Late spring brings the Israel Festival, an annual three-week Jerusalem-based celebration of local and international music, dance, theater and performance art.
Much of the focus this year — as it has been in the three years of CEO Eyal Sher’s leadership — is on avant-garde and contemporary companies and works.
“Big chunks of what you’ll see here is part of the experience of what you’re seeing in Europe now,” said Sher. “We just don’t have it here, usually. It’s not mainstream culture, it’s not Broadway. It’s performance that is more contemporary and avant-garde.”
The festival, taking place June 1-18 around the city but mostly at the Jerusalem Theater, is also steadily drawing the younger audiences that Sher was determined to attract when he took over the festival three years ago.
“There are a lot of young audiences that are hungry for this. It offers them something other than what they can get here,” he said. “The question is how to market it to more conservative audiences. But that’s just marketing. We’ve got a range of options, and we offer the chance to get out of your comfort zone; you may see something you didn’t know you’d love.”
The festival starts off with a Groove Party, a combination of Israeli musical legends and emerging artists at the city’s Sultan’s Pool, held on June 1. Performers include Yemenite sisters A-WA, the Firqat Alnoor Orchestra of Jewish and Arab musicians with special guest Nasreen Qadri, as well as Liora Itzhak, Knesiyat Hasechel, Kutiman Orchestra, Teapacks and Yemen Blues. Thursday, June 1, 8 p.m., NIS 80 per ticket.
The festival brings two iconic acts from the US this year, its 56th: director Robert Wilson performing Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape,” and “Dance,” the renowned 1979 dance piece by choreographer Lucinda Childs, featuring the original score by Philip Glass. It will be Childs’ first time in Israel, noted Sher. Saturday, June 17, 9 p.m., Sherover Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 200 per ticket.
“Krapp’s Last Tape” will be performed in English with Hebrew subtitles. Monday, June 5, 8:30 p.m., Sherover Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 200 per ticket.
Other visitors worth encountering are Spanish actress Angélica Liddell in her performance of “¿Que haré yo con esta espada?” (“And what will I do with this sword?”). Liddell often enters into a kind of trance in her electrifying performances onstage as she delves into the darkest reaches of human nature. “¿Que haré yo con esta espada?” (“And what will I do with this sword?”) is a 4.5 hour performance with two intermissions, and will be performed Friday, June 9, 2 p.m., Sherover Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 200 per ticket.
Also from Spain is flamenco dancer Israel Galván, the son of renowned dancers, whose work “FLA.CO.MEN” blends the age-old patterns of this traditional dance while simultaneously dismantling them altogether. Friday, June 2, 3 p.m. and Saturday, June 3, 9 p.m., Rebecca Crown Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 160 per ticket.
French performer Olivier De Sagazan brings “Transfiguration,” his fascinating one-man performance about an artist’s desire to breathe life into his creation. De Sagazan sculpts clay onto his head and becomes a living work of art as he searches for his new form. Wednesday, June 14, 10 p.m. and Thursday, June 15, 10:30 p.m., Mikro Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 120 per ticket.
If there’s a teen or preteen in your life, you can treat them to the wildly energetic, intensive pop performance of “Crazy Girls Save the World,” from the Japanese Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker. This frenetic 45-minute show channels the intensely popular Japanese animation figures of Anime and Manga, utilizing their slang, dances, accessories and costumes and offering an alternate reality for a brief while. Friday, June 2, 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and Saturday, June 3, 9 p.m., HaUlpan, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 120 per ticket.
Stian Westerhaus is a skilled experimental guitarist from Norway, specializing in solo music that stretches the concepts of technique and sound. His performance is supported by the Norwegian Embassy. Thursday, June 15, 11:30 p.m., tickets cost NIS 60.
Other musical performances include three concerts by visiting ensembles from the Czech Republic, Turkey and Austria and classical music concerts at the Eden Tamir Music Center in Ein Kerem, on the three Saturdays of the festival, each at 11 a.m., free entry.
There are Israeli performers as well. The Incubator Theater brings its treatment of “Job,” starring veteran actor Sasson Gabbay in the role of the tormented emissary, supported by Keren Hadar as Job’s wife. Sunday, June 4, 9 p.m., Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 120 or NIS 100 for gallery seats.
“West of Here — A Tribute to Tirza Atar” is an evening celebrating the work of poet and songwriter Tirza Atar, daughter of Natan Alterman, with performances by Dikla, Efrat Ben Zur, Eran Tzur, Nathan Slor, Shlomi Saranga and Yuval Dayan. Thursday, June 8, 9 p.m., Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem Theater, NIS 160 or NIS 130 for gallery seats.
Experience the Israel Museum anew by wandering its galleries in a tour performed by members of the Can Ensemble with unusual guides who bring the audience’s attention to details they may have not noticed previously. Tuesday, June 6 and 13, 7 p.m., Friday, June 9 and 16, 12 p.m, Israel Museum, NIS 100.
“Night Shift” is a one-time opportunity to wander around the backstage spaces and halls of the Jerusalem Theater while taking in the dance, performance, DJs and video art taking place at the theater at that time. Thursday, June 15, from 8 p.m. into the night, free entry.
There are other freebie performances taking place during the festival:
Musrara, the Naggar Multidisciplinary School of Art and Society, will take over and make over the Rebecca Crown Theater with performance art, displays, screenings and video installations on Thursday, June 15, 8 p.m., for three and a half hours. Feel free to come and go as you like.
La Putyka, a Czech circus, will perform “Slapstick Sonata” and “La Putkya,” a cornucopia of acrobatics, theater, live music and puppets at Zion Square on Wednesday, June 7, and Thursday, June 8, at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., free entry.
For ticket purchases, schedules and more information, go to the Israel Festival website or Bimot. There are discounts available for four tickets or more, and for senior citizens, soldiers and students, as well as for purchases made though the Yerushalmi app, and at several local restaurants when presenting a festival ticket (Cafe at the Theater, Menza, Ima, Caffit in the Botanical Gardens and Al Dente).