Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thursday, July 28: Fathom Presents Israel Philharmonic at Local Movie Houses

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic, Greenwood Village-based Fathom Events will cinecast a one-night-only concert featuring two prominent opera singers, soprano Renee Fleming and tenor Joseph Calleja. Music director Zubin Mehta (pictured above) will conduct the performance, which is being billed as a "delayed live broadcast" from the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. Check local movie listings or the Fathom Web site to locate a screen near you. The performance begins promptly at 7:00 p.m. this Thursday.

Fleming has earned a reputation as one of opera's top sopranos, and she has been featured on many [New York] Metropolitan Opera "Live in HD" cinecasts over the past five years. Fathom Events was the driving force behind bringing live opera to local movie theaters, and their close relationship with the most prominent opera house in the world is the envy of many in the theater business. In recent years, Fleming has appeared in starring roles in Met productions of "Eugene Onegin" [Tchaikovsky], "Armida" [Rossini], and "Capriccio" [R. Strauss], to name but three. Calleja offers a strong, clear tenor voice that has made him one of the most sought-after singers in the past half-decade. Theater-goers would have seen him, most notably, in the Met HD productions of "Tales of Hoffmann" [Offenbach], where he sang the title role, and this past season in the Met's revival of "Lucia di Lammermoor" [Donizetti], performing as Edgardo opposite Natalie Dessay as Lucia.

Zubin Mehta has forged relationships with many of the world's most prestigious orchestras, having made his conducting debut in Vienna in 1958 at the age of 22. His longest tenure, however, rests with the Israel Philharmonic, which appointed him music advisor in 1969, music director in 1977, and Music Director for Life in 1981. He has led the ensemble in both war and peace, famously conducting the Philharmonic in a concert during the first Gulf War where the audience reportedly came to the concert hall with gas masks at hand.

The predecessor to the Israel Philharmonic was the Palestine Orchestra, formed in the 1930s as a haven for Jewish musicians fleeing Europe in advance of the spread of Nazism. Arturo Toscanini conducted the orchestra's first performance on December 26, 1936, and 75 years later the ensemble continues to attract top soloists and singers from across the globe. Attendance at classical music concerts in Israel is high, far beyond the numbers one might expect to see in a nation with such a small population. The orchestra has close to 30,000 annual subscribers to its string of concert series, oftentimes finding it necessary to repeat the same program five or six times in various venues throughout the country.

Given the identity of the soloists, it should be no surprise that this gala performance is heavily populated with operatic arias and duets. The program will open with the overture to one of Verdi's most dramatic works, "La forza del destino" (The Force of Destiny) and goes on to feature Fleming in arias from Gounod's "Faust," Puccini's "Tosca," and Verdi's "La traviata." Calleja will join Fleming in the Act I duet from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," as well as singing solo pieces from "Tosca" and Verdi's "Rigoletto."

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