April 27: Daring enough

The Israeli National Opera is more daring than Billboard's critic is willing to admit.

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
Daring enough Sir, - In "Mythical beauty" (Billboard, April 13) Maxim Reider wrote: "Bowing to the conservatism of the local audience, the country's only opera house usually schedules nearly entire seasons of works by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini." Statistically this may be the case, but that sentence is, in my opinion, a calumny on the INO. My wife and I, subscribers for most of the seasons since 1987, have watched with pride and delight how the opera house has grown in stature over the years. During the last few seasons alone we have been privileged to see many "non-Italian, non-staple" operas. We have seen three new Israeli operas. And even during the next season (which admittedly has a distinctly Italian flavor) Journey to the end of the Millennium is being revived "by popular demand." I have been present at performances at which full houses were riveted by Billy Budd, Peter Grimes, Wozzeck, Rusalka and many more. So much for the "conservatism of the local audience." The achievements, in only two decades, of Hanna Munitz and her team are almost miraculous. They have created an opera house of an international (provincial) standard, in some ways even better than some of the great opera houses in the world. Opera is the most demanding, most complex and in many ways most rewarding of art forms. It is also the most expensive. So it is no surprise or shame if opera houses worldwide regularly offer the operas the public most wants to see. Yet an opera house should be judged not only on staple fare, but even more on what and how much is offered to the more "daring" opera-goer. In Israel there are many such, and their needs are well taken care of. Your critic should have been more generous. SIMCHAH ROTH Herzliya Open arms Sir, - Further to "A river of Israeli travelers runs through it" (March 23): I have been traveling throughout South East Asia. In Bangkok, Thailand, I stumbled upon Chabad House on Koh Sarn Road, famous for the number of young backpackers it hosts, many of whom are young Israelis. I was first introduced to Chabad as a young Israeli soldier, when I recall them coming to our remote base to hand out doughnuts on Purim. They were always cheerful and pleasant, never pontificating or condescending. Brought up on a secular kibbutz, I found them amusing and slightly strange. I also remember them in NYC, where I lived for a while, with their Friday Chabad-Mobile, asking us if we where Jewish and inviting us to put on tefillin. I came upon them again this last Purim in, of all places, a remote town in Laos, where they have a small outpost. Again, their warmth and graciousness in welcoming a stranger to their party was overwhelming. My last Friday night in Bangkok I was invited to participate in Shabbat dinner, no strings attached. I found out they have five branches in Thailand, in which 1,700 Israelis and other Jews celebrated Pessah together. This secular "wandering Jew" would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Not once did I feel preached to, or made to feel less of a Jew for not embracing their form of worship. ELI FREEDMAN Toronto