The Israel Opera presents their whirlwind 2016-2017 season, and surprises us with new productions and new venues, in addition to changes in staff.
At a press conference Monday, March 28th, General Director Hanna Munitz confirmed rumors that she is concluding her 21-year tenure, and calmed concerns that the proposed budget cuts in the arts will not be a threat to the Opera – which, impressively, remains relatively self-sufficient.
Meanwhile, the biggest surprise of the year is a new opera festival in the Timna valley, in place of the Masada Opera Festival (although Munitz promises it will return). Timna will be a fitting backdrop for Saint-Saens’ biblical opera Samson and Delilah, and will be turned into a masked ball in Verdi’s political drama Un ballo in maschera. Besides Timna, the other two regular outdoor festivals will continue: Verdi’s “Jewish” opera Nabucco will be given the historically unique setting of the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem, and Handel’s beautiful baroque opera Julius Caesar in Egypt will be staged, not in Egypt, but in at the Knight’s Halls in Acco. In other happy news, the Opera will resume the tradition of Opera in the Park: a free, fully staged performance of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly in the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.
The Israel Opera will also be bringing the work of two world-famous directors: operatic director Stefano Poda, whose work spans the most important opera houses in the world, and the late Anthony Minghella, director of the Academy Award winning film The English Patient.
Puccini’s Madama Butterfly will be conducted by Daniel Oren and presented in the world-famous staging by Anthony Minghella. If you want a sneak peek at the Minghella Butterfly, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is showing it this Saturday as part of the international Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Minghella turned to opera late in his career, but his one attempt enjoyed immense and immediate success, garnering an Olivier Award. Now, thanks to the Israel Opera, we will be able to experience it for ourselves.
In an another exciting move, the Opera will present, for the first time in Israel, Rossini’s opera La gazzetta (“The Magazine”). This work is not the most popular of Rossini’s 39 operas, but it features the same sensational composing style and vocal acrobatics as the other operas we know and love. Director Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera will return for this production and Jan Schultsz will conduct.
A new production of Gounod’s Faust will join two operatic powerhouses: director Stefano Poda and conductor Dan Ettinger. Poda’s production was first presented last year at the Teatro Regio in Torino, in a co-production with the Israel Opera.
In addition to Butterfly, Daniel Oren will conduct two new productions: Verdi’s beloved La forza del destino, starring Anna Pirozzi, Gustavo Porta and Ionut Pascu, and Bellini’s Norma, the doomed love story of a Druid priestess and a Roman soldier in Gaul. The role of Norma, a soprano showcase, will be undertaken by Maria Pia Piscitelli, soon to sing Lady Macbeth at the Opera.
Complementing Norma, a standard of bel canto operatic style, we will have Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott and set in the highlands of Scotland. This production, directed by Emilio Sagi, was presented for the first time in the 2011-2012 season. Daniele Callegari will conduct.
In between the angst of these tragic operas, the Budapest Operetta Theater will present Emmerich Kalman’s Countess Maritza. We can count on them for some comic relief and the authentic operetta experience of colorful costumes and dazzling dances.
As always, the Liturgical Series and the Symphonic Series will bring us performances by world-class conductors: James Judd, Andres Mustonen, Frederic Chaslin and more. Several highlights: a premiere of an Israeli work by Avi Berman, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the Verdi and Mozart Requiems, Bachianas Brasileiras, Beethoven’s Eroica, Carmina Burana conducted by Chen Zimbalista, and more.
Children’s programs at the opera house will continue, both Nitza Shaul’s selection of lively and informative shows about various composers and artists, and the Opera for Kids shows in the foyer of the house, sung in Hebrew by the soloists of the Meitar Opera Studio and directed especially for young audiences by the lovable Shirit Lee Weiss.
In addition to these, the Israel Opera will continue to offer its extended program of special concerts at the opera house and elsewhere, all performed by the members of the Opera Studio: light popular music concerts at the Zappa Theater, Israeli music at the Tzavta Theater, and narrated Saturday morning concerts featuring opera, operetta and musical theater.
Last but not least, we will let you in on a secret: the singers of the Israel Opera will be performing flash mobs around the country, so keep your eyes peeled and your ears open – or else you might miss them!
For more details on the new season, visit the Israel Opera website at www.israel-opera.co.il.