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date: 13 December 2019

Israel Festivallocked

  • Jehoash Hirshberg


An annual festival of music, dance and theatre, founded in 1961 by Aharon Z. Propes, director of the Ministry of Tourism, with the intent of making the young state, already renowned for its high musical standards, into an international artistic centre catering to local audiences and attracting summer tourists. The first festival hosted Pablo Casals, the Budapest Quartet and Rudolf Serkin, thus establishing the predilection for Western classical music. In 1962 the festival commissioned Stravinsky's Abraham and Isaac, introduced by the Israel PO under Robert Craft, with Stravinsky himself attending and conducting his Symphony of Psalms. At that time festivals were held in July and August, with performances all over the country, including in the Roman theatre at Caesaria, refurbished for outdoor spectacles such as Samson et Dalila. Israeli premières included that of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron. In 1982 the Ministry of Tourism handed the organization of the festival to a publicly controlled society, Hagigat Israel (Israel Festival), which has frequently cooperated with private entepreneurs. Since then the festival has been situated in Jerusalem and held over a period of three weeks in May–June, with some events repeated in other locations. Most performances are given in the four-auditorium complex of the Jerusalem Theatre; other venues include the Ein Karem Music Centre, Dormition Abbey and the Scottish Church (St Andrew's), and there are also firework displays over the walls of the old city and other free outdoor events. The festival has had no clear artistic policy. Nearly every year a large-scale opera production, such as the Arena di Verona's ...

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