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Israeli Opera’s The Medium production meets applause

CM 24/05/2021


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THE MEDIUM

Israel Opera
Tel Aviv, May 23
Pianist Yael Kareth signals to her co-pianist Alexander Ivanov from across the stage as the two of them, together, provide the musical backbone that allows the voice talents which shine in the Israeli Opera’s most recent production of The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti to flex their considerable artistic muscles.
This duality repeats itself in this production. The art selected to promote this opera is The Lovers from the 1909 Rider-Waite Tarot deck, depicting a naked man and a naked woman with a looming huge angel between them. An excellent choice for an English speaking opera with an occult theme. In the same-titled 1951 film version of this opera, contralto Marie Powers can be seen using the Tarot of Marseilles. This builds her background as a con artist from the Old World who attempts to answer a uniquely American question – can we hope to speak with “our dear little dead”?
Playing the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Gobineau, who lost a child and now seek the aid of Madame Flora (Shay Bloch), Oded Reich and Tal Bergman each hold a toy the child played with in life. He a ship; she a teddy bear. Director Shirit Lee Weiss decided to match Tobi’s muteness (Hanan Schwarzberg) by making the character of Monica blind (Tal Ganor). Monica is Madame Flora’s daughter, Tobi was a Roma baby Flora decided to take pity on and offer shelter to. Flora’s loneliness is mirrored by Mrs. Nolan (Shaked Strul),who is led to Flora by Mr. and Mrs. Gobineau after her 16-year-old daughter dies.
The tambourine used by the singers during important scenes is mirrored by a much larger circular object that seems to drop from above to become the levitating table during the séance. Real mirrors also descend during key moments. Which is why the trailer of the opera presents Monica trapped inside a mirror in the style of more recent horror films.
During the Sunday evening show I visited, the odd sense of entering a reverse world was intensified when the ushers politely directed patrons to walk in the opposite direction to the usual seats and enter the space of the stage to emerge at the other “end” to a forest of black chairs. The black veil that drops when the opera begins, blocking the return path to the “normal” seats, offers us a taste of the separation between life and death that the entire opera is built upon.
Madame Flora only pretends to speak to spirits to separate the gullible from their money. Menotti, who wrote and composed this 1946 opera after World War II ended, did not have to look very far for source material.

Americans had been obsessed with spirits and speaking with the dead a full century before The Medium was staged. The Fox sisters became a national sensation in 1848 when they convinced others spirits were making their furniture dance and tap messages from the great beyond. When Madame Blavatsky visited Vermont in 1873, a local mystic named William Eddy summoned seven visible spirits for her in the course of two weeks. These spirits spoke to her in Russian and Kurdish, she claimed.
As in any good horror movie, Flora feels a touch from beyond the grave during one such session and becomes frightened. Attempting to redeem herself by coming clean she tells her victims they had been conned, there is no afterlife and she did not really bring their loved ones back.
To her horror, they insist she is wrong, after all, like Madame Blavatsky, they saw and heard with their own eyes.
“The dead sink to the dust” she says, clinging to her tough rational mind before singing the aria “Afraid, am I afraid?”
When she asks her victims if they do not see the wires that levitate the table this is also a sly wink at the audience. We do see the wires because we know we are inside an opera building. We even saw Reich pull the wires at the first act. Are we fools for “believing” what we’re seeing, or is this the great and beautiful gift of our imagination, to see things even if they aren’t real?
While both Bloch and Ganor shine in their respective roles, one must tip one’s imaginary hat to Schwarzberg for creating such a solid Toby. When Bloch sings Monica’s Waltz to him. Offering to give words to the mute, he forms the words in his mouth without uttering them. Allowing the audience to feel as if Monica really is able to channel “his” voice.
Only one hour long, this opera is a good choice for English speakers who might feel a little nostalgic for home or as an introduction to the dramatic options the opera contains to young viewers. It wouldn’t hurt if they enjoy horror flicks!
The Medium by Menotti will be performed on Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. Tickets are NIS 180. 
19 Shaul Hamelech St. Tel Aviv (03) 692-7777 
Tickets must be bought ahead of time and health regulations kept during the show.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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