Thursday, May 1, 2008

Play of Daniel

It was a labor of love that began as a dream, when Dr. Myrna Herzog, musical director of the PHOENIX Ensemble, first heard sections of the Play of Daniel many years ago.
Herzog then proceeded to undertake producing a full musical transcription of the work, and, on March 16, at the Jerusalem YMCA hall, packed to capacity, we saw and heard the fruits of her labors in a performance that was accessible and delightful to those present. Niv Hoffman was stage director.

Appearing in France at the end of the 12th century, Ludus Danielis focuses on two episodes of the story of Daniel – the writing on the wall and the lions’ den. In this performance, the stage setting and costuming were simple, instrumentalists were seated on one side of the stage and effects were used sparingly. One amusing effect was having the writing on the wall printed on King Belshazzar’s t-shirt. Benny Hendel narrated with eloquence and relish, (also singing), enabling the audience to follow the plot, the original text being in Latin. The music was melodious and charming; rhythms were catchy and dancelike. There was wisdom, seriousness, humor and wit and the performance moved from beginning to end at a lively pace.

Herzog’s strength lies in her flexibility and her energy to research tirelessly; she is most selective in her choice of singers and players. Her interpretation is direct and universal. All the singers were outstanding. Young Israeli tenor Eitan Drori’s golden voice soared out into the hall: he was a moving and spiritual Daniel. Instruments were chosen and built especially for the performance in order to reproduce authentic Pythagorean tuning, this producing the contrast between tension and relaxation which is so basic to medieval music. I enjoyed the superb musicianship of the ensemble. Such delicate, articulate instrumental playing is a rare joy.

This is only the second time the Play of Daniel has been performed in Israel. The audience was excited to be part of this festive and historic occasion. It was certainly a highlight in Jerusalem’s musical life! Kudos to Myrna Herzog and to the PHOENIX Ensemble for an inspiring musical experience.

“The Play of Daniel”
The PHOENIX Ensemble
Myrna Herzog-musical director
Niv Hoffman-stage director
Dania Zemer-lighting
Sara Piro-production manager

Assaf Benraf-courtier, King Darius
Eitan Drori-the Prophet Daniel
David Feldman-King Belshazzar, courtier, envious counselor, lion
Macarena Lopez Lavin-Queen, courtier, envious counselor, lion
Michal Okon-courtier, diviner, angel, lion
Elam Rotem- courtier, astrologer, the prophet Habakkuk, lion
Benny Hendel, courtier, narrator
Myrna Herzog-vielle, carillon
Riki Peled-Or -vielle, psaltery, saz
Nadav Rogel-percussion
Adi Silberberg-recorders
Sunita Staneslow-harp

The Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship, Jerusalem YMCA
March 16, 2008

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