Maestro ditches opera after request to play ‘Hatikva’ denied

Frédéric Chaslin sought to play anthem in honor of the Paris victims, but Israel’s principal opera company refused

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

French-Jewish conductor Frédéric Chaslin (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
French-Jewish conductor Frédéric Chaslin (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

A French-Jewish conductor refused to appear at the Israeli Opera for a performance on Saturday evening, after the Tel Aviv opera house’s management denied his request to play “Hatikva” in commemoration of the victims of the terror attacks in France last week.

Parisian-born Frédéric Chaslin had asked to say a few words and play the Israeli national anthem in honor of the 17 people killed in Paris last week — in the kosher supermarket siege and shootout at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, and a policewoman killed separately — but was told the move would upset the audience. He subsequently left the theater, and an understudy conducted the performance.

“It was refused to me,” Chaslin wrote on Facebook regarding his request. “‘It would upset our audience,’ ‘it is against the management’s policies.’ What management? What policy? Where am I? In a country supposed to be the sanctuary for all Jewish people in the world? Has the ‘audience’ of this country lost their souls?

“As a result of course I refused to conduct tonight,” he concluded.

Chaslin was not immediately available for comment.

A statement from the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv-Yaffo condemned the Paris attacks, but insisted the theater must remain a haven from terror.

“The Israeli opera is pained by tragedy and its aftermath and its heart is with the French nation and Jewish community,” it said.

“For the 30 years that the opera has been in operation, it has insisted on maintaining its routine even on the painful days of dozens of terror attacks and during wars. This is the way of the opera — not to allow terror to win and disturb the routine of our lives.”

With the “complex reality we live in” it would be necessary to “sing ‘Hatikva’ nearly every day,” it said.

Chaslin, a celebrated conductor and composer formerly of the Santa Fe Opera, is the son of Holocaust survivors. He is set to conduct 10 more performances of the La Rondine opera this month, and the opera house said that to the best of its knowledge, he would conduct as scheduled.

Chaslin is also slated to appear at UNESCO later this month for a concert commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

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