The ‘King David’ show

How do you connect the Biblical figure with Sting, the ancient Jerusalem stone and 3 million pixels?

The ‘King David’ spectacle at the Tower of David Museum (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The ‘King David’ spectacle at the Tower of David Museum
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
FOR 2000 years there has been a symbolic connection between the site where Jerusalem’s Old City citadel stands today and King David. It began with the writings of Yosef ben-Matityahu (Josephus Flavius), who described Herod’s palace and the impressive three-tower fortress built next to the palace as the Citadel of David because of its strength and magnificence. Today the citadel, with its towers and turrets and archaeological ruins spanning close to the 3000-year-old story of Jerusalem as we know it, is home to the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem and this month has opened a new night experience that tells the story of Jerusalem’s most famous king.
“There is no historical person more connected to Jerusalem than the biblical figure of King David. The Tower of David has brought his timeless story to life using both technology and creativity to journey back in time to the days of the Bible, to travel through great works of art inspired by this poet and warrior, and to celebrate him in a concert of music, color and light,” says museum director Eilat Lieber.
The new experience is a sound and light show, a multidisciplinary performance that combines cinematography, animation, illustration, sound and music. Using the most cutting edge technology in laser projection, the ancient walls of the citadel are lit up at night with 250,000 lumens and 35 million pixels from a total of 18 projectors that had to be carefully placed around the citadel.
Finding an artistic creative team that would be able to work within the parameters of a national heritage site was a challenge and the Tower of David Museum went back to the original duo from Paris, Jean-Michel Quesne and Hélène Richard from Collectif K2A, with the idea to create a new night experience that would work with the original show, the “Night Spectacular.”
“The only way to match an already successful night experience that covers the epic topic of the history of Jerusalem was to find an equally compelling story to tell. The multi-faceted and fascinating character of King David who has inspired artists for hundreds of years was certainly a most fitting subject to explore at the Tower of David,” says Renee Sivan, an archeologist and a specialist in heritage presentation, and the concept creator and curator of “King David.”
One of the biggest challenges, however, in creating “King David” was finding the best way to show the life of a leader from 3,000 years ago when there is a lack of visual documentation from the times of biblical Jerusalem.
The original show, “the Night Spectacular,” is based on architectural images that “change” the appearance of the citadel each time and create an illusion of a different structure in each period.
The history of Jerusalem unfolds on the walls of the citadel in a visual interpretation based on documented architectural changes of the city throughout its history. Here, with “King David,” the solution to the challenge was to create a more artistic interpretation.
“Just make a search for images of King David and you will find his life comes alive in many different styles, figures and colors.
In the show we have tens of works of art crossing all time periods and styles. I choose a large variety of from well-known artists, such as Chagall, Rembrandt, Matisse and Caravaggio but we also took from Jewish and Christian medieval illuminations as well as Ethiopian representations. For example, the scene of the anointment of David by the Prophet Samuel is based on the wellknown Dura Europus Synagogue fresco, a synagogue from the 3rd century C.E. that still exists in Syria. The representation of the Philistines is based on the famous Medinet Habu relief from the Late Bronze Age that was found in Egypt,” says Sivan.
The show starts with the story of David’s great-grandmother Ruth, as the audience is lead into a picture of Ruth holding sheaves of wheat on her head inspired by the drawing by Ephraim Lilien. Later the famous story of David and Goliath comes to life with the likeness of the paintings by Caravaggio.
When David brings the covenant to Jerusalem, the people of the city break out in dance and the audience becomes part of a huge celebration as people are seen dancing from every nook and cranny in the citadel. However, on a closer look at this scene, mixed in with the cast of over 50 dancers and actors, are marionette-like illustrations, hand-drawn characters that were inspired by illustrated manuscripts from the Middle Ages.
DAVID’S STORY is wonderfully suited to being the focus of a new cinematic production, because his story, as articulated in the Bible, is magnificent and has all the markers for a “blockbuster” film – a red-haired boy with beautiful eyes, a shepherd who became a hero by defeating the great Philistine giant, Goliath, a king of a nation, a poet, a lover and a gifted musician.
According to tradition, King David was the author of the Psalms. One of the scenes shows musical manuscripts from the Middle Ages with the notes and poetry of Psalm 23, the Psalm of David, well-known in the prayers of both Jews and Christians, sung in “King David” by Israeli singer Erez Lev- Ari. Just as in art, King David’s story has inspired music of all genres, from classical and liturgical to pop. In 1991, Sting wrote “Mad About You” inspired by the story of King David and Bathsheba.
“A stone’s throw from Jerusalem/I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight/and though a million stars were shining/my heart was lost on a distant planet/that whirls around the April moon.”
Alexandre Lévy is the French musician and composer who wrote the original music score that accompanies the Tower of David’s “King David.” There are 40 instruments being played in the musical component of “King David,” including the flute that is played by the composer’s son. A 5.1 sound system is used so that the audience will be completely surrounded by sound and will feel connected to both the site and the story.
Alexandre noted the responsibility he felt for creating a piece of music that would honor the “King of Jerusalem” that would then be played in Jerusalem, knowing how both David and the city had already inspired some of the greatest composers of all time. The compositions combine classical, modern and liturgical influences and crescendos at the end with a contemporary concert honoring King David, with a variety of musical instruments spread throughout the citadel that bears the monarch’s name.