The show does go on; Israeli artists go live in capsule shows and exhibits

Though many festivals are canceled, these 5 events, including performances in the forest, exclusive tours at museums and coronavirus art, bring Israel’s cultural world back to life

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

Artist Merav Hyman's 'Salon', part of the 'Crisis Spaces' exhibit opening September 5, 2020 at the Haifa Museum of Art (Courtesy Merav Hyman)
Artist Merav Hyman's 'Salon', part of the 'Crisis Spaces' exhibit opening September 5, 2020 at the Haifa Museum of Art (Courtesy Merav Hyman)

It’s a quiet August this year, lacking the annual art, music and wine festivals that normally mark the end of the Israeli summer season.

As the country gears up for back-to-(virtual) school and the High Holidays, there are some cultural events taking place, all in accordance with purple tag COVID-19 guidelines set by the Health Ministry.

Some of the events will take place outside, where it’s easier to spread people apart and observe social distancing guidelines.

Others are trying to bring visitors back to local museums, where tickets must be purchased ahead of time for specially-guided tours, or for exhibits without the usual opening events which can bring hundreds of people to gather inside.

Other performances continue to take place online, where viewers can enjoy a musical show without worrying about masks and social distancing.

1. A series of outdoor concerts are taking place this week in the Ben Shemen Forest, according to the Health Ministry guidelines created several weeks ago for larger cultural gatherings, and sponsored by the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund.

The performances, beginning with Pablo Rosenberg on August 24, followed by Dudu Aharon on August 25, Dikla on August 26 and Matti Caspi on August 27, will be held in the forest’s amphitheater, with capsule seating of 20 people in each section.

A digital image of the capsule seating at the Ben Shemen ampitheater, being used for outdoor concerts sponsored by Keren Kayemet l’Israel during the week of August 24, 2020 (Courtesy KKL)

“Hey friends, what fun, we’re finally returning to performing!” said Argentinian guitarist and singer Rosenberg. “We’ll be performing according to all the rules, and we’ll lift you to the skies.”

2. If you want to know how artists have been interpreting the coronavirus experience, take a trip to the Haifa Museum of Art, the first in the world to dedicate the entire museum to COVID-19.

What artist Maria Rosenblatt spent time doing during the coronavirus closure, on exhibit at the Haifa Museum of Art, September 5, 2020 (Courtesy Maria Rosenblatt)

A series of nine exhibits, all revolving around the coronavirus, will open on September 5, showcasing the works of dozens of local artists on “Crisis Spaces.”

The works look at the lack of certainty caused by the coronavirus, the ambivalence of all that time spent with family, and home as a pressure cooker and protective space.

From ‘Crisis Spaces.’ a new exhibit opening September 5, 2020 at the Haifa Museum of Art (Courtesy Blu Simeon Pinro)

There are artists’ interpretations of how the coronavirus closure changed some women’s lives to one of threats and violence, as well as the newly discovered need for urban nature and the virtual aspects of living online.

Visitors can enter the museum without the need to buy tickets ahead of time, as of September 5.

3. The Israel Philharmonic has struggled, like many other orchestras and performers, to figure out how to reach their listeners. Their answer, for now, is a new 10-concert chamber music series available online, with each concert released on Sunday night at 9 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube and the Philharmonic website.

The concerts were recorded at the Charles Bronfman concert hall, with just three to eight musicians present each time, and without an audience in attendance.

The first concert, Messiah in B flat major for clarinet and strings, K. 581 by Mozart, was released on August 23.

The next weeks will include the Dvorak Piano Quintet, From Rameau to Gershwin with the Toscanini Quartet, Goldberg Variations arranged for String Trio, Mendelssohn Octet, Oboe, cello and piano play Mozart, Brahms, Bach and Glinka, Beethoven String Trio, Mozart “Dissonance” Quartet and Brahms Clarinet Trio.

4. To celebrate the long-awaited reopening of the Israel Museum, the institution’s staff, including director Ido Bruno, staff members, curators, preservers and guards will be conducting private tours of the exhibitions over the next two weeks.

The idea is to take visitors “behind the scenes” to discover the secrets of Israel’s largest cultural institution.  Each half-hour tour will take place in a capsule format, according to purple tag guidelines.

All aboad the Ruslan, part of an exhibit currently at the Israel Museum, which reopened in August 2020 (Courtesy Israel Museum)

The tours include Bruno’s “Behind the Scenes: The Museum in a Personal Perspective,” as well as “The Beginning of Religion: Worship, Objects and Prehistoric Ceremonies” with Ahiad Ovadia, curator of Prehistoric Cultures; “Hebrew Manuscripts: Observing, Reviewing, To Fall in Love” with Anna Nitza-Kaplan, curator of the Department of Jewish Culture and Art;  and “The Ship Sailed: Cultural Pioneers Aboard the ‘Ruslan,'” under the guidance of exhibition curator Talia Amar.

Tours (mostly in Hebrew, and some in English) are on a first-come, first-served basis and are included in the cost of admission. Children enter for free, but all must sign up at the museum.

‘Art Attack,’ a musical production that will be performed at the Acre International Fringe Festival, October 3-6, 2020 (Courtesy Ilan Besor)

5. Acre’s annual International Fringe Theater Festival will go on as planned this year, October 3-6, albeit on a smaller scale, with 10 plays in Hebrew and Arabic performed on the coastal city’s local stages.

The works include more traditional dramas as well as performance art and musical productions. Some plays include conversations and discussions with the creators following the performance.

The festival will take place during the intermediate days of Sukkot, and this year will include only local troupes. Tickets go on sale at the start of September.

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