Those of you who read my last post, The City in White, may be wondering if I made it safely to the Opera in Tel Aviv and back. Well, never fear. I did. I took everyone’s advice and went by taxi, leaving an hour earlier than usual, for fear of traffic jams on flooded or ice-covered roads, or the possibility that the heavy snow might have blocked the small roads leading to the exit from my south Jerusalem neighbourhood. But by late afternoon, the roads had been cleared and, so far from there being traffic jams, the traffic was much lighter than usual so that in the event, the journey to Tel Aviv was accomplished in even less time than usual. By half-past-six, I was at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Centre, with plenty of time for a hot meal before curtain-up at 8 p.m.
There was also time to enjoy the art work in the foyer – a group of papier-maché sculptures by Smadar Harel, collectively entitled “Sounds“, which I captured on my (rather old) mobile phone, a Motorola RAZR V3x. The results can be seen below:
Now, to the opera itself, the reason for my making the arduous trip from the snowbound capital to the coastal metropolis – Verdi’s “Luisa Miller”, kicking off the Verdi Bicentenary celebrations. This was an opera I had never seen before. It is my understanding that Schiller’s play, on which the opera was based, is set in the 17th-century. I am not sure, therefore, why the director and production designer chose to transfer it (if the costumes were anything to go by) to the 1930s, but it was bearable. At least there was no attempt to set the action in a steelworks or a shipyard (don’t start me off on a rant about that now…). It was unfortunate, however, that the mise en scène for some unfathomable reason required soprano Leah Crocetto, in the role of Luisa, to be continually undressing and dressing on stage, thus repeatedly exposing, rather more than was strictly necessary, her ample physiognomy. Don’t get me wrong – Ms. Crocetto has a magnificent voice and to hear her in this demanding role on CD would be a pleasure indeed. But if listening to opera on CD were enough to satisfy me, I wouldn’t have undertaken the trip to Tel Aviv in such weather. When I go to see an opera on stage, I like to believe that the heroine is a beautiful young girl for whom two men would be ready to sacrifice all the world to make her theirs. Not that tenor Massimiliano Pisapia (Rodolfo) is exactly a lightweight – though he, too, is possessed of a glorious voice. I simply don’t buy the excuse that voices like these require a huge chest cavity.
As for the rest of the cast, baritone Vitaliy Bilyy, as Luisa’s father, was a moving, invalid old soldier, and the Italian bass-baritone Carlo Striuli gave a suitably evil performance as the villainous Wurm. Yet another Italian bass, Roberto Scandiuzzi, was no less villainous as Rodolfo’s murderous father, Count Walter, and mezzo-soprano Barbara di Castri, in her Israeli opera debut, delighted not only with her singing, but also her acting, as the rejected Duchess, Federica. She, at least, also looked the part .
Last, but by no means least, the inspired conducting of Daniel Oren pulled it all together.
To sum up the experience – I don’t regret having gone, not for a minute, despite the weather and I am looking forward to celebrating the start of the Benjamin Britten Centenary at the Israel Opera next month with “The Turn of the Screw“.