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January 28, 2014 1:21 am

A Polish Opera Director in the Judean Desert

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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The Polish opera.

Pre-state Israel experienced its first opera premiere when the Russian-born conductor and visionary Mordechai Golinkin directed Verdi’s La traviata in September 1923. With no opera house existing in Tel Aviv at the time, La traviata had to be performed in movie theaters. Part of his quest to pioneer opera life and culture in Israel, La traviata was one of the first of several operas that Golinkin directed in the early years leading to Jewish statehood.

But now, more than 90 years later, La traviata is making its appearance once again in the Holy Land – this time under very different circumstances. The Israeli Opera company is internationally recognized, and Tel Aviv boasts a state-of-the-art Opera House at the city’s Performing Arts Center.

But this production will still be a unique experience, as it will take place at Masada from June 12-17, as the main performance of the fourth Israeli Opera Festival.

“We want to give these stones life,” said Chana Munitz, the Israeli Opera general director, in reference to Masada, a rugged natural fortress where survivors of the Jewish revolt against Roman rule chose death rather than slavery. “Producing opera in an opera house is one thing, but producing an opera event in the desert is quite another.”

The La traviata production is directed by one of the world’s most renowned opera directors, Michal Znaniecki, who specializes in open air productions. The show will also feature internationally-acclaimed Israeli conductor, maestro Daniel Oren.

Znaniecki, originally from Warsaw, told Tazpit News Agency that producing La traviata in Masada “was a natural choice.”

“Masada’s history is a perfect backdrop for La travieta. The life and death theme in the story resonates with what took place in Masada in addition to the landmarks’ importance for the people of Israel,” he stated.

The Polish director began his career in 1994, and has directed 180 new productions of opera, theater plays, and musicals across the world in Poland, France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Norway, and Argentina, among other countries.

Znaniecki has been working on the La travieta production for the past three years and related to Tazpit that he is “excited to see the project finally happen in the Judean desert.”

It will be the largest and most complex opera production ever seen in Israel, employing some 2,500 people, in addition to 700 participants and operating teams. The festival will also feature the Israel Philharmonic led by Kent Nagano and the Idan Raichel Project, as well as singers from the Israel Opera’s Meitar Opera Studio.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism expects 50,000 people from Israel and ‘cultural tourists’ from abroad to partake in the 2014 festival. This year, the Israeli Opera Festival will also come to Akko (June 19-21), and will feature a weekend of Mozart at the subterranean Crusader Halls in Akko’s Old City.

For tickets and more information about the Fourth Israeli Opera Festival, call or visit the website: (03) 692-7777 and www.israel-opera.co.il

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