprano was soft and caressing in the middle range, but became shrill and strained in the higher regions.
Mima Millo’s soprano sounded cute, but not quite as coquettish as the role of Susanna permits or even requires.
Particularly noteworthy was Maya Amir’s flexible mezzo-soprano, rich in fascinating nuances, in the trouser role of Cherubino.
Conducted by Omer Arieli, the Ashdod Symphony sounded accurate and well-rehearsed, doing its best to follow the singers’ tempi.
Despite some childhood diseases, the Jerusalem Opera obviously endeared itself to the audience in this thoroughly appealing production.
One looks forward expectantly to its next performances.