Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"Silence Makes Perfect" - a theatrical-musical production conceived and performed by Yael Rasooly and Amit Dolberg, Habait Theatre, Jaffa, Israel

Photo: Ran D. Kopiler


Originally conceived at the Britten Studio and shown at the Snape Maltings Festival of the New (UK), “Silence Makes Perfect” has recently been playing in Israel. This writer attended the performance at Habait Theatre, Jaffa, on June 12th, 2021. The concept of the show is that of the two artists who perform it on stage - a collaboration of Yael Rasooly’s distinctive direction, puppeteering and singing, along with the superb classical playing, arrangements, improvisations and performative presence of pianist Amit Dolberg (Meitar Ensemble). Also involved in the production are Ran D. Kopiler-concept design and 3D masks, Maureen Friedman-costume design, Yoav Barel-lighting, Binya Reches-sound, with puppets designed by Rasooly herself. The language of the performance is English.


Dolberg sets the scene with the furtive sounds and chilling stillness of Claude Debussy’s "Des pas sur la neige" (Footsteps in the Snow). The recorded narrator begins the story in a decidedly naive way, as if telling the story to a child. Here is a happy, musically-talented little girl who takes her music lessons seriously. Opening a ‘cello case, the girl (Rasooly) introduces each side of it as her parents. All props in the show are musical instruments or constructed from parts of them. What quickly transpires is that the girl undergoes sexual assault by a “friend of the family”. Dolberg’s use of music by Debussy, Schubert and Beethoven begins to reveal the girl’s inner struggle, her isolation and growing detachment, these also represented by a ghostly and fragmented rendering of Dido’s Lament (Purcell’:“Dido and Aeneas”) Dolberg’s  improvisations on these works and the build-up of  distortion of their musical elements, some moments joined by Rasooly’s singing, reflect the turmoil created in the girl’s life as her flashbacks, imaginings and psychological state spiral out of control and sounds become more condensed and disturbing by way of looping and layering. The peak of her trauma is represented in a scene on a dark stage hung with large silver boards, the latter manipulated by Dolberg to produce spine-chilling reverberations as the girl fondles a horrific vertebraic, snakelike object. Rasooly and Dolberg now appear in monstrous masks. This performance is not for the faint-hearted and its message is clear:  sexual abuse must not be overlooked or swept under the carpet, that silence is far from perfect. 


Rasooly and Dolberg offer the audience 50 minutes of polished, streamlined and daring performance. With the piano on stage, Amit Dolberg’s musical contribution remains integral and engaging. His acting role, although non-verbal, is no less effective. Yael Rasooly’s fresh, pure soprano voice and her fine British English are as convincing as her depiction of the three stages in the protagonist’s “journey”, each stage endorsed by effective costuming. The performance ends on an optimistic note with the confident, truly splendid and uplifting cabaret-style performance of the now young woman singing Lana Del Rey’s suggestive song “Yayo”:

“Let me put on a show for you, daddy

Let me put on a show

Let me put on a show for you, tiger

Let me put on a show”..


One of Israel’s leading performers of new music, Amit Dolberg has premiered works dedicated to him. Founder/director of the Meitar Ensemble, he has been instrumental in the Centre for New Music (Tel Aviv), the Matan Givol Composers Competition, the Tedarim M.Mus. Program of Contemporary Music (Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance) and the CEME International Festival for New Music.


Trained primarily as a classical singer, Yael Rasooly also studied theatre design in London. She graduated with excellence from the Jerusalem School of Visual Theatre, where she specialized in directing, puppetry and design. As of 2006, she has been creating independent theatre works, performing at international festivals throughout Europe, the United States, South America and the Far East.


Photo: Ran D. Kopiler


Friday, June 4, 2021

Dror Semmel, Matan Dagan and Yoni Gotlibovich perform late Schubert works at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Jerusalem

Dror Semmel(Alex Kaplan)

Yoni Gotlibovich(Meirav Kadichevski)

Matan Dagan(Michael Pavia)

Following the Covid-19 closure of all public events, the Eden-Tamir Music Center, nestling in the magical village of Ein Kerem (Jerusalem), is back to holding live concerts. Two late Schubert trios featured in a concert of the center’s “Best of Chamber Music” series on May 29th 2021. Artists performing were Matan Dagan-violin, Yoni Gotlibovich-‘cello and Dror Semmel-piano. Eden-Tamir Music Center director Dror Semmel opened the event with a few words on each of the works.

Despite his dire illness, Franz Schubert’s final year produced a canon of masterworks, among them, the final piano sonatas, the two massive piano trios and the sublime String Quintet in C major D.956.  His chamber music moves between sensations of rapture and despair, expressed with lush lyricism, with grandness of gesture but also with humility. The works for piano trio - the piano trios and the Notturno - were probably written late in 1827. What came to be known as the Notturno for piano trio D.897 was simply titled “Adagio” by the composer. It is thought to have been originally written as the second movement to the Opus 100 trio, then to be rejected by the composer. Although it does create an aura of night-time serenity, with its harp-like arpeggios in the piano supporting a hypnotic melody expressed by the two stringed instruments, it was, nevertheless, a publisher who decided to rename it. But does the single-movement work, one of the most eloquent examples of Romantic lyricism, not also express anguish and a sense of tragedy? Whatever their concept, the artists at the Ein Kerem concert gave the first tranquil slow-moving melody, the (recurring) subject of this rondo, plenty of rhythmic freedom, the subtly delayed onset of a phrase here and there allowing for a sense of discovery and spontaneity, then to be contrasted by the more assertive and glorious B-section.

Of Schubert’s Piano Trio in E flat major Op.100 D.929, Robert Schumann wrote: "A Trio by Schubert passed across the musical world like some angry comet in the sky."  A gigantic masterpiece, the full musical and emotional range as well as the ambiguity of this extraordinary work of genius present an ambitious undertaking to chamber musicians. Semmel, Dagan and Gotlibovich gave uncompromising energy to the work’s assertive opening gesture, their playing passionate but controlled, with the second subject providing lyrical respite. The second movement is a funeral march for Beethoven, with whom Schubert had felt a deep connection. Schubert had been a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral 1827. With the Andante movement’s sombre, haunting melody introduced by Gotlibovich, the full range of its elements was addressed – the introspective, the dark, the dramatic, even the angry and indignant, the latter perhaps expressed in the series of tremolos reaching an enormous passionate crescendo – the artists’ playing reflecting the chiaroscuro elements of Schubert’s palette. Then, as if sweeping aside this most desolate of slow movements, the sparkling Scherzando breathed optimism – carefree, congenial, charming, whimsically accented and dancelike - its middle section more massive in texture. As to the final movement - Allegro Moderato – it is fortunate that Schubert’s complete and unexpurgated original manuscript has been preserved; that was the version the artists chose to play at the Ein Kerem concert. The players showed the listener through its myriad of “scenes”, as they transported the initially relaxed theme into a rhythmically propulsive landscape of frequent modulations and metre changes, then to call back the wistful, soul-searching principal theme from the Andante, the trio ending on a bright, declamatory note.  When asked by his publisher to whom the work should be dedicated, Schubert replied: “This work is to be dedicated to nobody, save those who find pleasure in it.”

Playing with intelligence, the artists presented the music with straightforward and informed competence. For their encore, Dagan, Gotlibovich and Semmel gave another rendition of the E flat major trio’s  Andante con moto movement, revisiting it with both ardour and restraint, with poise and warmth of sound