Coming home to opera, and more

Of course, no one, as yet, can know if the Austrian event will be able to be held this year, but should that happen – and one can only pray that the pandemic will be consigned to memory by then.

Coming home to opera, and more (photo credit: Courtesy)
Coming home to opera, and more
(photo credit: Courtesy)
They do say that if Mohammed doesn’t come to the mountain, the said rocky elevation should really do something about it. It follows, then, that if you can’t get out to this or that venue, to catch an opera or some classical concert, then the said classy entertainment should be available to you at the flick of a remote control button – that is, after shelling out just under NIS 25 in subscription fees.
The new service, which has been laid on by HOT and Yes since Wednesday, is a response to the complete absence of live entertainment in the wake of the coronavirus-fueled constraints placed on freedom of movement and access to culture and the arts announced by the government.
The two TV channels have done us proud with a sparkling array of grand-scale productions of such timeless operatic gems as Verdi’s Rigoletto and La traviata and Aida, and The Magic Flute scored by Mozart, as part of the Aria project.
And if that weren’t enough, there will be some five-star fare on offer from the feted Salzburg Festival, which normally takes place in July-August. Of course, no one, as yet, can know if the Austrian event will be able to be held this year, but should that happen – and one can only pray that the pandemic will be consigned to our bad memory banks by then – Israeli classical music fans will be able to catch all kinds of concerts from southern Austria, courtesy of the Aria VOD service.
This year’s festival should be something to remember, as 2020 marks the event’s centenary, and, presumably, the organizers will pull out all the stops to deliver the goods, and then some. There will also be screenings of past performances from the festival, including La traviata from the 2005 edition, starring Austro-Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, French-Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón and American baritone Thomas Hampson.
The Aria project has already been responsible for transmitting a bunch of glittering productions from leading opera houses across the globe. To date, that has been delivered via the Yes Planet chain of cinemas, Hot Cinema and cinematheques up and down the country. Now, TV subscribers will be able to enjoy a similar operatic experience on their smaller home screens, in addition to TV-specific broadcasts.
The VOD rollout will take in a wide range of performances, for television viewers’ pleasure, including a splendorous rendition of Rigoletto filmed at the Bregenz Festival, at the western end of Austria by the shore of Lake Constance. The set for the show is on a gargantuan scale, both in terms of design and sheer size, and all reflected in the gently lapping waters of the lake. The Aida slot should be no less impressive, with Netrebko front and center. Both the Aida and The Magic Flute screenings come from Salzburg, as the prestigious festival celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Netrebko is once more in action, this time alongside iconic Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, in Verdi’s Macbeth. No program would be complete without at least something from Milan’s famous La Scala opera house, with Domingo once again center stage in a performance of Verdi’s I due Foscari. Then it is back again to Salzburg for Rossini’s L'italiana in Algeri, starring Italian mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, with other items in the operatic line including Verdi’s Il trovatore, Bizet’s Carmen, and Romeo and Juliette by Charles Gounod.
Elsewhere in the Aria program you will find Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, The Barber of Seville by Rossini and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – the latter forming part of a tribute to the Salzburg-born composer.
The nonoperatic side of the VOD lineup takes in symphonic music, featuring works by Beethoven, as part of the global celebrations of the 250th anniversary of his birth, with the conductor and soloist roster including pianist Yefim Bronfman, operatic tenor Juan Diego Flórez, young Venezuelan-Spanish conductor Gustavo Dudamel and iconic conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim.
“The Aria content service, which is tailored to the tastes of the Israeli public, represents an incremental leap forward in terms of classical musical content and will offer a viewing experience which has never been seen in Israel before,” says project manager Tamir Ella.