Panim: Faces of Art and Culture in Israel
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
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
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,
one of its kind in the world. For young opera students, it is the
of a lifetime to study with the masters of their art. For the
is an opportunity to get a preview of the voices of the future.
The summer opera workshop was the
dream of artistic
Joan Dornemann, who established the annual event along with
years ago - a labor of love for opera and Israel. Dornemann, who
the rest of the year serves as assistant conductor, vocal teacher
prompter at New York's Metropolitan Opera, succeeded in convincing
the world's finest teachers to spend their summers working for a
with young singers in Israel. From morning till night, six days a
four weeks, these teachers, hailing from such auspicious houses as
and La Scala, give private vocal lessons and master classes, as well
classes in diction, acting, voice development, movement and even a
for piano accompanists. Once under the workshop's spell, many
return faithfully year after year. Among them this year are
Davia, Renata Scotto, Sherrill Milnes, Nico Castel and William
This summer the workshop, funded by the Municipality of Tel
Aviv, will be held from July 16 through August 17. Filling the
rooms of the Stricker Conservatory will be 80 opera students (35
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
IVAI in New York and Tel Aviv. As part of their training, the
also offers invaluable stage experience. Full-length productions
piano accompaniment) are mounted nightly during the last two weeks
course. Lieder concerts, recitals, and programs of American show
Ladino music are given at a number of venues throughout Tel Aviv and
Jaffa. A gala concert always marks the conclusion of the workshop.
hottest tickets in town, all the concerts are filled to capacity.
year, a big outdoor concert, free to the public, is also being
Attending the workshop is certainly a feather in the cap of
would-be opera singer and a tremendous step towards a coveted
with a professional company. Denis Sedov, a 22 year-old new
attended the workshop for the past two years and is now in James
young artists program at the Met. After three summer workshops,
Poretsky also joined the Met. Anat Efraty sings with the Vienna
and already has several recordings to her credit. Dan Ettinger,
Rotem, Sharon Rostorf and Hadar Halevi, to name a few, have gone on
sing with the New Israel Opera.
Aviv Gefen: Voice of a Generation|
Rock singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen is not everyone's cup of
Nor does he want to be. Israel's musical enfant terrible, Geffen was
hurled into the national consensus when the late Prime Minister
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
sang that night, "Cry to You," has become ("Forever, my friend, I
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
the self-professed conscientious objector (although there were
reasons that kept Geffen out of the army) whose plea to the
youth to follow his example had rendered him persona non grata in
few circles. "Rabin respected me for who I am," says Geffen. "I was
remain a firm supporter of the peace process."
Despite his new establishment-friendly status, Geffen says
as intractable and rebellious as ever. He doesn't even look like
other T-shirt and jeans-clad pop singers. First, there's his heavy
(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
as dissentious as are the words to many of his songs. It's an image
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.
some, he simply represents the wantonness of today's youth; for
he's the epitome of its strengths.
Geffen likes to concentrate on its strengths. He's a man with a
and, like some new-age prophets, wants to change the world
single-handedly. And he doesn't mince his words. "We're a racist,
power-hungry people," says this ardent pacifist, who likes to think
himself as a Johnny-come-lately flower-child of the sixties. He was
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
his father that he learned to fight for what he believes in. He
studying music at age six (he taught himself to play six instruments
singer David Broza gave him his first guitar), wrote his first song
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.
just released his fifth recording, "The Letter," the first four
sold over 160,000 copies (all Geffen's albums have gone gold - over
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
rock-n-roll. He sings only his own lyrics and has begun composing
Einstein and Nurit Galron, two pillars of Israeli popular music. His
musical gurus are Pink Floyd and John Lennon; Geffen's local hero is
rocker Shalom Hanoch. He enjoys Beethoven and Bach and claims he
English by listening to Bob Dylan. Like Dylan, Geffen's music is
grating and harsh, a seeming contradiction to his anti-violence
be heard," says Geffen, "you sometimes have to shout." And sometimes
need to whisper. His love songs reveal a paradoxically gentle,
- human - side.
Now he is being heard abroad, as well. He sang an English
of "Cry to You" (translated by Ehud Manor) at the Rabin memorial
New York's Madison Square Garden, and has appeared on
Live," Germany's most prestigious talk show. He is the only Israeli
invited to sing at the European "Rock Against Hate" concert this
Switzerland. From there, he flies to Milan, Rome and back to
between, he will be taking that most conventional of steps and tying
knot with his long-time girlfriend, Ilana.
It is not easy being a cult hero. Geffen is so well-known,
avoids most public places. Even his makeup, he says, is a way of
distancing himself from his fans. "It's how I maintain some
privacy," says Israel's most identifiable and controversial singer.
"Audiences see a mask and don't necessarily know what's behind it."
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
evolved into Arabic Culture Week. As of four years ago a full-scale
Book and Culture Month was born. Today it is the most extensive and
comprehensive celebration of Arab culture in Israel. From May 7 to
international conferences, international and local art exhibits, a
marathon, monodrama festival, book fair, debka festival and musical
will take place in Haifa, Nazareth and Beit Jann. In addition, 40
mixed Arab-Jewish communities across the country will host, together
Omanut La'am, hundreds of events including plays, films, dance,
The project is organized by Beit Hagefen, the Haifa-based
Arab-Jewish center, in cooperation with the Municipality of Haifa
Omanut La'am ("Art for the People"), with the support of the
Science and Arts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Division of
and Scientific Affairs. In spite of a modest budget (about NIS
plus additional funding from Arab town councils hosting events),
to most events is free of charge, making the happening accessible to
During the last three years, government funding for Arab
Druse culture has been a priority for Shulamit Aloni, minister of
and arts. Whereas in 1993 the culture budget for the Arab sector was
2.9 million, this year it has been more than quintupled to NIS 15
There are currently five Arab theater companies in Israel, including
national theater, as well as over 40 debka (Arab folk dance)
As with every year for the past 17 years, the Arabic Book
a cornerstone of the Arab Culture and Book Month. According to the
Bureau of Statistics, 47.8% of people in the Arab sector 14 years of
and older read at least one book a month. To satiate this appetite,
thousands of Arabic titles from Israel and abroad will be on
Subjects range from religion to classical and contemporary
science and computers, with a special emphasis on children's
This year's fair will include books and publishers from countries
Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Sudan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and
others. Also on display is a special catalog, alphabetized by
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
Israel; a tribute to the oud highlights the importance and
this instrument in classical Arabic music; a marathon of ten plays
various Arab theaters will take place in Beit Jann; writers, poets
journalists from the Arab world will meet their Israeli counterparts
during two conferences organized as part of the month's activities;
monodramas in Arabic will be shown during the course of the month
compete for prizes. In addition, the marathon will feature a guest
production from Jordan by actor/director Khaled
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
post on the Israeli-Jordanian desert border some time before the
agreement between the two countries was signed. On the other side is
Jordanian counterpart who, like Berkowitz, is bored by the
routine of the watch. As the desert sun beats down relentlessly, the
make cautious contact - Berkowitz passes the Jordanian soldier a
Playboy which he found at his post. In return, the
hands Berkowitz a canteen of precious water. As the long hours
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"
Shniya), was the final project of then second-year film
Ben-Arie from the Tel Aviv University Film Department. Proving that
telling a story well does not require a large budget and reels of
this modest production (a working budget of about $8,000) has
received international acclaim. It debuted in November 1995 at the
prestigious Munich International Festival of Film Schools, where it
one of the five films selected, from among 170, to receive the
award. In April, "Second Watch" took first place in the short film
competition at the Filmfest Dresden. The film was also screened at
recent AIPAC conference in Washington DC, and in Turkey. It will
participate in the Toronto short film festival (June 4-9) and the
Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival.
"The Right to Hope"
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United
UNESCO, an important exhibit addressing the theme of one world
peace, tolerance and coexistence was created by 44 artists and
from 40 countries including Mexico, Korea, Jordan, China and Japan.
Unveiled in South Africa by President Nelson Mandela, "The Right to
then proceeded to Cairo and the National Gallery in Amman before
Haifa. Its next stop will be Ireland.
Exhibit of Ten Israeli Arab Artists
Works by ten prominent Israeli Arab artists have been
together into an exhibit curated by artist Abed Abdi. The approach
by these painters and sculptors reflects cultural streams that have
their marks in the layers of color; influences of earlier cultures
their symbols, such as calligraphy and ornamentation, arabesques or
Byzantine iconography, feature prominently in the works of many of
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).
will compete for the Camera d'Or and the Critics Week prizes.
director Pierre-Henri Deleau called it "one of the most powerful"
New Films Released:
"The Italians are Coming" (Ha'italkim ba'im):
vivant Italians, water polo and a kibbutz are the ingredients for
triangle at the heart of this new Israeli-Italian co-production. As
water polo team from a large kibbutz faces the game that will
it maintains its first-place league ranking, an Italian team arrives
the kibbutz for a final training camp before the European finals.
troubled Israeli trainer, Amos, faces the charming Italian coach,
In the middle is Daria, the object of both men's affections, who is
struggling to keep the kibbutz from bankruptcy. Unmarried, she and
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
"Planet Blue" (Hakochav hakachol): "Space
tripping has never been this easy; Losing your mind has never been
fun. Planet Blue offers a round trip ticket to a tragi-comic
odyssey. This is the true story of Muly, a lost searcher, a
believer, but a nice guy nonetheless." "Planet Blue" is a
surrealistic adventure shared by a cast of outcasts. Directed by Gur Bentwich.
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
his new full-length piece, Ta ("Cell"), at the end of
on the successful heels of his last work, "Sima's Pot," this piece
eight dancers addresses the instinctive need for a structure in
life. "Ta looks at the constant need we have to create and then
frameworks. The paradox is that every such fracture creates a new
framework," says the 31 year-old choreographer. Tadmor's message is
real freedom can be found within the structures of life and not
necessarily by breaking them. In Ta, he explores these abstract
with the help of such confining props as straitjackets, baby cribs
large, metal cages. Tadmor and his company will perform Ta at the
Tokyo International Dance Festival this September. He will also be a
of the Bagnolet competition and will dance at a special evening of
and duets. A graduate of the Bat-Dor Dance School and former soloist
the Bat-Dor and Batsheva dance companies, Tadmor danced with the Lar
Lubovitch Dance Company in New York before returning to Israel to
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,
Choreographiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis, Bagnolet
12-16). The company will present Limbus, a work it created together
the British troupe Ricochets for the 1994 Israel Festival. Vertigo
Limbus will return in July to take part in the Rome-Europe Arts
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
Montpellier International Dance Festival (July 1-2). Dror and
present Anta Oumri, an expressive dance theater piece set to a song
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
Kol Demama Dance Company. Efrati, one of the founding members of the
Batsheva Dance Company, established the Kol Demama (literally
as "Sound Silence") ensemble in 1967. The company was uniquely noted
its combination of hearing dancers and deaf dancers who "heard" the
through vibrations rising from the stage. He has choreographed for
numerous companies, including the Flemish Ballet and the Deutsche
Berlin. The Israel Prize was awarded to Efrati for his rich and
dance vocabulary, which includes elements inspired by the Jewish
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
what the 1996 Israel Festival has in store for local culture
18 days between May 25 and June 11. Hundreds of artists from Israel,
United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Brazil, Austria,
India, Belgium, Turkey, Morocco, New Zealand, Slovenia, South
Spain, Canada, Switzerland and Japan will gather for the occasion.
provocative contemporary theater and dance to a diverse selection of
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
Israeli productions. Rina Yerushalmi premieres her
work, Vayomer, with her Itim Ensemble (see cover story,
March-April Panim); the dance company of Liat Dror and
Ben-Gal debut their new production, "The Land of Rape and Honey," in
seven dancers deal with issues prevalent in the Israeli experience -
struggles over control, love and parenthood - against a background
everyday politics in Israel; Hanan Snir heads an Israeli team
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
Beersheba Municipal Theater in "The Jew Named Suss".
presents several Israeli composers including Michael Wolpe, Israel
Ishai Knoll and Mordechai Seter. And, on a more contemporary note,
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
the Tokyo Ballet in three works by Maurice Bejart; the Indian music
Zakir Hussain; classical music programs with a special focus on the
of Dmitri Shostakovich; pianist Yefim Bronfman, and L'Arena di
Opera House's production of Nabucco are but a sample of the eclectic
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
and the Ministry of Tourism.
Two Photographic Exhibits of Rabin Are Making the Rounds
Rabin, the soldier; Rabin, the statesman; Rabin, the family man;
the tennis player; and, above all, Rabin, the peacemaker. These are
of the images of the late prime minister captured by photographers
the decades. Now these images have been collected in two new
dedicated to his memory.
Described as an exhibition documenting the man rather than
memorial, "The Absent Photograph" is a rich and
exhibit curated by Meir Ahronson for the Museum of Israeli Art,
Because press photographers hovered around Rabin, day in and day
documenting the important and the banal, there is an extensive
his life and, accordingly, of the history of the state of Israel.
exhibit's title refers to the one moment that was not photographed -
assassination. Initiated by the photographers themselves as a way of dealing with their own absence at the critical moment, the
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
at the presidential palace in Prague beginning May 14. Czech
Vaclav Havel and Mrs. Leah Rabin will be present at the opening. As
palace is a major attraction in the Czech capital, it is expected
many as one million tourists will see the exhibit during its run.
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
produced by the Foreign Ministry's Public Affairs Division. Composed
panels, the exhibit highlighting Yitzhak Rabin's lifetime of
accomplishments is available in three languages - English, French
Spanish. It has already been shown in Washington DC, New York,
Brussels and will soon tour South America.