20 November 2019 - 22 Heshvan 5780 - כ"ב חשון ה' אלפים תש"פ
Arts & Culture
64th Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel-Aviv goes off with little fuss E-mail

Despite protests from groups across the political spectrum who promised disturbance and heavy campaigning, the Eurovision Song Contest stood mostly unaffected.

As the winners of last year’s contest, this year’s finale gave Israel a chance to showcase its credentials as a culturally progressive nation. The Netherlands won the 64th iteration of the Contest, held at the Tel-Aviv Expo from 14 to 18 May, which featured a performance from Madonna, plenty of glitz, and some political controversy as pro-Palestinian activists called for a boycott.

The extravaganza unfolded largely politics-free, though two incidents drew attention away from the songs and toward Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian government.

The Eurovision organisers take great care to note that the event, viewed by millions globally, is intended to be apolitical. However, local media showed images of two of Madonna’s dancers walking hand in hand, side-by-side, revealing Israeli and Palestinian flags displayed across their backs during her performancean apparent call for unity between the two sides. Icelandic punk band Hatari, meanwhile, held scarves with Palestinian flags aloft whilst their results were being announced.

Madonna stole much of the limelight with her two-song performance, including her 1989 hit, Like A Prayer. She had earlier said she was determined to perform at the finals, but her participation brought protests from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

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Gil Shaham to play Dvořák with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra as part of Asian tour E-mail

One of the most admired classical violinists of the modern era, American-Israeli artist Gil Shaham will be making a special trip to Hong Kong in June to perform for two nights with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO).

One of the most anticipated highlights of the monthly calendar, Shaham will be playing pieces from Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák.

The conductor of this unique recital will be Shanghai-born Yu Long, a highly acclaimed conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Musical Director of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the principal guest conductor of the HKPO.

A free pre-concert talk is to be organised before the performances, which will take place at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall on 21-22 June.

Shaham was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, in 1971. He later moved with his parents to Israel, where he began violin studies with Samuel Bernstein of the Rubin Academy of Music at the age of seven. His talent was clear, and soon he was receiving annual scholarships from the AmericaIsrael Cultural Foundation.

In 1981, he made debuts with the Jerusalem Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic. The following year, he went on to win first prize in Israel’s Claremont Competition. He was then awarded a scholarship to prestigious American performing arts school, Juilliard, and went on to continue his studies at Columbia University.

The Grammy Awardwinner, also named Musical America’s ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’, is coveted around the world for concerto appearances alongside leading orchestras and conductors, and regularly gives recitals or appears in ensembles at the most prestigious festivals.

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Cameri Theatre performs Requiem in Shanghai E-mail

One of Israel’s leading drama groups, the Tel-Aviv based Israeli Cameri Theatre toured to Shanghai from 3-5 May to perform Requiem at the Shanghai Majestic Theatre.

Requiem was directed and written by Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin, having first toured outside of the country in May 2000. It draws upon three short stories by prolific Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov. The play is also being adapted into a first Chinese language presentation to be peformed in Beijing this summer.

The play introduces audiences to a variety of characters. There is the ailing, aging couple who retire to a remote village where they lament their life choices. A young mother is also featured, desperately seeking a cure for her dying baby and yet ultimately failing. A bereaved wagoner has no one to talk to except for his horse.

Complicating notions of mortality, it is a text about life as much as it is about death. Levin wrote and directed the play knowing his days were numbered. He was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1999, and died later that year aged 56. He left a legacy of 56 plays, 34 of which were staged, and many directed by him during his lifetime.

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