EAST AND WEST Jerusalem The­ater, May 31

The break­ing down of mu­si­cal bound­aries, as in the con­cert en­ti­tled From East to West in the Is­rael Fes­ti­val, is cer­tainly a com­mend­able ef­fort. The question is only how to go about it.

The most se­ri­ous at­tempt at merg­ing East­ern and West­ern mu­sic el­e­ments was Mark Kopy­t­man’s Voices of Menory (1981), fea­tur­ing an au­then­tic Ye­menite-based song and singer (Yonit Shaked-Golan), with real Ye­menite voice pro­duc­tion, in the con­text of 20th cen­tury or­ches­tral mu­sic. Kopy­t­man wisely in­tro­duced the Ye­menite-style singing when the orches­tra was silent, or al­most so, thus al­low­ing each style its own space, with­out any forced at­tempt to merge the two or have them com­pete.

On a more pop­u­lar level, Shaked-Golan pre­sented songs from the reper­toire of Ye­men-born Shoshana Da­mari. She did so with a low, im­pres­sive voice that in­deed evoked the mem­ory of the un­for­get­table Da­mari. In­cluded was, of course, “Kalaniyot” (“Anemones”), Da­mari’s sig­na­ture tune, to the joy of the sen­ti­men­tal au­di­ence. Shaked took turns with singers Samia Ashkar and Du­nia Darawshi who sang au­then­tic songs in Ara­bic, ap­pro­pri­ately ac­com­pa­nied by the ka­nun (Mid­dle East­ern zither), and en­hanced by their own per­sonal charm. They re­ceived an en­thu­si­as­tic ova­tion, mak­ing one be­lieve peace had al­ready bro­ken out.

Mas­ter oud player Taiseer Elias pre­sented a luke­warm in­tro­duc­tion to none other than Mozart. Mozart’s Seraglio over­ture and Rim­sky-Kor­sakov’s She­herazade were like dis­placed per­sons in this con­text. With­out any con­nec­tion what­so­ever with real East­ern mu­sic, these are prod­ucts of the purely 19th cen­tury Euro­pean trend of Ori­en­tal­ism or Ex­oti­cism, ma­nip­u­lat­ing for­eign-sound­ing cliches and stereo­types to add a spice of the un­fa­mil­iar. This ten­dency, crit­i­cized by philoso­pher Ed­ward Said as a “tech­nique of colo­nial­ist Europe to dom­i­nate... the Ori­ent,” was adopted by the pe­riod’s com­posers such as Saint Saens (Sam­son and Delilah), Bruch (Kol Nidrei), Puc­cini (Madame But­ter­fly, Tu­ran­dot), Borodin (Prince Igor) and even Mozart (Seraglio, The Magic Flute). It por­trays the Ori­en­tals con­de­scend­ingly as “noble sav­ages,” like Monas­tatos in The

Magic Flute who com­plains that the “black” is con­sid­ered “ugly” and is fi­nally de­feated by the rays of the sun, and the Moroc­can ruler Se­lim in Seraglio who is ridiculed by his Euro­pean op­po­nents.

Such works can hardly be pre­sented as boundary-break­ing fu­sions of East and West.

The or­ches­tral part was pro­vided by the Jerusalem Sym­phony Orches­tra and the Mu­sic Academy’s Mendi Rodan Orches­tra, con­ducted by Ei­tan Glober­sohn and Michael Wolpe.

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