Jerusalem's Festival of Culture: Steve Reich and Renee Fleming
Page 1 of 4Jerusalems Season of Culture: An innovative RECENT ENTRIESapproach spanning the worlds of music, dance, Opera at the Salzburg Summer Festivalpoetry and philosophy Of the three new productions, one was outstanding, one academic and the thirdBy Dr. Irving Spitz on August 23, 2011 12:32 PM | Comments | traditionalThe 2011 Salzburg Festival featured six full…This year saw the inauguration of the first Jerusalem Season of Culture. One By Dr. Irving Spitzof the highly acclaimed events of this festival featured performances of SteveReich’s “Different Trains” staged by the Jewish Theater of Stockholm in The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra:collaboration with Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum. Celebrating 75 Years of Music MakingPerformances took place in the "Kishle," in Jerusalems Old City. This old This year is the 75th anniversary of the IsraelTurkish barracks and prison, was built on ancient ruins dating to the Roman Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), originally knownoccupation of the city and could well have been part of the original palace of the as the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra and…Jewish king Herod. One section of this complex still serves today as a police By Dr. Irving Spitzstation. The rest is part of the Tower of David Museum and the site has lainderelict for decades. It is currently undergoing archeological excavation and Jerusalems Season of Culture: Anthis is the first occasion when it was partially open to the public. This rep- innovative approach spanning theresented a brilliant exploitation of a unique space and although not wheelchair worlds of music, dance, poetry andfriendly, one can only hope that this exciting venue will be used more philosophyfrequently in the future. This year saw the inauguration of the first Jerusalem Season of Culture. One of the highly acclaimed events of this…Steve Reich, one of the foremost American current composers, is at the center By Dr. Irving Spitzof the modern minimalistic music scene and his compositions are highlyrepetitive. “Different Trains” is a three-movement composition for stringquartet interwoven with recorded spoken voices and received a GrammyAward.The composition relates to the benign pleasurable train journeys from NewYork to Chicago and Los Angeles undertaken by Steve Reich in his youth. Theseare contrasted with the tragic train journeys in Europe in the early 40’s whichtransported Nazi Holocaust victims to the death camps. This is the main focusof the composition. The music and dialog were augmented by movies of trainsand scenes from the Holocaust. “Different Trains” was performed by theSwedish ensemble "Fleshquartet" using modern electronic instruments andthere were taped recordings for the monotonous repetitive spoken dialogwhich was fascinating and dovetailed with the music and videos.The novel staging consisted of about eighty transparent or opaque glasssculptures, designed by the Swedish artist, Ann Wahlstrom, which were sus-pended from the ceiling or placed on the floor. The four Swedish musicianswere seated in the midst of these glass sculptures. At the two ends of therectangular performance space were screens where the video images of trainsand scenes from the Holocaust were projected.
Page 2 of 4All the dazzling effects of this production were achieved through a combinationof music, voices, videos and sculpture together with dramatic lighting. It was puttogether by Pia Forsgren, director of the Jewish Theater in Stockholm which hasbecome a vital part of contemporary Swedish culture. It premiered in Stockholmin 2008. Ms Forsgren used Reich’s original composition and added to it thevideo and incorporated the glass installation. This is the first foray of thisproduction outside Stockholm.Following the Reich work, the quartet played their own exciting composition“Tears Apart,” written as a reflection and commentary on “Different Trains.” Inaddition to their electronic instruments, the four musicians made musicalsounds by playing on the glass sculptures.Other events in Jerusalem’s Season of Culture included sessions devoted tophilosophy and poetry as well as valedictory performances by the MerceCunningham Dance Company as part of the troupe’s final world tour. The finalevent was a performance by the renowned soprano Renee Fleming in her firstappearance in Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conductorZubin Mehta.
Page 3 of 4Renee Fleming is rightly acknowledged as one of the foremost sopranos of thetime and this was made abundantly evident in this gala concert which was afund-raiser for the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. The concert got off to agood start with a lively and dramatic performance of Verdi’s overture to Forzadel Destino. Ms Fleming gave a scintillating account of the Jewel song fromGounod’s Faust and a riveting performance of Vissi d’Arte from Puccini’sTosca. Here she succeeded in spinning out every subtle nuance of the aria like asilken thread.She was joined in this concert with the up and coming Maltese tenor, JosephCalleja, who gave an impressive rendering of La Donna e mobile from Verdi’sRigoletto and E lucevan le stele from Tosca. Calleja’s voice is not of the lightItalian lyric quality but is nevertheless an impressive instrument and he wascrystal clear in the high, middle and lower registers of the tenor range.Ms Fleming returned after intermission having changed into another flatteringevening gown resplendent with large earrings and necklace. Together withJoseph Calleja there was a wonderful rendition of Parigi, o cara from LaTraviata as well as the love duet from Madame Butterfly.As encores, Ms Fleming gave an unforgettable account of Puccini’s showstopper O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi. She then took a microphoneand with audience participation, gave a spectacular rendering of LeonardCohen’s Hallelujah. The final contribution of the two stars was a lively accountof the Brindisi from La Traviata. This represented a fitting end to a great andmemorable concert.According to the organizers of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, it is anticipatedthat this will become an annual event. One can only hope it does. This certainly