Panim- Faces of Art and culture in Israel- May-June 1996

Panim- Faces of Art and culture in Israel- May-June 1996


Panim: Faces of Art and Culture in Israel

May-June 1996




In rehearsal








From Don Giovanni


One-of-a-kind Opera Workshop Brings World's Best to Israel Each Summer

There isn't an empty seat to be found; people fill the aisles and cram every available nook and cranny of the auditorium, stopping just short of hanging from the rafters. Not drawn by internationally famous opera stars, the overflow audience has come to see the young, up-and-coming talents that will undoubtedly grace the world stages in the years to come. Such is the scene summer after sweltering Tel Aviv summer at the concerts of the Israel Vocal Arts Institute (IVAI), part of their annual summer opera workshop. Every year a select group of gifted singers, foreign and Israeli, are fortunate enough to participate in the prestigious workshop, the only one of its kind in the world. For young opera students, it is the chance of a lifetime to study with the masters of their art. For the audience, it is an opportunity to get a preview of the voices of the future.

The summer opera workshop was the dream of artistic director, Joan Dornemann, who established the annual event along with IVAI nine years ago - a labor of love for opera and Israel. Dornemann, who during the rest of the year serves as assistant conductor, vocal teacher and prompter at New York's Metropolitan Opera, succeeded in convincing some of the world's finest teachers to spend their summers working for a pittance with young singers in Israel. From morning till night, six days a week for four weeks, these teachers, hailing from such auspicious houses as the Met and La Scala, give private vocal lessons and master classes, as well as classes in diction, acting, voice development, movement and even a class for piano accompanists. Once under the workshop's spell, many instructors return faithfully year after year. Among them this year are Frederico Davia, Renata Scotto, Sherrill Milnes, Nico Castel and William Woodruff.

This summer the workshop, funded by the Municipality of Tel Aviv, will be held from July 16 through August 17. Filling the practice rooms of the Stricker Conservatory will be 80 opera students (35 foreign and 45 Israeli, including many new immigrants from the former Soviet Union) ranging in level from beginners to semi-professional. Their potential is the only requirement shared by all. Auditions are held by IVAI in New York and Tel Aviv. As part of their training, the workshop also offers invaluable stage experience. Full-length productions (with piano accompaniment) are mounted nightly during the last two weeks of the course. Lieder concerts, recitals, and programs of American show music and Ladino music are given at a number of venues throughout Tel Aviv and Jaffa. A gala concert always marks the conclusion of the workshop. The hottest tickets in town, all the concerts are filled to capacity. This year, a big outdoor concert, free to the public, is also being planned.

Attending the workshop is certainly a feather in the cap of any would-be opera singer and a tremendous step towards a coveted position with a professional company. Denis Sedov, a 22 year-old new immigrant, attended the workshop for the past two years and is now in James Levine's young artists program at the Met. After three summer workshops, Susanna Poretsky also joined the Met. Anat Efraty sings with the Vienna Staatsoper and already has several recordings to her credit. Dan Ettinger, Sivan Rotem, Sharon Rostorf and Hadar Halevi, to name a few, have gone on to sing with the New Israel Opera.




  Aviv Gefen: Voice of a Generation

Rock singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen is not everyone's cup of tea. Nor does he want to be. Israel's musical enfant terrible, Geffen was hurled into the national consensus when the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin asked him to perform at the November 4th peace rally. Geffen was the last person Rabin embraced before he was assassinated, and the song he sang that night, "Cry to You," has become ("Forever, my friend, I will remember you, and in the end, we'll meet again, I know it") something of a national anthem memorializing Rabin.

They made a rather odd pair: the stern and dour military man and the self-professed conscientious objector (although there were medical reasons that kept Geffen out of the army) whose plea to the country's youth to follow his example had rendered him persona non grata in not a few circles. "Rabin respected me for who I am," says Geffen. "I was and remain a firm supporter of the peace process."

Despite his new establishment-friendly status, Geffen says he is as intractable and rebellious as ever. He doesn't even look like Israel's other T-shirt and jeans-clad pop singers. First, there's his heavy makeup (a nod to David Bowie, he says), then his long frock coats and ankle-length skirts. He wants to appear - he looks as frail as a feather - as dissentious as are the words to many of his songs. It's an image he's after.

Exploding on to the local music scene with his "We are a Screwed-Up Generation," Geffen has become the symbol of an entire generation -- an epithet used by both his critics and his admirers. For some, he simply represents the wantonness of today's youth; for others, he's the epitome of its strengths.

Geffen likes to concentrate on its strengths. He's a man with a mission and, like some new-age prophets, wants to change the world single-handedly. And he doesn't mince his words. "We're a racist, violent, power-hungry people," says this ardent pacifist, who likes to think of himself as a Johnny-come-lately flower-child of the sixties. He was just born too late.

Aviv Geffen is all of 22. Nephew of Moshe Dayan and son of Jonathan Geffen, one of Israel's most prolific lyricists, Geffen says it was from his father that he learned to fight for what he believes in. He began studying music at age six (he taught himself to play six instruments - singer David Broza gave him his first guitar), wrote his first song by the time he was seven (a coming-to-terms elegy following his parents' separation), and by the time he was 17, he had cut his first album. He has just released his fifth recording, "The Letter," the first four having sold over 160,000 copies (all Geffen's albums have gone gold - over 20,000 sold - and all are on their way to platinum - 40,000 sold).

Although he never made it past the eighth grade, Geffen is a musical success story of the nineties, whose impact goes well beyond the realm of rock-n-roll. He sings only his own lyrics and has begun composing for Arik Einstein and Nurit Galron, two pillars of Israeli popular music. His musical gurus are Pink Floyd and John Lennon; Geffen's local hero is aging rocker Shalom Hanoch. He enjoys Beethoven and Bach and claims he learned English by listening to Bob Dylan. Like Dylan, Geffen's music is often grating and harsh, a seeming contradiction to his anti-violence ethos. "To be heard," says Geffen, "you sometimes have to shout." And sometimes you need to whisper. His love songs reveal a paradoxically gentle, vulnerable - human - side.

Now he is being heard abroad, as well. He sang an English version of "Cry to You" (translated by Ehud Manor) at the Rabin memorial rally at New York's Madison Square Garden, and has appeared on "Schreinemakers Live," Germany's most prestigious talk show. He is the only Israeli invited to sing at the European "Rock Against Hate" concert this summer in Switzerland. From there, he flies to Milan, Rome and back to Germany. In between, he will be taking that most conventional of steps and tying the knot with his long-time girlfriend, Ilana.

It is not easy being a cult hero. Geffen is so well-known, he avoids most public places. Even his makeup, he says, is a way of distancing himself from his fans. "It's how I maintain some semblance of privacy," says Israel's most identifiable and controversial singer. "Audiences see a mask and don't necessarily know what's behind it." Geffen prefers it that way.

- Shelley Kleiman





  Beit Hagefen Launches Annual Arab Book and Culture Month Countrywide

21 years ago it started out as Arabic Book Week. 12 years ago it evolved into Arabic Culture Week. As of four years ago a full-scale Arab Book and Culture Month was born. Today it is the most extensive and comprehensive celebration of Arab culture in Israel. From May 7 to June 7, international conferences, international and local art exhibits, a theater marathon, monodrama festival, book fair, debka festival and musical events will take place in Haifa, Nazareth and Beit Jann. In addition, 40 Arab and mixed Arab-Jewish communities across the country will host, together with Omanut La'am, hundreds of events including plays, films, dance, music and symposia.

The project is organized by Beit Hagefen, the Haifa-based Arab-Jewish center, in cooperation with the Municipality of Haifa and Omanut La'am ("Art for the People"), with the support of the Ministry of Science and Arts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Division of Cultural and Scientific Affairs. In spite of a modest budget (about NIS 900,000, plus additional funding from Arab town councils hosting events), admission to most events is free of charge, making the happening accessible to all.

During the last three years, government funding for Arab and Druse culture has been a priority for Shulamit Aloni, minister of science and arts. Whereas in 1993 the culture budget for the Arab sector was NIS 2.9 million, this year it has been more than quintupled to NIS 15 million. There are currently five Arab theater companies in Israel, including a national theater, as well as over 40 debka (Arab folk dance) troupes.

As with every year for the past 17 years, the Arabic Book Fair is a cornerstone of the Arab Culture and Book Month. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 47.8% of people in the Arab sector 14 years of age and older read at least one book a month. To satiate this appetite, thousands of Arabic titles from Israel and abroad will be on display. Subjects range from religion to classical and contemporary literature, science and computers, with a special emphasis on children's literature. This year's fair will include books and publishers from countries such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Sudan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and others. Also on display is a special catalog, alphabetized by publisher, of all books published in the Arab world updated to 1996.

Highlights of the Month's Activities:

With a carnival-style spirit, Beit Hagefen's debka festival salutes Arab folklore and tradition with some 20 debka troupes from around Israel; a tribute to the oud highlights the importance and centrality of this instrument in classical Arabic music; a marathon of ten plays by various Arab theaters will take place in Beit Jann; writers, poets and journalists from the Arab world will meet their Israeli counterparts during two conferences organized as part of the month's activities; six monodramas in Arabic will be shown during the course of the month and compete for prizes. In addition, the marathon will feature a guest production from Jordan by actor/director Khaled al-Tarifi.


















Sculpture by Gladman Zinyeka, Zimbabwe


Work by Zeng Shanging and Yan Yanping (China)

  Award-winning Student Film Extends a Hand Across the Border

Berkowitz is an Israeli reserve soldier assigned to a remote observation post on the Israeli-Jordanian desert border some time before the peace agreement between the two countries was signed. On the other side is his Jordanian counterpart who, like Berkowitz, is bored by the monotonous routine of the watch. As the desert sun beats down relentlessly, the two make cautious contact - Berkowitz passes the Jordanian soldier a copy of Playboy which he found at his post. In return, the Jordanian hands Berkowitz a canteen of precious water. As the long hours pass, a friendship is formed between two average men who happen to find themselves on opposite sides of the fence.

This short (14 minutes) film, "Second Watch" (Mishmeret Shniya), was the final project of then second-year film student Udi Ben-Arie from the Tel Aviv University Film Department. Proving that telling a story well does not require a large budget and reels of film, this modest production (a working budget of about $8,000) has already received international acclaim. It debuted in November 1995 at the prestigious Munich International Festival of Film Schools, where it was one of the five films selected, from among 170, to receive the festival's award. In April, "Second Watch" took first place in the short film competition at the Filmfest Dresden. The film was also screened at the recent AIPAC conference in Washington DC, and in Turkey. It will participate in the Toronto short film festival (June 4-9) and the upcoming Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival.

Art Exhibits

"The Right to Hope"

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and UNESCO, an important exhibit addressing the theme of one world living in peace, tolerance and coexistence was created by 44 artists and sculptors from 40 countries including Mexico, Korea, Jordan, China and Japan. Unveiled in South Africa by President Nelson Mandela, "The Right to Hope" then proceeded to Cairo and the National Gallery in Amman before coming to Haifa. Its next stop will be Ireland.

Exhibit of Ten Israeli Arab Artists

Works by ten prominent Israeli Arab artists have been gathered together into an exhibit curated by artist Abed Abdi. The approach chosen by these painters and sculptors reflects cultural streams that have left their marks in the layers of color; influences of earlier cultures and their symbols, such as calligraphy and ornamentation, arabesques or Byzantine iconography, feature prominently in the works of many of them; others are drawn to geometric shapes or use wood and rusted metal to invoke folkloric images.


"White Night" at Cannes

Arnon Tzadok's film, "White Night" (Laila lavan), was selected to represent Israel in the Directors' Fortnight at the 1996 Cannes International Film Festival (May 9-20). It will compete for the Camera d'Or and the Critics Week prizes. Festival director Pierre-Henri Deleau called it "one of the most powerful" films he's seen.









  New Films Released:

"The Italians are Coming" (Ha'italkim ba'im): Bon vivant Italians, water polo and a kibbutz are the ingredients for the love triangle at the heart of this new Israeli-Italian co-production. As the water polo team from a large kibbutz faces the game that will determine if it maintains its first-place league ranking, an Italian team arrives on the kibbutz for a final training camp before the European finals. The troubled Israeli trainer, Amos, faces the charming Italian coach, Luigi. In the middle is Daria, the object of both men's affections, who is struggling to keep the kibbutz from bankruptcy. Unmarried, she and Amos have a child, the result of a secret affair, who is the team's goal keeper. Featuring Asher Zarfati, Yona Elian-Keshet and Franco Nero. Directed by Eyal Halfon. Produced by Chaim Sharir and Massimo Cristaldi.

"Planet Blue" (Hakochav hakachol): "Space tripping has never been this easy; Losing your mind has never been so much fun. Planet Blue offers a round trip ticket to a tragi-comic mystical odyssey. This is the true story of Muly, a lost searcher, a desperate believer, but a nice guy nonetheless." "Planet Blue" is a surrealistic adventure shared by a cast of outcasts. Directed by Gur Bentwich. Produced by Gur Bentwich, Zohar Dinar and Alon Aboutboul.





Tadmor in Ta









Dror and Ben Gal in Anta Oumri
  Ido Tadmor Takes it to the Limit with New Work

Critically acclaimed dancer/choreographer Ido Tadmor debuted his new full-length piece, Ta ("Cell"), at the end of April. Following on the successful heels of his last work, "Sima's Pot," this piece for eight dancers addresses the instinctive need for a structure in daily life. "Ta looks at the constant need we have to create and then break frameworks. The paradox is that every such fracture creates a new framework," says the 31 year-old choreographer. Tadmor's message is that real freedom can be found within the structures of life and not necessarily by breaking them. In Ta, he explores these abstract frameworks with the help of such confining props as straitjackets, baby cribs and large, metal cages. Tadmor and his company will perform Ta at the annual Tokyo International Dance Festival this September. He will also be a guest of the Bagnolet competition and will dance at a special evening of solos and duets. A graduate of the Bat-Dor Dance School and former soloist with the Bat-Dor and Batsheva dance companies, Tadmor danced with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York before returning to Israel to dance and choreograph on his own.

Israeli Dance Troupes at European Festivals This Summer

Dance companies Vertigo and Liat Dror and Nir Ben-Gal will be spending part of their summer at major European arts festivals. Vertigo will represent Israel at the French dance competition, Rencontres Choreographiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis, Bagnolet (June 12-16). The company will present Limbus, a work it created together with the British troupe Ricochets for the 1994 Israel Festival. Vertigo and Limbus will return in July to take part in the Rome-Europe Arts Festival, along with Barak Marshall's "Aunt Leah" and Shelley Gonen and Ari Rosenzweig's Chronica (July 12-13).

Liat Dror and Nir Ben-Gal, first place winners at the 1989 Bagnolet competition, will be back in France this summer for the 1996 Montpellier International Dance Festival (July 1-2). Dror and Ben-Gal will present Anta Oumri, an expressive dance theater piece set to a song by the legendary Egyptian singer Um Kulthum.

Israel Prize to Choreographer Moshe Efrati

Israel's most prestigious dance prize, the Israel Prize for dance, was just awarded to Moshe Efrati, choreographer and founder of the Kol Demama Dance Company. Efrati, one of the founding members of the Batsheva Dance Company, established the Kol Demama (literally translated as "Sound Silence") ensemble in 1967. The company was uniquely noted for its combination of hearing dancers and deaf dancers who "heard" the music through vibrations rising from the stage. He has choreographed for numerous companies, including the Flemish Ballet and the Deutsche Opera of Berlin. The Israel Prize was awarded to Efrati for his rich and unique dance vocabulary, which includes elements inspired by the Jewish heritage and spirit of Israel.





The Handspring Puppet Company, South Africa



The Reduced Shakespeare Company, USA



Deutsches National Theater, Weimar



The Assad Brothers, Brazil

  Israel Festival Turns Jerusalem into International Cultural Mecca

20 countries, 40 different shows, over 60,000 tickets. That is what the 1996 Israel Festival has in store for local culture vultures for 18 days between May 25 and June 11. Hundreds of artists from Israel, the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Brazil, Austria, Sweden, India, Belgium, Turkey, Morocco, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Canada, Switzerland and Japan will gather for the occasion. From provocative contemporary theater and dance to a diverse selection of music ranging from classical to ethnic, jazz and rock, the grande dame of international Israeli festivals shines brightly.

Under the guidance of artistic director Micah Lewensohn and general manager Yossi Tal-Gan, this year's festival places a special focus on Israeli productions. Rina Yerushalmi premieres her biblically-inspired work, Vayomer, with her Itim Ensemble (see cover story, March-April Panim); the dance company of Liat Dror and Nir Ben-Gal debut their new production, "The Land of Rape and Honey," in which seven dancers deal with issues prevalent in the Israeli experience - power struggles over control, love and parenthood - against a background of everyday politics in Israel; Hanan Snir heads an Israeli team directing the Deutsches National Theater of Weimar, in a thought-provoking production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, set in a concentration camp; and American director Robert Woodruff directs the Beersheba Municipal Theater in "The Jew Named Suss".

The musical program presents several Israeli composers including Michael Wolpe, Israel Sharon, Ishai Knoll and Mordechai Seter. And, on a more contemporary note, rock singer Aviv Geffen will perform for the first time together with his father, songwriter Jonathan Geffen.

South Africa's 25 year-old Handspring Puppet Company, a symbiosis of life-size puppets and their human puppeteers; the American Reduced Shakespeare Company in "The Bible: the Complete Word of God (abridged);" the Tokyo Ballet in three works by Maurice Bejart; the Indian music of Zakir Hussain; classical music programs with a special focus on the music of Dmitri Shostakovich; pianist Yefim Bronfman, and L'Arena di Verona Opera House's production of Nabucco are but a sample of the eclectic program

An annual event since 1961, the Israel Festival is sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Arts, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism.













  Two Photographic Exhibits of Rabin Are Making the Rounds

Rabin, the soldier; Rabin, the statesman; Rabin, the family man; Rabin, the tennis player; and, above all, Rabin, the peacemaker. These are some of the images of the late prime minister captured by photographers over the decades. Now these images have been collected in two new exhibits dedicated to his memory.

Described as an exhibition documenting the man rather than a memorial, "The Absent Photograph" is a rich and varied exhibit curated by Meir Ahronson for the Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan. Because press photographers hovered around Rabin, day in and day out, documenting the important and the banal, there is an extensive record of his life and, accordingly, of the history of the state of Israel. The exhibit's title refers to the one moment that was not photographed - the assassination. Initiated by the photographers themselves as a way of dealing with their own absence at the critical moment, the collection of 170 pictures reflects the magnitude of the life and death of a prime minister and of a native son.

The exhibit will be on display for one month at the presidential palace in Prague beginning May 14. Czech president Vaclav Havel and Mrs. Leah Rabin will be present at the opening. As the palace is a major attraction in the Czech capital, it is expected that as many as one million tourists will see the exhibit during its run. From there, "The Absent Photograph" will tour several European cities in coordination with the Foreign Ministry's Public Affairs Division.

"Rabin Remembered" is the title of an exhibit produced by the Foreign Ministry's Public Affairs Division. Composed of 23 panels, the exhibit highlighting Yitzhak Rabin's lifetime of accomplishments is available in three languages - English, French and Spanish. It has already been shown in Washington DC, New York, London and Brussels and will soon tour South America.

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