The programs are short but lively, and only a few renditions of well-known operas are presented. But for the hundreds of enthusiastic aficionados who go to see the Israeli Opera’s outdoor performances in Tel Aviv’s Hatahana venue, as well as performances on Rothschild Boulevard, the hour-long events seem to be achieving their goal of giving audiences a glimpse of the Israeli Opera’s seasonal performances.
“I now have a better appreciation of what opera is all about by seeing these performances,” says Tami, a highschool senior who attended a performance last Saturday afternoon at Hatahana, the former railway station located between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Tami’s boyfriend, Tal, is not as enthused, however. He says he still prefers Mizrahi music over opera melodies.
Upon arrival at the entrance of Hatahana, audience members are greeted by two young women dressed in 17th-century costumes and a young man handing out information about the Israeli Opera and the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. On Saturday afternoon, a crowd of at least 300 had gathered to see the performances, which included musical numbers from The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen and the musical My Fair Lady.
The performance also included special opera numbers for children, with excerpts from The Magic Flute and Cinderella translated into Hebrew.
The producer of the project is Erez Lotan, who is also the artist coordinator of the nationwide Community Opera performances. Associated with the Israeli Opera for 16 years, Lotan was formerly a dancer with the Batsheva Dance Company.
“Special events such as these outdoor performances are very important to our external opera events programs,” he says. “Community Opera performances have been held this season in Nahariya and Kiryat Gat, and one is scheduled to be held in Kiryat Ata in February. The performance in Kiryat Ata is considered to be very special for its educational factors, as well as bringing opera to people who might otherwise have never had the opportunity to experience it.”
When asked why he thought a community like Kiryat Ata, which has a sizable population from the former Soviet Union, would not be familiar wit opera, Lotan smiles and says, “The older residents are familiar with opera, but not the younger ones. These are the ones we want to reach out to.” Lotan adds that the Community Opera events involve not only members of the national opera troupe but local performers from the communities as well. Complementary performers from the communities include choirs, dance groups and actors.
“These local performers come from the communities themselves and have to try out to see if they can qualify to be included in the performances. It is especially important to get children in these communities involved, as it gets their parents excited and on board to be opera fans as well. Imagine how the parents feel when they see their kids perform,” says Lotan.
He adds that the performers in the Tel Aviv presentations are opera students who hope to one day be professional opera singers. The outdoor performances began at the beginning of December and will continue until the end of the month.
Besides performances at Hatahana, presentations are held on Fridays between noon and 4 p.m. at street locations on Rothschild Boulevard. Some of the opera singers are sopranos Hadar Atari, Anastasia Klevan and Yael Sayad; mezzo-soprano Limor Ilan; and bassbaritone Oded Reich.
Part of these performances involve the singers’ going out into the audience and interacting with them – especially the children. “These types of interactions have so far proven to be very successful,” says Lotan.
Saturday’s performance also included excerpts from original Israeli compositions, such as Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) and Shalmay Hasandlar (Shalmay the Cobbler). One of the performance numbers that got much of the audience involved, especially children, was the “Meow Meow” opera duet of two cats in love.
Israeli Opera spokeswoman Yonat Bormil says that the purpose of these performances is to better introduce Israeli Opera performances to the general public, as well as to help kick off the 2012 opera season at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. This season’s opera performances at TAPAC, which began on December 1, include two short Italian opera showcases: Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.
The outdoor performances at Hatahana and on Rothschild Boulevard are geared to give audiences a glimpse of excerpts from the various operas that will be staged during the year. This includes musical numbers that will be part of a special outdoor performance of Carmen, which will be directed by renowned opera director Giancarlo del Monaco-Zukerman and staged at the base of Masada in June.
“These special outdoor performances are part of the Israeli Opera’s Studio Program, which is a special program for young soloists who attend classes held here at the Performing Arts Center,” says Bormil. She adds that the community opera performances, such as the ones in Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Ata, have been an ongoing project by the Israeli Opera for past 10 years and that the midsummer Opera in the Park program in Tel Aviv has become a tradition that now attracts up to 50,000 people for a three-hour performance.
“We also try to promote our children’s opera programs, which include opera programs specially tailored to children, such as The Magic Flute and Cinderella,” she says.
“These performers already show that they are well on their way to a career as professional opera singers, and events like these outdoor ‘taste of the opera’ venues put them before the public in a very positive manner,” says Lotan. For further information about the Israeli Opera’s 2012 season and its various cultural programs, visit www.israelopera.co.il/eng/ or call (03) 692-7848.