The 2017 Israel Festival will take place from June 1st to 18th. With the abundance of mainstream culture available in Israel, together with his team, Eyal Sher, who took over the festival’s general direction three years ago, has changed the emphasis and agenda of the program. Speaking at the festival press conference at Hansen House (Jerusalem) on April 25th, Sher articulated his aim to bring new art trends from all over the world to the festival, pointing out that this year’s festival will host artists from 16 different countries. In its new format, the Israel Festival has nevertheless retained its high standards, receiving awards and favourable critiques. Most of this year’s events will take place at the Jerusalem Theatre, but also at the Sultan’s Pool, the Eden-Tamir Music Center (Ein Kerem), with some street performances taking place in Jerusalem’s downtown Zion Square. The 2017 Israel Festival is dedicated to the memory of Micha Levinson, whose artistic vision and humanity laid the foundations of the festival’s core values, contributing immeasurably to the establishment of its prestige both in Israel and abroad.
The festival’s more daring fare means fewer works slotting into the once-conventional categories of theatre, dance and music, with more stepping out beyond the boundaries to engage in different genres within the same event. Take, for example, the opening event – “Groove Party” – taking place at the Sultan’s Pool (June 1st). Reflecting Jerusalem’s diversity, the three-hour program will include such musical legends as Teapacks and Knesiyat Hasekhel, the Firqat Alnoor Orchestra (Jewish- and Arab musicians) hosting singer Nasreen Qadri, also queen of Israeli-Indian grove Liora Itzhak, Yemenite-flavoured music performed by A-WA and Yemen Blues, as well as the funk, afrobeat, reggae fusion of the Kutiman Orchestra.
An event not for the faint-hearted is “And What Will I do with this Sword?”, in which veteran director, hypnotic artist and phenomenal performer Angėlica Lidell (Spain) explores two real-life crimes of horrific violence in a performance spoken in Spanish, Japanese and French (with Hebrew surtitles) and lasting four and a half hours. Another multilingual performance is that of Thom Luz (Switzerland) “When I Die – A Ghost Story with Music”, telling the true story of an English woman communicating with dead composers in a theatrical/visual/musical style, taking the audience into a dreamlike fantasy world. “Based on a True Story”, French choreographer Christian Rizzo places eight male dancers and two rock drummers on one stage, combining archaic intensity, ecstatic repetition and folklore in a show that has much to say about compassion, community and the world of men. The Israel Festival offers too many original and different events to mention here; one unique concept, however, will be represented in two events: “Night Shift” (June 15, starting at 8 p.m. and running into the wee hours of the morning) will invite the audience to wander around the various spaces of the Jerusalem Theatre to experience dance, theatre, pop, DJs and video in an electrifying nocturnal time tunnel. Also, inviting audiences to spontaneously amble around the Jerusalem Theatre, “Sound Charter” (Israel-Poland) on June 7th will offer festival-goers the opportunity of moving between darkness and light, open- and closed space, listening from close and far and hearing iconic works of the past as well as contemporary works.
And on the subject of music at this year’s Israel Festival, early music aficionados will enjoy hearing Ars Antiqua Austria (June 2nd), Ensemble Tourbillon (Czech Republic-Israel) in a program titled “Vienna 1709” and the Sarband Ensemble (Turkey, Germany, Greece), whose program is inspired by early western music and music from the east - from the Ottoman Empire to China! The Eden-Tamir Music Center will continue its tradition of Saturday morning chamber concerts with musicians from the USA, Israel and China. A large-scale collaboration between the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Mendi Rodan Orchestra (Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), the Jerusalem Academy of Music Chamber Choir and the Chamber Choir of the Franz Liszt University of Music (Weimar, Germany) is “Psalms” (June 7th). It will open with a Persian folk song and will include Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms”, Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Israeli composer Tzvi Avni’s a cappella “Song of Psalms”.
Forty years following the death of Tirza Atar, “West of Here” (June 8th) is a tribute to the eminent Israeli poet, song-writer, author and translator. In interesting new arrangements involving oriental percussion instruments and contemporary electronic settings, Efrat Ben Zur, Dikla, Yuval Dayan, Shlomo Saranga, Eran Tzur and Atar’s son Nathan Slor will present a selection of the poet’s famous works in familiar- and new settings.
The festival will include conferences, discussions and master classes. In a different and original festival event, Israeli Ensemble Can’s “Operation Silk Gloves” (June 6th, 9th,13th, 16th) guides will show people through the Israel Museum’s galleries, subverting the established narrative with personal and thought-provoking ideas, blurring the boundaries between spectator and performer. As to the visual arts represented in this year’s Israel Festival, Yochai Matos will offer a new perspective on the space of the Jerusalem Theatre lobby in a light and video installation and, in “Distr(action)”, students, teachers and graduates of the Musrara Naggar Multidisciplinary School of Art and Society, celebrating 30 years of its existence, will rearrange the Rebecca Crown Theatre on June 15th for an event focusing on the relations between sound, visual image and live action.
Olivier De Sagazan “Transfiguration” Photo: Didier Carluccio