Disney meets Mozart in Tel Aviv

Rarely have I been in an operatic production that has attracted as much diversity of opinion as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ultra-modern production of The Magic Flute, which the Israeli opera will perform this month in Tel Aviv.

Love it or hate it, it’s a work of art that at least deserves contemplation, and admiration for the skill, if not the content, of the animators involved.

A parallel that comes to mind, especially during instrumental interludes, is with Walt Disney’s groundbreaking film Fantasia, where, for the first time in the history of mainstream popular culture, the art of motion picture animation married music. immortal classic. .

In today’s live production, the entire stage is a giant screen on which all the sets and props, and even thoughts and concepts, are projected in the form of animated creatures and inventions, and human artists appear as cutouts emerging as a third. dimension of the white canvas.

This is a production, a co-production, actually, of the Israeli Opera with the Komische Oper Berlin, which was bound to generate controversy. The animation is relentless, from artistic and colorful to raw and haunting, with a heavy dose of cartoonish nonsense in the mix.

The adjective silly could also justifiably be used to describe the wardrobe. All the female roles were played by singers who were dressed in American flapper-era garb, while the male leads’ clothing reflected American vaudeville fashion from the same period, if not directly from a silent Buster Keaton movie; in fact, there was frequent narration between scenes in the form of titles projected onto the screen, with the familiar accompaniment of live piano music, performed by guest conductor Nimrod David Pfeffer.

What does that epoch of history in the new world have to do with the avant-garde atmosphere of this contemporary European production, generated by the imaginative animated figures, be they human, animal or some hybrid of both, as well as animal and machine? It is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, Mozart’s music always triumphs; Anyone who is occasionally disturbed or annoyed by what is happening on the screen can always close their eyes and enjoy the purity of the 18th century genius composition.

To their credit, the cast of performers interact seamlessly with the images on the screen, a demanding task that requires precision in performance and that must be executed smoothly without adversely affecting their singing.

Together with the German director and animator, who were the co-creators of the concept of this production, which has been performed on numerous stages around the world since 2005, other international talents make their debut with the Israeli Opera: in the male lead. Papageno is sung by American baritone Theo Hoffman (alternating with Oded Reich, a graduate of the Israel Opera Meitar Studio), while Sarastro is sung – in an appropriately deep and stentorian voice – by Ukrainian bass Taras Berezhansky.

Meanwhile, the female leads making their Tel Aviv debut include two sopranos singing the Queen of the Night: Italy’s Eleonora Belloci and Germany’s Beate Ritter. The latter made a performance of coloratura bravery in the famous rage aria Der Hölle Rache; unfortunately, she was in Israel only for the first two performances, now being replaced by Belloci alternating with Israeli Nofar Yacobi, a voice familiar to the local audience.

In a similar way, the Russian soprano Alla Vailevitsky and the Israeli soprano Yael Levita are known, who alternate in the role of Pamina. Her romantic interest, the male lead Tamino, is being sung by two foreigners who are no strangers to the Israeli scene: British tenor Alasdair Kent alternating with American baritone Aaron Blake.

Lest non-vocal music be forgotten, two instruments in particular play key parts in opera: the flute and the glockenspiel. Congratulations to the flutists and percussionists of the opera orchestra, The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, under the baton of the visiting conductor (of the Metropolitan Opera of New York), the Israeli Nimrod David Pfeffer.

The current production of the Israeli opera of The Magic Flute is scheduled for November 17.


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