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From July 26th to August 6th 2017, the International Masterclasses of Vocal Arts & Žamboki Awards, Jerusalem, took place for the third consecutive year. From its modest start in 2015, the project has grown into a multi-faceted program, enriching its students from many countries with high-quality tuition, offering them a fulfilling experience on both artistic and personal levels and, for those at the outset of a career, providing a springboard into the opera world.

 

The project been made possible through the generosity of Ruth and Josef Žamboki. Serbian-born engineer Josef Žamboki.and his sister were the only survivors of their family after World War II. In building musical ties between aspiring- and established musicians, the project celebrates the memory of the man who saved Josef in the Holocaust . Since its inception, sought-after international singer and vocal arts teacher Rona Israel-Kolatt has directed the summer course. In her words of welcome, Ms. Israel Kolatt writes: “We place emphasis on performance of works of contemporary composers. This year, we are presenting two premieres. Once again, we are hosting some of the world’s the finest teachers and performers and are privileged to receive the generous support of the Goethe Cultural Institute and the Anni Eisler-Lehmann Foundation (Mainz, Germany), the latter working to further careers of Jewish singers in Germany.”

The IMVAJ’s Festive Orchestral Gala took place at the Israeli Center for Excellence through Education (Jerusalem) on July 30th, 2017. Under the baton of Maestro Barak Tal, the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra accompanied the many and various vocal solos, duets and ensembles, setting the scene for the opening section of Mozart opera numbers with a performance of the Overture to Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”. Israeli and overseas soloists Roi Sarouk, Marco Ostojic, Ognjen Milivojsa, Yarden Kiperman, Shai Terry, Christian Wagner, Esther Alayev Kopel, Jessie Fong Chung Tse, Iris Brill and Yael Sayag conjured up the magic and drama of opera repertoire from Handel to Puccini in outstanding solo performances. Duets and ensembles were presented with brio and competence. To mention just a few of the evening’s highlights - baritone Marco Ostojic’s intense, dramatic performance of “Tutto è disposto...Aprite un po'quegli occhi” (“Marriage of Figaro”, Mozart), baritone Ognjen Milovojsa’s informed, free and theatrical singing of “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (“Don Giovanni”, Mozart), soprano Yarden Kiperman’s fine vocal control and intense emotion in “Svegliatevi nel core" (“Giulio Cesare”, Handel), Shai Terry as an evocative, bold Carmen in “Les tringles des sistres tintaient” (“Carmen”, Bizet), soprano Esther Allayev Kopel’s powerful and dynamic reading of "Otchego eto prezhde ne znala" (Iolanta, Tchaikovsky), the fresh, honeyed voice, superb technique and musicality of soprano Jessica Tse in “Caro nome” (“Rigoletto”, Verdi), mezzo-soprano Iris Brill’s gripping and tragic singing of “O don fatale” (“Don Carlos”, Verdi) and soprano Yael Sayag’s fine acting and despair in “Tu, tu piccolo Iddio” (“Madama Butterfly”, Puccini). The high quality performance of the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra added elegance and colour to the festive evening.

In “Sonorities Round the World”, taking place in the Ran Baron Hall of the Israeli Conservatory of Music, Tel Aviv, on August 1st, we heard the IMVAJ participants who had been working on Lieder and opera arias under the guidance of Prof. Claudia Eder (Germany). Singers taking part in the concert ranged from high school students to experienced, established artists. Of the fine line-up of artists, baritone (pianist and conductor) Stefan Zekic’s singing radiated impactful presence and feeling. Russian-born tenor Sasha Rozbizev performed pieces of both A.Scarlatti and Mahler, delving convincingly into the emotional agenda of each. Mezzo-soprano Iphigenie Worbes displayed vivacity, flexibility and good stage presence. Another young mezzo-soprano, Anna Tetruashvili, presents a large focused sound; her singing of Handel was delicately ornamented, her reading of Marc Lavry’s “Dark am I”, meaningful. Jerusalem Academy of Music student Maya Golan’s performance of Paul Ben-Haim’s setting of a poem of the poetess Rachel was profound and poignant. Her fellow student, Tal Malkinson, a soprano with fine vocal control and communicative skills, gave a moving rendition of Mordechai Zeira’s “Those Were Nights” (Lyrics: Yaakov Orland). Of the two youngest members of the class, Shir Ben Meir is showing musical versatility; high school graduate soprano Shira Ziv’s singing reveals confidence, ease and agility. American Laura Snyderman is a soprano with a “strong, heroic voice”, excellent control and technique. She chose to sing her countryman John Duke’s (1899-1984) “The Bird”. Seeing the evening out was soprano Shirelle Dashevsky’s masterful and engrossing performance of “Leah’s Aria” from Yaakov Weinberg’s opera “The Pioneers” (1924), the first folk opera in Hebrew. The intimate, wood-panelled Ran Baron Hall was the perfect venue for such an event. Adding to the event’s level of excellence were Chaim Tukachinsky’s artistic piano accompaniments.

 

 

August 2nd saw the Israeli premiere of Gaetano Donizetti’s two-act dramma giocoso “Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali” (Conventions and Inconveniences of the Stage) or “Viva La Mamma” (libretto: Domenico Gilardoni). The performance took place at the Israeli Center for Excellence through Education (Jerusalem). Serbian-born Aleksander Nikolić took on both stage direction and design, conductor was Israeli-born Jonathan Spandorf, pianist - Tohar Gil, lighting - Sasha Sorin and costumes - Varda Rubinstein and Nikolić. Donizetti’s farce revolves around the “convenienze” of any 19th century opera house - the ranking of singers, number of scenes, arias, etc. A third-rate opera company is rehearsing “Romulus and Ersilia”, the prima donna (Jessie Fong Chung Tse) is refusing to take direction, the other principals are not much better and the lead tenor (Marc Shaimer) does not have the ability to sing his part. Mamma Agata (Ognjen Milivoja) the mother of the second donna appears on the scene, demanding that her daughter (Marianna Blinova) be given an aria; the company loses half its cast, leaving the way open for Donna II to make her debut alongside the prima donna’s husband (Christian Wagner). With the production becoming a fiasco and no money to pay back the investors, the troupe solves all these problems by fleeing the town at night. “Viva la Mamma” is a laugh a minute! First performed in 1827, the opera has a female baritone role - Donna Agata - quite rare for the genre. Milojovsa carries it off well and the costume designers make capital of the cross-dressing role, especially in his/her second somewhat risqué outfit. Jessie Fong Chung Tse plays the drama queen with relish, Marc Sheimer proves that he can be a hopeless tenor if necessary and all hell breaks loose. Iris Brill (the impresario) in a role that demands more speech than singing, does a very nice job of updating Hebrew-speaking audience members on the increasingly chaotic situation. And there are many whimsical touches: with a multilingual cast on stage, we hear jocular snatches of speech in different languages. The stage is alive with movement, much of it comical and, to the surprise of all who have come to hear a Donizetti opera, there is the versatile Shirelle Dashevsky (Dorothea) suddenly singing a jazzy piece (no text), partnered by the pianist! With its timeless theme of jealousy and one-upmanship in the theatre, “Viva la Mamma” is one of Donizetti’s more obscure works, yet, despite the anarchy on stage, the music still works out, and it actually includes several very challenging passages for the chorus. Considering the minimal time available for preparation and rehearsals, the IMVAJ team and singers gave of their all, delighting in the opera’s boisterous fun and pulling out all the plugs. And, as the audience shifted from a chuckle to a belly laugh and back again, there were constant reminders of the fact that that Donizetti can write a good melody!.

Another significant event of the workshop was the world- and Israeli premiere of “Albert”, a one-act opera composed by Moshe Zorman to a Hebrew libretto by Oded Liphshitz (b.1981). Sivan Handelsman undertook the stage direction, stage design and costumes, Dor Magen was conductor, with Elisha Krawets at the piano. This writer attended the performance at Tzavta, Tel Aviv on August 6th.

The libretto for “Albert” was adapted from Liphshitz’ play of the same name, a work that won the playwright the Bernstein Prize for Literature in 2012. Middle-aged Albert is is diagnosed as having an enlarged libido for a man of his age and an uncontrolled passion for women. After visiting his doctor, he attempts to find a solution to his burning desires. Albert’s search leads him to the library, to the world of Zen in the Far East and to other places. Every pursuit leads to a new even more challenging problem. When all fails, the doctor turns to more desperate measures. Albert cries out to God, the devil appears and Albert looks on as faces from the past appear. In the role of Albert, baritone Roi Sarouk’s finely timbred voice and musicality did justice to the highly melodious score, his clarity of diction faultless. Albert was not portrayed as a flirtatious, confident macho man but as a somewhat pathetic figure, dependent on the dominant figure of the doctor (Yarden Kiperman in a pants role) to help him solve his problem. Shai Terry, as Albert’s sister Mika, made for an empathic, supportive character. Dressed in white, the “four girls” (Inbar Livne,Yael Manor Danler, Anna Tetruashvili, Dalia Bespozvany) formed a kind of all-purpose Greek chorus, dancing, singing, moving props, setting the scene visually and musically for each situation and location. The props themselves consisted largely of hospital screens, there to remind the audience that Albert’s state is indeed a clinical problem. Zorman’s music, attractive, articulate, never overloaded and gently poised on the border between tonal- and atonal writing, reflects Albert’s dejected state. The is much melody for the singers. Elisha Krawets (also dressed in a surgical coat) played the piano score, one utilizing motifs and occasional quotes, with good taste and refinement. Of his oeuvre of some 100 works, Israeli composer, conductor and pianist Moshe Zorman (b. 1952) has composed ten operas to date. His music defies any one specific style, his writing comfortably blurring the borders between classical- and light music, and with a touch of whimsy.

Kudos to Rona Israel Kolatt and her team for inspiring experiences for participants and audiences alike.

Photo: Rona Israel Kolatt (Michal Harduf Raz)
Photo: Cast of “Viva la Mamma” (Courtesy Jessie Fong Chung Tse)
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On Thursday evening, July 20th, the Embassy of Colombia in Tel Aviv celebrated Colombia’s National Day, the anniversary of the signing of the country’s declaration of independence. The event was held at the beautiful home of Colombian Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Mr. Fernando Alzate Donoso, and  wife Mrs.Nancy, in Kfar Shmaryahu.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Wednesday, 19 July 2017), held a series of bilateral meetings with the heads of government of the Visegard Group: Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico. (Prime Minister Netanyahu met yesterday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.)

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​PM Netanyahu: We face common challenges, the first of which is to defeat the forces of terror that rampage through the world and threaten both our countries. We must stand together in this battle, much as we work together to perfect the future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, this evening (Tuesday, 4 July 2017), at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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The EU Delegation in Israel and the Municipality of Tel-Aviv-Yafo presented:  Performance Europa!
Urban celebration of live performances and interactive installations
Tel Aviv’s White Night ,Rothschild 1 Plaza, 29 June 

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 On 11 June 2017, the 5thPhilippine Tourism and Country Fair organized by the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv,Municipality of Haifa and Castra Mall, opened in a festive atmosphere in the northern city of Haifa as the Philippines tries to sustain the rapid tourism growth from Israel.

During the one-day event, simultaneous activities on tourism and cultural promotion and highlights of the 60 years of strong bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel were featured at the Castra Mall. Around 800 Israelis and Filipinos enjoyed the cultural program that showcased multi-awarded Filipino soprano singer, Ms. Francis Anne “Princess” Virtudazo, and the best talents from the Filipino community in Israel.

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Over 60 leading women from across the world joined together last month for a panel discussion showcasing Israeli females in the lead.
Organized by The Israel Project (TIP) and the Embassy of Cyprus in Israel, the event served as a platform to discuss and understand the challenges and opportunities facing women in Israeli society in the modern age.
Among the panelists were popular journalist Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes. Former IDF commander Miri Eisin and Israeli Olympic athlete Maayan Davidovich.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, today (Thursday, 15 June 2017), in Thessaloniki, at the third trilateral summit, signed joint statements for the continued strengthening of relations.

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A senior delegation from Tanzania, headed by Dr. Aloyce Nzuki, Permanent Secretary Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, arrived in Israel for a series of meetings and events designed to increase cooperation with the Israeli tourist industry, and encourage Israeli tourism and investments to enchanted, exotic Tanzania.

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At a festive ceremony attended by Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, the Lauder Dormitory Building was inaugurated today at the Technion
state of the art building was donated to the Technion by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and his wife Jo Carole

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09 June 2017 – Jerusalem) The U.S. Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited Yad Vashem today. The Ambassador was guided through the Holocaust History Museum by Dr. Robert Rozett, Director of Yad Vashem Libraries, participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, visited the Children's Memorial and signed the Yad Vashem Guest Book.

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President Reuven Rivlin today (Wednesday) met at his residence in Jerusalem with United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.

President Rivlin welcomed her and said, “You are a dear friend of Israel. We appreciate your strong stand on the world’s most important stage, in support of the security of the people and the State of Israel. With your support we see the beginning of a new era. Israel is no longer alone at the UN. Israel is no longer the UN’s punching bag.”

He continued, “When I spoke at the UN on Holocaust Memorial Day, I said that the UN must learn from the lessons of the past, and stand up against hatred and racism. I said it must end its obsession with targeting Israel. Progress has been made. Israel’s standing at the UN has improved. But sadly, we have a long way to go. Both in holding to account, public statements made by officials, and in supporting regulation to reduce the ridiculous number of discussions and resolutions against Israel. This is also true in the Human Rights Council - which has been hijacked as a weapon against Israel - and in UNESCO, where they seek to rub out the history of the Jewish people.”

The President thanked the Ambassador for her great contribution to the State of Israel, and said, “Ambassador Haley, as the representative the US - Israel’s greatest and strongest ally - we appreciate very much your support of Israel, and all you do to stand up for the values of freedom and democracy which we share. Welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem.”

Ambassador Haley thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “Thank you Mr. President for taking the time to meet with us, it is an absolute thrill to be here in Israel, I so much appreciate the support we have received from the people of Israel. But I feel somewhat guilty because all I did at the United Nations was tell the truth. I have never taken kindly to bullies, and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time, and we are not going to let that happen anymore. It is a new day for Israel in the United Nations. We just got back from Geneva, talking about the Human Rights Council and hopefully it will be a new day at the Human Rights Council when it comes to Israel.”

She concluded by saying she was greatly looking forward to her visit to Israel and said, “I am looking forward to taking in the history, the beauty, the tradition, and all that comes with the magic of Israel. Thank you very much for having me it is a pleasure to be here.”

Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

Friday was a beautiful late spring day; the gardens were lovely, the weather was fine; the guests were elegantly attired; the refreshments were generous and delicious; all the makings of a happy celebration marking the National Day of Sweden. H.E. Carl Magnus Nesser, ambassador of Sweden to the State of Israel, hosted the event at the ambassadorial residence in Herzlia Pituach.

The event was attended by many Swedish nationals living in Israel; Swedish music, Swedish food, Swedish sponsors and a generous open bar – all the makings of a happy event.

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A fundamentally agricultural holiday, Shavuot commemorates the custom of bringing offerings to the Holy Temple from the first fruits of the harvest and the first animals born to the flocks.

Shavuot, the Holiday of Weeks, is one of the three pilgrimage holidays, along with Pesach and Sukkot. These are the holidays on which the whole Jewish people would come to Jerusalem​ in ancient times, when the Holy Temple was there, and would offer animal and grain sacrifices.

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Tel Aviv Eat presents three evenings of tastings and workshops featuring the region’s leading restaurants and most prominent chefs. Entrance is free (including the chefs’ demonstrations), and tasting portions range in price from NIS 20-35. Doors open each evening at 18.00. There are several performance stages, live music, and stands selling beer.

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"Only when we remember the families who were torn apart from everyone they loved, who suffered that terrible darkness and evil, who had endured the unbearable horror of the Holocaust, only then can we prevent this agony from ever repeating." President Donald J. Trump

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