The joy of opera

Shlomo Hoffert and Batsheva Weinberg share their story of tragedy, love and music.

SHLOMO HOFFERT  370 (photo credit: gloria deutsch)
(photo credit: gloria deutsch)
When Shlomo Hoffert came back to Israel in 1992, he had no idea that he would write a book about his passion for opera.
He also had no inkling he would become the husband of Batsheva Weinberg, a heroine of Israel who has never let the many tragedies in her life trample her faith and determination to be positive, even in the face of the blows that have been her fate.
They met when Hoffert, who was born in Israel but moved to America as a small child, decided that the time had come to return home. He was introduced to Weinberg, who had been divorced for 21 years and had never met anyone else she wanted to marry – until Hoffert came along.
Today, they live happily in their Kfar Saba apartment. Hoffert listens to his beloved opera and is busy marketing his book and accompanying CD, When the Fat Lady Sings... Listen!, which came out several months ago. Weinberg, when she is not away giving one of her motivating talks to eighth-graders and army officers, or busy with other public service activities, runs the home.
Hoffert was seven in 1947, when his parents decided to try their luck in the “Goldene Medina.” They had come to Eretz Yisrael in the 1930s from Germany, found it hard to make a living here, and moved on.
Hoffert grew up in the States loving classical music and especially choral music, as his father had been a cantor. While still in this country, he sang in the opera Dan Hashomer, written by Marc Lavry and performed here in 1945.
“We used to talk about music and I learned from my father what good singing is all about,” he recalls.
Hoffert qualified as a social worker and psychotherapist in the US. He always listened to opera and one day had a “Eureka!” moment.
“I was listening to the first act of Bellini’s Norma, to the duet between the tenor, Pollione, and mezzo soprano, Adalgisa, who meet in a forest clearing. He is the pro-consul of Rome, singing very slowly and authoritatively, but the accompanying music is fast like a beating heart.” He suddenly realized that Bellini had produced a musically accurate description of human interaction and feelings at its most basic level.
“The effect upon me was electrifying; I suddenly realized that Bellini had succeeded in describing, musically, Pollione’s inner turmoil and his attempt to control his emotions.” The psychoanalyst in Hoffert began to think and he started looking at other works. He found many instances where the composer used the music to convey character or hinted at connections that are not immediately obvious.
His book is the result of over 30 years of exploring opera and its relation to psychodynamics.
In it, he also sets out to prove that the storyline of operas, far from being banal, is developed logically and is true to life.
When Hoffert first began developing his very original ideas, he started writing articles and speaking to musicians but could not generate any interest. Eventually he decided that the only way to get his rather esoteric ideas out was to produce a book, and he now sells it on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. It is a slim, 67-page, softback volume, but it comes with an accompanying CD, so that every claim he makes can be listened to and checked out.
His theories are quite fascinating, and for opera buffs the book is a must.
For Weinberg, her husband’s passion has opened her eyes to a new world of music, and she happily attends performances at the Israeli Opera with him. Perhaps for her there is the added need to find solace for the tragedies in her life.
Forty years ago, when this writer came to Kfar Saba, the community of 30,000 souls was recovering from the Yom Kippur War in which many local boys had fallen. For the Koenigsbuch family, and their daughter Batsheva, then 25, the pain was familiar.
Two of her brothers had fallen in the Six Day War, six years before.
Weinberg became a teacher of science and nature at the local religious school, married and had two sons and a daughter.
She was always popular and much loved by the students.
Ten years ago, the now-100,000-strong local community – along with Israel in general – were stunned beyond belief to learn that her older son, Col. Dror Weinberg, who was commander of the Hebron Brigade and was slated to become commander of the Paratroop Brigade, had been killed in an attack in Hebron. Palestinian terrorists killed 12 and wounded 15 when they threw grenades at a group of Jewish worshipers walking home from Friday night prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Then, as if this were not enough for one woman to bear, Shai, her second son, who had been an officer in Israeli intelligence, died of cancer a year and a half later.
But Weinberg can still smile and see the half-full cup. Her talks to high-schoolers are inspiring – and even entertaining.
“I talk about Dror – netto!” she says. “I talk of his determination, his pursuit of excellence in everything he did, his creativity and ability to see outside the box.”
Today, Weinberg has her daughter, Shlomit, a midwife, and son-in-law, a gynecologist, living in Beersheba, and grandchildren from all three of her children.
And she has finally found happiness with Hoffert – and discovered the joys of opera into the bargain.