Carmen at Masada. Please scroll down the page to see video clips from the performance
This dispatch contains a number of items relating to music and film. You can comment on it here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
1. A breathtaking Carmen at Masada
2. Video clips of Carmen performed yesterday at Masada
3. Israeli Jewish singer becomes a superstar hit in Iran
4. Clips of Rita
5. YouTube asked to remove Egyptian singer’s hate song…
6. … While Egypt funds anti-Israeli Tunisian film
7. Egypt shuts down production of film that “promotes” Israel ties
8. Leading Turkish pianist to be put on trial for re-tweeting a message deemed insulting to Islam
9. “Iran and Israel can agree on this: Rita totally rocks” (Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2012)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
A BREATHTAKING CARMEN AT MASADA
Israel, already known for its outstanding classical music orchestras, is increasingly entering the wider international musical arena.
Madonna, the world’s most popular music star, chose Israel to launch her world tour last week.
And also last week, international DJ sensation, AVICII, came to perform in Israel as part of the XL Nightlife Festival in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile I was fortunate enough to attend the spectacular premiere of Bizet’s Carmen, performed in the desert heat at Masada on the Dead Sea late on Thursday evening, to the magical backdrop of the desert and thousands of stars above.
The performance was magnificent and the sheer size of the 3,500 square meter set breathtaking. It took 2,500 people six months to create the set, which included specially built mountains and hillsides and a railway track. Because the opera is located in an archeologically-important preservation zone, the local council requires that the entire opera village must be completely disassembled each year.
This is one of the largest opera productions in the world. Forty-five thousand people bought tickets for the 7,500 seat amphitheater for the six performances. About 3,500 people traveled to Israel from abroad especially for the occasion, according to the Tel Aviv-based Israel Opera which staged the performance.
After a sandstorm on Tuesday during rehearsals, Anna Malavasi, an Italian mezzo soprano, said she wanted to rest and was replaced in the role of Carmen alternatively by Spanish mezzo soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera (who previously played Carmen in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles), and rising Israeli mezzo soprano star Naama Goldman. Because of the strenuous nature of the four-hour performances in the desert heat, there are two casts for the main roles so the singers can rest on alternate nights. Anna Malavesi sang the lead role again last night (Saturday).
Daniel Oren conducted. Last June, Aida was staged at the foot of Masada, and next year, the company will perform Puccini’s Turandot there.
As part of a community outreach program, the Israeli Opera broadcast the premiere of Carmen for free on large open-air screens at three different locations in Israel: at Gan Hashlosha in the north; the amphitheater on the Netanya promenade in the center of the country; and in the plaza of the Beersheba Museum in the south.
Every summer, the Israeli Opera also stages an open-air free opera performance at the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv, attracting thousands of people. This year will feature Rigoletto.
VIDEO CLIPS OF CARMEN PERFORMED YESTERDAY AT MASADA
ISRAELI JEWISH SINGER BECOMES A SUPERSTAR HIT IN IRAN
The popularity of the Israeli Jewish singer Rita in mainly Muslim Iran is coming to the notice of the international media. Last week, The Wall Street Journal, America’s best-selling newspaper, ran a front page story on the phenomenon.
The paper noted:
“Music-loving Iranians craving nostalgic Persian songs of a bygone era, or the upbeat dance music that is banned in their Islamic state, have new darling: Rita, the Israeli singing sensation.
“Rita Jahanforuz, 50 years old, is Israel’s most famous female singer – and suddenly she’s big in Iran. Iranian-born and fluent in Persian, Rita, as she is universally known, moved to Israel as a child and has lived there ever since. Her latest album, ‘All My Joys,’ revives old-time Persian hits, giving them an upbeat Mediterranean flavor that caters to the Israeli ear.
“The album went gold in Israel in just three weeks, despite being sung entirely in Persian. It also propelled Rita onto the music scene in Iran, where she was all but unknown outside of Iran’s small Jewish population.
“Now, from nightclubs in Tel Aviv to secret underground parties in Tehran, Israelis and Iranians alike go wild when the DJ plays her hit ‘Beegharar,’ or ‘Restless’.”
Rita began her singing career as part of an Israeli army band in the 1980s.
The full article from The Wall Street Journal is at the end of this dispatch.
CLIPS OF RITA
Here are three clips of Rita’s music for those interested.
Shah Doomad (Live from Tel Aviv, April 2012)
YOUTUBE ASKED TO REMOVE EGYPTIAN SINGER’S HATE SONG
Various Jewish groups have asked YouTube to take down a song by Egyptian singer Amr El Masry calling for the destruction of the Jewish State.
El Masry’s misnamed song “I love Israel,” calls for Israel and Israelis to “disappear from the universe.”
One verse says: “May [Israel] dangle from the noose. May I get to see it burning, Amen. I will pour petrol on it.”
The song is popular on YouTube.
EGYPT SHUTS DOWN PRODUCTION OF FILM THAT “PROMOTES” ISRAEL TIES
Egypt’s leading Al-Ahram newspaper reports that Egypt’s censor has ordered the production of an Egyptian film to be stopped because it is said to promote the normalization of relations with Israel.
The film, called “A Loaf of Bread,” was written and directed by Mohamed Kenawy, who denied the accusation, saying the film was designed to promote peace and cooperation among different peoples.
The story revolves around an Egyptian, a Palestinian and an Israeli, and it deals with life in the Arab world in general, he said. The movie had been in production for two months before filming was halted.
WHILE EGYPT FUNDS ANTI-ISRAELI TUNISIAN FILM
At the same time, the government-funded Egyptian National Broadcasting Authority has decided to help fund a film by a Tunisian director that calls for attacks on Israelis.
That film, “Kingdom of the Ants,” is directed by Shawqi al-Majri and cost $1.5 million. It is due to have its premiere in 10 Arab countries simultaneously in September.
The film was shot in Tunisia and Syria. Why the Obama administration continues to pour money into the bank accounts of the Egyptian government without trying to put restrictions on how the authorities spend its money is a question that many in America and beyond are asking.
LEADING TURKISH PIANIST TO BE PUT ON TRIAL FOR RE-TWEETING A MESSAGE DEEMED INSULTING TO ISLAM
A court in Istanbul has charged the internationally-known Turkish classical and jazz pianist and composer Fazil Say with “insulting Islamic values”. Turkey’s Erdogan government is becoming increasing Islamist and authoritarian. This is the latest in a series of legal actions by the government against Turkish artists and intellectuals for statements deemed to be contrary to Islam.
Fazil Say has performed with major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
Say’s “offence” was to re-tweet, via his Twitter account, a poem by an 11th-century Persian poet deemed insulting to Islam. Say was one of 165 people who shared the Twitter post.
The official Anatolian News Agency said his trial is scheduled to start in October. He will face up to 18 months in jail if convicted.
“I just thought it was a funny allegory and retweeted the message,” Say said. “It is unbelievable that it was made into a court case. It is saddening not only when judged on its own merit but also for Turkey’s image.”
I attach one article below.
-- Tom Gross
IRAN AND ISRAEL CAN AGREE ON THIS: RITA JAHANFORUZ TOTALLY ROCKS
Iran and Israel can agree on this: Rita Jahanforuz totally rocks
By Farnaz Fassihi in Beirut and Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv
The Wall Street Journal
June 4, 2012
Music-loving Iranians craving nostalgic Persian songs of a bygone era, or the upbeat dance music that is banned in their Islamic state, have new darling: Rita, the Israeli singing sensation.
Rita Jahanforuz, 50 years old, is Israel’s most famous female singer – and suddenly she’s big in Iran. Iranian-born and fluent in Persian, Rita, as she is universally known, moved to Israel as a child and has lived there ever since. Her latest album, “All My Joys,” revives old-time Persian hits, giving them an upbeat Mediterranean flavor that caters to the Israeli ear.
The album went gold in Israel in just three weeks, despite being sung entirely in Persian. It also propelled Rita onto the music scene in Iran, where she was all but unknown outside of Iran’s small Jewish population.
Now, from nightclubs in Tel Aviv to secret underground parties in Tehran, Israelis and Iranians alike go wild when the DJ plays her hit “Beegharar,” or “Restless.”
Rita’s fans within Iran, where the government heavily filters the Internet, use tricky software to furtively download her songs online. Bootleg CD sellers in the back alley of Tehran’s old bazaar wrap her albums in unmarked packages and hush any inquiries when asked if they sell her music.
“Shhh…don’t mention Israel. Just say music by ‘Rita Khanum,’ “ which means “Ms. Rita,” said a young man named Reza selling bootleg music CDs and DVDs of Hollywood movies.
The governments of Iran and Israel are each other’s sworn enemies, and within Iran it is considered a taboo to publicly endorse anything that has to do with Israel. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said Israel should be wiped off the map. Israel has said it would consider pre-emptively bombing Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.
Rita, however, with her striking beauty and bubbly demeanor, has emerged as an unexpected bond between ordinary Iranians and Israelis – part cultural ambassador, part antiwar spokeswoman. A picture of Rita with the banner, “Iranians we will never bomb your country,” is posted on her Facebook page.
“These days, people only know the language of war and violence and hatred,” said Rita, referring to Israelis’ view of the Persian language, during a recent interview in Tel Aviv. After she started receiving emails from Iranian fans, she realized music can “puncture the wall’’ of tension.
Rita’s family immigrated to Israel in 1970. She grew up in a suburb near Tel Aviv listening to her mother sing melodies from their homeland as she cooked in the kitchen.
Her singing career kicked off when Rita joined a band in the Israeli army in the 1980s. She rose to stardom quickly, singing solo and mostly in Hebrew or English, packing concert halls and performing for Israeli officials and foreign delegates.
A year ago, she decided to revisit what she tells audiences is the “soundtrack of my childhood” by adapting Persian classics that most Iranians know by heart. Her 2011 single “Shaneh” is based on a traditional song that Iranian grandmothers are known to whisper to their grandchildren as they comb their hair. An homage to a lover, it includes lines such as, “Oh, love, don’t comb your hair because my heart rests in its waves.” Rita reworked the song, staying true to the lyrics but giving it a more modern sound, somewhere between pop and Jewish gypsy music.
Iranian fans responded overwhelmingly, bombarding her with emails and messages online. “Rita, I want one of these concerts in Iran. You have an amazing voice and you are another pride for Iran,” wrote an Iranian fan on one of her videos on YouTube.
In September, when Rita visited Radio Ran, a Persian-language Internet radio station based in a Tel Aviv suburb, the studio was flooded with calls from Iranians around the world.
In an Israeli television interview, speaking of her Iranian fans, she joked that if she ever traveled to Iran, she would like to sing a duet with Mr. Ahmadinejad, “Maybe I can soften him with my feminine charm,” she said.
Iran’s government has taken notice. Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps, wrote last July that Rita is Israel’s “latest plot in a soft war” to gain access to the hearts and minds of Iranians.
Iranian hard-line websites and blogs expressed particular displeasure at Rita for sending a message to Iranians this past March for the Norouz New Year, via a video posted on the Persian website of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Norouz messages are considered highly political and usually a tactic used by politicians like President Barack Obama and Iran’s opposition leaders.
“I hope that we all live alongside each other by dancing and singing because this is what will last,” Rita said in her Norouz message.
In May, Rita performed a sold-out concert in the city of Ashkelon, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, singing mostly Persian songs. Fans crowded the stage and danced the aisles.
After the show, concert goers said they were swept away. “Listen, I’m not Persian,” said Meir Kanto, a 72-year-old farmer. “But the culture is so colorful and so beautiful, from my perspective, let them conquer us. It wouldn’t hurt.”
In Tehran, guests at a recent engagement party jumped to their feet shimmying their hips and shoulders when Rita’s voice echoed from the speakers, mixing the rhythms of an old and uniquely southern Iranian song to techno dance beats. Even middle-age couples joined in.
“She is singing from her heart. So what if she is from Israel?” said Manijeh, a 43-year-old relative of the bride who asked that her surname not be published. “We love her.”