Opera for children

The Israeli Opera is embarking on a new initiative for a tinier audience

Bizet’s Carmen performed at the Israeli Opera  (photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)
Bizet’s Carmen performed at the Israeli Opera
(photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)
In the movie Pretty Woman, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) tells a glamorously clad Vivienne (Julia Roberts), “People’s reaction to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.”
One of the most quoted lines about opera in pop culture, this statement is actually not true for many. In fact, for countless viewers, loving opera is about finding the right libretto, the proper setting and singer or beholding the perfect production. For young audiences, this is especially critical. Anyone who has tried to sit a child down in front of a four-hour interpretation of Turandot (if there are any such brave individuals) will attest to the difficulty of the feat.
For this reason, the Israeli Opera is embarking upon a new initiative to bridge the gap between its major productions and a newer, tinier audience. This week, the Israeli Opera will present a groundbreaking production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, tailored specifically for children and performed on the main, grand stage on Sha’ul HaMelech Street in Tel Aviv. This production is the first in a series for children that will include Alice in Wonderland, What About the Deer? and Magical Sounds.
This is not the first time the company has presented performances for children. It is even not the first rendition of The Magic Flute that the Israel Opera has put on for children. It is, however, the first time that children will be privy to a production that has all the pomp and circumstance of main-stage operas.
Like many of us, and contrary to Edward’s advice to Vivienne, performer Tal Ganor did not immediately fall in love with opera. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Ganor, 30, was surrounded by music for her entire schooling. “I sang in a choir when I was young,” she explains over the phone. Ganor’s voice is singsong and effortless, she laughs easily and articulates her words. “I was trained as a classical singer. In high school, I was in Thelma Yellin’s department of classical music. It was in university that I really fell in love with opera, while I was learning it.”
In Ganor’s eyes, the opera is full of things to love. “The first thing is that the music is very beautiful. There’s something in classical music and specifically opera that is a bit like going to battle. You have the conductor and the director who guide navigate you and you have a lot of people working together to make a good final product. A lot of people make it happen. There’s more than what you see on stage, there’s all the technical staff, the artistic staff, dressing, props, lighting. It’s grandiose in its production.”
Getting to perform The Magic Flute in this incarnation is something of a dream come true for the young singer. “The Magic Flute goes up in many versions at the Israeli Opera. There’s a version that is performed in the foyer of the building for kids, where I played Papina. And there is also a community-based production in which I played Papagena. But I have never done a version like this,” she said.
The adaptation is suited for kids in many ways. For one, all of the text has been translated into Hebrew. The Magic Flute is a singspiel, a precursor genre to musical theater, meaning that it has spoken and sung interludes. The musical parts were translated by Ehud Manor and the spoken bits by Keren Hovav. In addition, the script was tweaked to make sure it was appropriate for little eyes and ears.
“Disney often takes fairy tales that aren’t suited for kids and reworks them so that they are. The Magic Flute is a fairy tale, but not all of it is meant for children. This is made especially for children,” explained Ganor.
‘The Magic Flute’ will be performed at the Israeli Opera on October 17 and 18 at 5 pm. For more information, visit Israel-opera.co.il.