OPERA LOVERS who wanted to hear arias in a more intimate setting than the Sultan’s Pool opted to spend time last Friday taking in one or more options around the city. The choices included recitals at the Museum of Italian Jewish Art; excerpts from Carmen at at the Bible Lands Museum; Israeli songs sung by opera soloists at the Israel Museum at; and beloved songs from the world’s greatest musicals at Yes Planet.Because seating at the Italian Museum was not designated, many people who came very early for the second concert caught the second half of the first concert while waiting in the corridor. Toward the end, there were two Neapolitan songs sung by the coquettish Anastasia Klevan – “Santa Lucia” and “O Sole Mio.” Italians waiting in the corridor, their faces lit up with joy, could not help but sing along – albeit in muted tones. The concerts took place in what used be the high-domed dining hall of the German Catholic Society before it relocated; the hall still sports beautiful New Testament images on all sections of the dome. The acoustics are superb and the concert attracted a full house each time. The event could be classed as a feminist conquest. There were no male performers. The five singers from the Israel Opera Studio were Yael Sayag, Irene Alhazov, Avigail Gertler, Efrat Ashkenazi and Klevan. Each has a glorious voice and each is also a highly talented actress.Unlike the Sultan’s Pool venue, where members of the audience can see the facial expressions of the performers only via the large video screens on either side of the stage, here the audience had a very close connection to the singers and could catch every facial nuance. The only faults that one could find were that there was no printed program, and that Sonia Mazar, who accompanied the singing, was also the moderator. Brilliant pianist that she is, her diction unfortunately falls short of her playing, and it was almost impossible to discern the names of the singers from her enunciation.With all the construction going on in Jerusalem coupled with the big push for culture, one would imagine that an opera house – or better still a performing arts center like that in Tel Aviv – would be on the drawing board. It may well be, but if it is, the public is not yet privy to the plan.EVEN BEFORE the resurgence of the mind-boggling story of kidnapped Yemenite babies in the early years of the state, Beit Avi Chai had decided to devote its monthly Story of a People series to Yemenite Jews. The two-day event will take place on July 5 and 6, with the second day devoted to the Yemenite babies who disappeared without a trace and without a death certificate or a grave, even though their parents had been told that they had died. Speakers will include researcher Dr. Amos Noy, writer Iris Alia Cohen and poet Shlomi Hatucha. Other than this extremely serious subject, the event will include a workshop on the Yemenite kitchen and a tribute to the great liturgical poet Rabbi Shalom Shabazi.JERUSALEM WOMEN who are keen on yoga, or who want to be introduced to see if it works for them, will have the opportunity in July with the introduction of a 200- hour Intensive Yoga Teacher Training Program. It claims to be the first yoga training program in the world to cater specifically to religious Jewish women, but is open to women of all faiths and backgrounds. Classes will not be held on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, which means that religiously observant Jewish women will not miss any lessons. Following the July launch, there will be a follow-up starting in September. It is organized by Toronto-based Kinneret Yoga, whose tagline is “move and be moved.”Kinneret Yoga seems to appeal to a broader international Jewish community of women who share a passion for practicing yoga in which mindfulness is understood from the perspective of Jewish teachings, and courses are taught using Judaic-oriented sources, philosophy, mindfulness, metaphors, dialogue, and ethics. Kinneret Yoga, named for its general director Kinneret Dubowitz, also coaches women in online courses on yoga and Judaism. According to the US National Institute of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and reduce stress. According to a recently released 2016 Yoga in America study, approximately 37 million Americans (including many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self-image IT IS common knowledge that young men and women living abroad, especially sons and daughters of Israelis, come to Israel to serve in the IDF. What receives far less media attention is the fact that many young women who are religiously observant come from overseas to do National Service in a civilian capacity.A special evening was held at Beit Avi Chai in honor of some 250 young women in this category who have completed a year of service. Countries represented included the US, Canada, France, Russia, Spain and Morocco. The event was attended by MK Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli, who chairs the Bayit Yehudi faction in the Knesset, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, the CEO of the Civilian National Service, Rabbi Meir Nahorai, the chairman of Beit Hillel, Jerusalem City Council member Hanan Rubin and other dignitaries.The event was live streamed to enable parents of the girls who were serving so far from home to see what their daughters look like after a year’s absence. Many of these young volunteers opt to remain in Israel or return here after completing studies in their home countries.