High note

Israeli Opera original ‘Theodor’ named one of world’s best for 2023

Composition about two periods in life of Zionism founder Herzl wins accolades

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

From 'Theodor,' the new original Hebrew opera about Theodor Herzl, premiering May 10, 2023 at The Israeli Opera. (Courtesy: Israeli Opera)
From 'Theodor,' the new original Hebrew opera about Theodor Herzl, premiering May 10, 2023 at The Israeli Opera. (Courtesy: Israeli Opera)

Original Israeli Opera production “Theodor,” launched in May 2023 about two periods in the life of the founder of modern Zionism Theodor Herzl, was chosen as one of the world’s best opera productions of the year, picked from 19 productions by the magazine “Opera Now.”

The opera, composed by Yonatan Cnaan and librettist and director Ido Ricklin, ran in May 2023 for a first, limited run at Tel Aviv’s Israeli Opera House.

“The world premiere of the opera ‘Theodor’ leaves you involved emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, along with the impressive singing, the convincing acting, the precise libretto, and the intuitive and enchanting music,” wrote Karyl Charna Lynn, the “Opera Now” reviewer.

Cnaan and Ricklin were approached three years ago to write the opera, the brainchild of philanthropist Daniel Jusidman, whose family foundation underwrote the opera.

The idea, Cnaan told The Times of Israel, was to tell the story of the man behind the history, “the man without the beard,” back when Herzl was still a Viennese university student.

The Hebrew opera (with English subtitles) offers two parallel realities, with Theodor the student developing his Jewish spirit while his older self — Herzl of the long, black beard — realizes what needs to be done and writes his seminal work, “The State of the Jews.”

There are plans to screen a filmed version of the opera in movie theaters.

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