Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Opera Aeterna celebrates 13 years of productions at Jerusalem's Khan Theatre

Dmitry Semionov and Julia Plakhin (photo: Daniel Zaman)
Opera Aeterna was established in 2003 in Jerusalem under the auspices of the Musica Aeterna choir. Both ensembles are directed by Maestro Ilya Plotkin. Opera Aeterna has produced 11 fully-staged operas, with fine singers, actors, orchestras, stage sets and wonderful costumes. Most of Aeterna’s singers are immigrants from the former Soviet Union; they bring with them the highest standard of professional opera training and stage experience. Adding a valuable dimension to Jerusalem’s music scene, each annual Opera Aeterna production has proved to be a high-quality and festive event. One characteristic of all performances has been the addition of a Hebrew-speaking narrator on stage, somewhat involved in the action, but there to keep the audience informed of the details of each opera plot.

Celebrating 13 years of Opera Aeterna at the Jerusalem Khan Theatre on December 19th 2016, Maestro Plotkin and his devoted team decided to present arias and scenes from all past performances, with a glimpse into the future production. The event took the form of a set of auditions, with actor Michael Gorodin (Micro Theatre) in the role of an opera director faced with the dilemma of sending an opera production to Italy within a week. In addition to conducting the singers and instrumental ensemble on stage, Ilya Plotkin was also busy observing each artist taking the “auditions” and collaborating with Gorodin in the selection task. First on stage was seasoned Aeterna singer Shirelle Dashevsky in an aria from Mozart’s comic Singspiel “The Impresario”, Opera Aeterna’s first production, her stage charm and easeful coloratura evident throughout the evening. From Donizetti’s “Elixir of Love”, we heard tenor Dmitry Semionov duetting with Galina Zifferblat, their musical dialogue spelling out the tangles of love gone wrong. In an excerpt from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, Julia Plakhin, all sweetness and naivete, was partnered in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” with bass Dmitry Lovzov, a singer for whom comic performance is second nature.

A significant milestone in Opera Aeterna’s history was the company’s world premiere performance of Aldo Finzi’s opera (libretto: Carlo Veneziani) “Serenata al Vento” (Serenade to the Wind) at the 2012 Bergamo Music Festival. The auspicious event was represented here by engagingly performed arias from the opera sung by Shirelle Dashevsky and Dmitry Semionov. For me, one of the evening’s highlights was presentation Semionov and Zifferblat’s empathic rendering of a duet from Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”, also a reminder of some of Aeterna Opera’s most delightful costumes.

And there was plenty of jocular and farcical performance, as in Irina Mindlin’s flirtatious, free, entertaining and theatrical presentation of an aria from Emmerich Kálmán’s operetta “Countess Maritza”, and then a reminder of Ilya Plotkin’s daring simultaneous double-staging of both Paisiello- and Pergolesi’s settings of “La serva padrona” (The Servant Mistress) in 2008, with the spite and bickering of old Uberto and his manipulative servant Serpina (in the Pergolesi setting) performed with pep by Andrei Trifonov and Julia Plakhin.

And to the preview of Opera Aeterna’s future production, we heard Plakhin with Trifonov and Dashevsky with Semionov in duets from “Luisa Fernanda”, a zarzuela (a Spanish light opera) by Federico Moreno Torroba, a production promising next year’s audience a good mix of drama, romance, good music and beautiful Spanish-style costumes.

Under Maestro Plotkin’s baton, string players and keyboardists (Natalie Rotenberg, Uri Brener) offered colourful and well-coordinated accompaniments. Not to be forgotten are those dedicated people behind the scenes and those designing and producing stage set and costumes. The festive event concluded with all the singers on stage in a performance of an ensemble from “The Impresario”, sending the audience home with a hearty reminder of how Opera Aeterna began.

Andrei Trifinov,Irina Mindlin, Shirelle Dashevsky (photo: Daniel Zaman)


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