Dan Rapoport brings Italian gems to the Israeli opera

Dan Rapoport is about to bring us a heady whiff from overseas and reacquaint us with some gems from the Italian operatic and folk song treasure chest.

 THE THREE tenors performing in ‘A Night at the Opera’ – Rosolino Claudio Cardile, Gabriele Mangione and Manuel Rodrigues. (photo credit: EGOEAST PRODUCTIONS)
THE THREE tenors performing in ‘A Night at the Opera’ – Rosolino Claudio Cardile, Gabriele Mangione and Manuel Rodrigues.
(photo credit: EGOEAST PRODUCTIONS)

In these days of still complicated international travel, it is comforting to know that if, for example, we can’t make it over to Italy then the boot country will come over to us.

Over the past couple of years we have all learned to experience foreign pastures vicariously, generally with the help of the Zoom technology folks. But Dan Rapoport is about to bring us a heady whiff from overseas and reacquaint us with some gems from the Italian operatic and folk song treasure chest.

The 49-year-old Israeli conductor will present an Opera Songbook repertoire of arias, and Neapolitan and other Italian songs, with the help of a trio of singers from abroad. Naturally, when one hears the figure three juxtaposed to the tenor vocal range the mind wanders in the direction of the original smash hit operatic triad of Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo, which was all the rage across the world through the 1990s and early noughties.

The threesome that are over here, for the nationwide A Night at the Opera concert, which runs through to March 14, may come from a very different age bracket but they share the same love of music and cultural baggage. Interestingly, the first trio featured two Spaniards and one Italian, while this bunch includes two Italians and one Spaniard, albeit an Italian resident.

Rapoport, who initiated the vocal synergy, is alert to the possibility that the music-loving public will probably have Pavarotti et al firmly lodged in their memory banks, but believes the members of the current lineup have plenty to offer too. “Yes, people will always make comparisons,” he notes, “and that can be a challenge. But any comparison is fully justified.”

 DAN RAPOPORT (credit: EGOEAST PRODUCTIONS) DAN RAPOPORT (credit: EGOEAST PRODUCTIONS)

That, says Rapoport, does not apply solely to setting the two troikas against each other. “You can, for example, compare Pavarotti when he was young with how he sang in his later years. And there were plenty of great tenors around besides Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo. That’s fine.”

If anyone is qualified to showcase popular Italian arias and other fundamentally entertaining musical fare, it is Rapoport. After studying at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance he moved to Italy in 2000, and divided the next 13 years between homes in Venice and Florence. He honed his skills as a conductor and clarinetist in a slew of productions around the country and the world, specializing in Italian baroque scores. Now, he is bringing us a repertoire of smash hits from the opera world that many of us can hum right through.

That makes perfect marketing sense and offers plenty in the way of entertainment rewards. Consider such golden oldies as Verdi’s timeless “La donna e’ mobile” from Rigoletto,  “Brindisi” from La Traviata, or the instantly recognizable late 19th-century Neapolitan song “O sole mio.” Put those three in your program, plus a bunch of other popular numbers, and you’ve simply got to be on to a winner.

Rapoport is not getting carried away with the chances of this venture achieving the mind-boggling commercial success of the first tenor lineup. The Three Tenors' first record is still the biggest seller in the classical sphere, and Pavarotti’s unforgettable rendition of “Nessun Dorma” at the unveiling of the 1990 soccer World Cup in Italy attracted a global TV audience.

In fact, Rapoport is not thinking past the borders of our own compact Middle Eastern land, at this stage anyway. “I have been out into the big, wide world many times in my career,” he explains. “It may shock you, but for me, the big, wide world is putting on 10 concerts in Israel, in places that I am not sure I have been to before. For me, that is something special.”

Perhaps Rapoport’s geographic reach of Israel was limited by his lengthy sojourn in Italy. The shows are not exactly programmed for the more remote corners of the country – Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beersheba are all on the agenda. That said, it is a fair bet that not all of us have had the pleasure of visiting Kibbutz Yifat in the Jezreel Valley, where Tuesday’s slot is due to take place. “I have an ensemble in Italy and we have been to Switzerland, Poland and all over the place. Bringing this Italian culture to Israel, for me, is more important than the big wide world.”

The importance of Israel, for Rapoport and for the three young-youngish tenors – Rosolino Claudio Cardile, Gabriele Mangione and Manuel Rodrigues – is underscored by the fact that the A Night at the Opera shebang has sparked into life here. “This our debut with these three,” he says with more than a hint of pride. “The whole idea was to create this special texture, of these three tenors. I don’t know if you can compare them with Pavarotti, but each has their own beauty, their own special qualities.”

Aged between twenty-something and early-forties, they also have the majority of their professional road still stretching out in front of them. Pavarotti was in his mid-fifties when he wowed the world at the aforementioned soccer gala event with Carreras the baby at the age of 44. Incidentally, Spanish-born Rodrigues lives in Pavarotti’s birthplace of Modena in northern Italy.

Rapoport fully expects to elicit enthusiastic audience responses as the cast makes its way up and down the country. The stages will be packed with close to 100 musicians giving their old to pump out the decibels and emotive wattage. The Israel Chamber Opera Orchestra will provide the instrumental substratum, while the choral duties will be shared, across the agenda by the Maayan Choir, the Haifa-based Gittit Choir and the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Choir.

“The tenors have wonderful voices, and the arias and songs we have chosen are not the most famous by chance,” says Rapoport. “Each tenor will sing two arias on their own so that we get the full color of each voice and they will sing numbers together.”

The conductor says he will have no problem if some of the paying customers join in the fun. “I really hope members of the audience hum along with us,” he laughs. “They certainly won’t be indifferent. Whether they get involved is up to them. But it starts with a smile, some foot tapping, and maybe some hand gesticulations, and humming and possibly actual singing.”

He is talking from experience. “In Italy that happens the whole time. One person starts singing and it becomes infectious. I see no reason why it won’t happen here too.”

For tickets and more information: http://itt.co.il/