Mount Masada to Host “Carmen” Opera for Extraordinary Performances

June 7, 2012 2:46 pm 0 comments

Mount Masada. Photo: wiki commons.

What do French opera composer Georges Bizet, Masada and a Spanish village have in common? They’re all part of the most ambitious cultural event ever staged in Israel—five performances of Bizet’s popular opera Carmen performed in a specially designed arena at the foot of Masada.

The spectacular setting in the Judean Desert has attracted wide attention amongst international opera-lovers. The performances, billed as the “Third Opera Festival at Masada” are scheduled for June 7- 11 and are almost all sold out—7,500 seats per night with ticket prices between $120-$400.

Logistics of the event are staggering. Some 2,500 workers are involved in building the enormous opera village that lies a few hundred yards from the entrance to Masada National Park.  Apart from the massive 4,000 square-meter stage, a huge backstage area containing the 30 tons of equipment needed to mount the production, the 7,500 seats and orchestra pit, and 161 top-of-the line restrooms, the area also includes a Spanish Village that will serve as a foyer and reception area. The marquee village, complete with tapas and wine bar, rises out of the sand to accommodate the 400 performers and stagehands who will bring Carmen to life in front of the extraordinary backdrop of Masada.

The festival required the cooperation of three bodies in Israel, all of which have a vested interest in the success of the venture: the Tamar Regional Council, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Opera. According to Eitan Campbell, long-time director of Masada National Park, the agreement to put on the event at Masada required a good deal of compromise. Opera producers wanted the Opera Village to be closer to the national landmark, but he and the Parks Authority insisted that within a month after the event, the site should be restored to its original natural state. “We want there to be a buzz throughout the year when Masada visitors say ‘where was the Opera Village?’ If that happens, we’ve been successful,” Campbell explains.

For Ofra Gazit, marketing director of the local Tamar Regional Council and a resident of nearby Kibbutz Ein Gedi, the opera festival means an increased focus on this unique and ecologically fragile area of the country. “The festival helps position the Dead Sea area as a natural theater,” Gazit enthuses.  “There’s a fabulous natural echo here, and the moon over Masada is dramatic—this year the waning moon will be part of the set,” she adds. Gazit was instrumental in distributing tickets for the dress rehearsal to thousands of Israelis from communities in the area. “People are very enthusiastic to be part of the experience; we get many people who have never been to an opera, so it’s a way to bring a top-notch cultural event to local residents,” she says.

Uri Hartman, Production Director of the Opera Festival, explains to visitors ahead of opening night that conditions for the performers are “highly unusual.”  The four-act opera is scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m but temperatures can still be in the upper 70s and the arid desert air is harmful to the vocal chords of professional opera stars. The heavy layered costumes will also be a challenge, notes Hartman. Unlike at major European opera houses, the principal singers at Masada will be wearing microphones concealed on their foreheads under their wigs to compensate for the potential wind that can interfere with the acoustics. Because of the heat, rehearsals start at around 7 p.m and continue until 1 a.m, but the workers building the sets and the village have been working around the clock for several months. “Altogether, everything is more complicated with this kind of unique production,” Hartman says.

Tenowned Israeli opera conductor Daniel Oren will lead internationally-acclaimed performers, including mezzo soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera playing Carmen, tenor Marco Berti playing Don Jose, soprano Maria Agresta playing Micaela and baritone Marcin Bronikowski playing Escamillo. Carmen is directed by Giancarlo del Monaco- Zukerman with set design by William Orlandi.

The Ankor Children’s Choir, flamenco dancers from Spain and the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion will also take part in the performance.

What role will the great fortress cliff of Masada play? The number one most visited site in Israel, which has become a symbol of Jewish resistance due to the terrible events that occurred there as Jews died rather than submit to Roman slavery, is kept alive and dynamic by all the events that happen in and around it, explains director Campbell.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.