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Mellow drama at the Jerusalem opera

Golden light and local touches make the premiere performance of ‘L’elisir d’amore’ sing

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

As the sun set, the Jerusalem Opera Festival began in Sultan's Pool, for the first time in four years (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
As the sun set, the Jerusalem Opera Festival began in Sultan's Pool, for the first time in four years (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Jerusalem’s favorite outdoor amphitheater, the Herodian-era Sultan’s Pool, was bathed in golden light for the premiere of the city’s 2015 Opera Festival and the performance of “L’elisir d’amore” (The Elixir of Love) by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti.

A set of wraparound screens, projecting images of blue skies, starlit nights, palm trees and sunflowers — all elements of the opera set in the bucolic countryside — set the tone for the lighthearted performance sung by the Israeli Opera Chorus, with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, in Italian with Hebrew subtitles.

Telling the story of Adina and the lovesick Nemorino, whose love for Adina grows from boyhood, the two-and-a-half-hour opera charmed and engaged the audience with its story of love, challenges and emotional maturity.

There were local touches as well: a Hasidic-looking rabbi rode by on a bicycle; a love potion sold by a charlatan doctor looked suspiciously similar to the sweet kiddush wine drunk on Shabbat; and the set of gently swaying sunflowers and orange trees bore a strong resemblance to a kibbutz field.

And more: The screens projected Hebrew words from Adina’s book (even though the opera is in Italian), and even Belcore, the annoying army sergeant who almost wins her heart, felt familiar, although his uniform was made of camouflage material with touches of red, rather than the local, green field wear.

This is Jerusalem’s first Opera Festival in four years. The second performance will take place Thursday night, and next year’s festival will be held June 22-23, performing Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

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