Seven shows for 34 seasons

The Israel Opera unveil a diverse selection of offerings.

'Schite', an opera by Yoni Rechter based on the Hanoch Levin play (photo credit: YOSSI TZEVKER)
'Schite', an opera by Yoni Rechter based on the Hanoch Levin play
(photo credit: YOSSI TZEVKER)
Seven is deemed lucky in most cultures, and the Israel Opera, for its 34th season this year, is producing seven new operas. “That is the magic of opera,” says IO general-director Tzach Granit, “that we can create different worlds with each production.”
The operas run the gamut. The hardy perennial La Traviata, Verdi’s beloved opera about an impossible love between a society call girl and a well-born young man, is set this time in today’s world of high fashion. The much praised and much-performed Dead Man Walking by contemporary American composer Jake Heggie is the harrowing story of a murderer on death row and the nun who is his spiritual adviser.
In between, the roster includes another great favorite, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, this time tricked out as homage to Hollywood’s silent film era. Jules Massenet’s Manon, an incredibly complicated tale that follows Manon from her beginning as an ingenuous young girl to life as a high-class courtesan and (in grand opera what else?) her death, begins the season. Gifted choreographer Inbal Pinto makes her IO directing debut with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which shares the bill with Schitz, an opera by Yoni Rechter based on his play by Hanoch Levin, directed by Ido Ricklin and conducted by Daniel Oren.
Dan Ettinger conducts both Traviata and Manon with Ekaterina Bakanova in the latter’s title role. Our own Tomer Zvulun, who started what is now an international career as an IO stagehand, directs Dead Man Walking. Hila Baggio stars in Mozart’s Idomeneo and also in Traviata, as does Alla Vasilevitzky, who also sings, together with Ira Bertman, in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The marvelous Alexander Lisyanski does the set for that one. Costumer for both Idomeneo and Manon is Anja Van Kragh, who used to work for Dior.
There are also seven new dance productions and seven musical series.
The season opens with Carnations (1982), one of the great Pina Bausch’s best known works from Tanztheater Wuppertal that – just for starters – features a stage full of carnations. The Hofesh Schechter Company then arrives from the UK with Grand Finale, set to the choreographer’s own music, which The Guardian dance critic called “a wild waltz for the end of time” and “one of his most sophisticated works.”
Milan’s Aterballetto brings us Antitesi, a ballet about opposites from then to now. Returning with a radical interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, together with music from Tibet, comes Yang Liping Contemporary Dance from China. The Dortmund Ballet from Germany arrives in April with a program of ballets by the art’s greats such as William Forsythe, Georges Balanchine and others.
Japan’s premier butoh company, Sankai Juku returns with Between Two Mirrors, by the company’s founder, Ushio Amagatsu. And ending the season in July will be a full length Carmen from the Basel Ballet.
There’s so much that only the merest peek is possible. The new kid on the block is the Baroque Opera Series from the Israel Camerata Jerusalem, which includes the semi-staged Handel’s Orlando and Mozart’s The Shepherd King in its lineup.
The Symphonic Series that features the Rishon Lezion Orchestra under the baton of Dan Ettinger offers Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Mahler’s 1st Symphony and 5th Symphony, and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto among the rich rest.
The Chamber Series by the same orchestra has Schubert’s Winter Journey song cycle, Tchaikovsky’s Romances and songs from the baroque in its cornucopia. There is also the East/West series under the musical direction of Tom Cohen, Shlomi Shaban; the Reflections-Camerata series that combines classical and pop, as well as the Orchestra of the Revolution that does amazing things with all kinds of music in its Revolution Series, and not least, the popular Saturday Morning Opera Highlights.
It’s nigh impossible today to detach kids from their smartphones. But two veteran IO programs might do just that. These are Nitza Shaul’s Magical Sounds programs that tell the stories of great composers and their works in narration, music and dance. Disclosure: my grandson sat enthralled by that from age three to about six or seven, as he did for the adapted-for-kids version of opera’s like The Magic Flute or Cinderella, not to mention the delightful Alice in Wonderland by David Sebba.
Seven, seven and seven – three times seven and a lucky season? Why not?