Mehta returns to IPO podium for nine concerts

The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra is celebrating 85 years.

 MAESTRO ZUBIN MEHTA conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. (photo credit: SHAI SKIFF)
MAESTRO ZUBIN MEHTA conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
(photo credit: SHAI SKIFF)

Excitement is in the air as maestro Zubin Mehta returns to Israel for two weeks starting tomorrow, February 24, to March 6, performing nine back-to-back concerts that celebrate the 85th season of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO). He will conduct five performances, (four at the Charles Bronfman Theater in Tel Aviv and one at the Haifa Auditorium), of the opera classic Tosca, composed by Giacomo Puccini and performed by internationally acclaimed soloists, the Gary Bertini Israel Choir and the Joshua Tuttnauer Ankor Choir of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. In addition, Mehta and the IPO will play four additional concerts at the Jerusalem Theater, the Haifa Auditorium and in Tel Aviv at the Charles Bronfman Theater, in showcase performances of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6 and Dvorak Symphony no. 7.

It will be a busy eleven days for the IPO and Mehta, who has been a true friend of the IPO and Israel, before, during and following his legendary 50-year post as IPO Music Director. He has often remarked about the special bond he shares with the orchestra and Israeli audiences, who greet him with standing ovations and beloved celebratory status.

“Each year during my tenure as music director, I upheld my commitment to return to Israel and the orchestra for at least two concert series,” he told The Jerusalem Post. Now, formally retired and in Israel only once this year, he honors his current appointment as Music Director for Life and brings two entirely different programs to the IPO stage.

Mehta’s approach to symphonic literature, regardless of the fact they are an integral part of the great, standard, orchestra repertoire, is one must approach every performance afresh. Additionally, opera requires a great amount of flexibility on the part of the orchestra and conductor. They must be very accommodating and sensitive to the soloists, who are, in his words, “singing actors.”

The IPO performances of Tosca will star soprano Jennifer Rowley as Tosca; tenor Jorge de Leon, as Cavaradossi, and baritone Devid Cecconi as the villain, Scarpia. Tosca is the bridge connecting Mehta to his operatic conducting debut in 1963, when he conducted Tosca as Music Director of the Montreal Symphony. During the sixty years hence, Mehta conducted operas from Baroque to modern twentieth-century works in glittering, famous opera houses across the globe, such as La Scalla, the NY Metropolitan Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Vienna State Opera House, Florence, Beijing, Munich and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

 THE ISRAEL Philharmonic Orchestra (credit: ODED ANTMAN) THE ISRAEL Philharmonic Orchestra (credit: ODED ANTMAN)

This year is the 122nd anniversary of the debut of Puccini’s Tosca, which opened in Rome in 1900. The opera’s plot is based on a stage play by Victorien Sardou, which starred the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Its time frame is war-torn Italy during the early 1800’s, when control of Rome was threatened by the Napoleonic invasion of Italy. The story line, over which Puccini created his dramatic, musical score, is a combination of personal and political intrigue. It is a powerful, melodramatic story which intertwines war, torture, suicide, love, jealousy and murder with Puccini’s inventive orchestration and some of the most beautiful arias he ever wrote. Tosca’s debut in Rome was greeted with accolades, and remains an operatic hit, giving the opportunity for the three leading characters to shine vocally and dramatically.

For Mehta, the IPO and Israel’s audiences, these concerts are opportunities to attend, not only fine performances but to experience the love, which Mehta terms knows no bounds.

Opera Tosca

Tel Aviv: Heichal Hatarbut Charles Bronfman Auditorium: February 24, 26, March 3, and March 5.

Haifa: The Auditorium, February 28.

Symphonic Concerts – Beethoven’s Pastoral No.6, Dvorak No.7

Tel Aviv:  February 25 and March 1.

Haifa: March 2.

Jerusalem: Jerusalem Theater, March 6.

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