Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.



Child Dream by Gil Shohat
02 Feb 2010

Shohat’s The Child Dreams — A mature work

Gil Shohat, now 35 and Israeli’s top classical composer, was 15 when in the ‘80s he saw Hanoch Levin’s The Child Dream on stage in his native Tel Aviv. Shohat, of course, knew Levin’s work well, for throughout early decades in the history of Israel he — its outstanding dramatist — had served somewhat as the conscience of a nation tormented defining itself within its pain-wrought beginnings.

Gil Shohat: The Child Dreams
Libretto based on a play by Hanoch Levin

Click here for cast information.


“I knew then that I would compose Dream, said Shohat in a post-performance interview in the Tel Aviv Opera House, where the premiere of the opera had taken place on January 18. Shohat’s plans were seconded by Israeli Opera general director Hanna Munitz, who had also sensed the operatic potential of drama when she saw it on stage.

Touched by the deep despair of the story and the genuine poetry of the text, Munitz commissioned Dream for her company. It is the first opera composed on any Levin text. Point of departure for Levin was the 1977 film Voyage of the Damned, the story of the St. Louis, the ship unable to attain landing rights for its fleeing refugees during World War II. But this, it must be stressed, is no more than raw material for what is now Child Dream.

True, the opera underscores the degree to which the Holocaust remains today a defining experience for the Israeli consciousness, yet the local critic who placed the new opera “among the most depressing and despair-radiating operas of the repertoire” missed the point of the transformation of the story through music achieved by Shohat and his director Omri Nizan. (Nizan, an old hand at the Cameri Theater, helped Shohat with minor changes in the text — nothing was added — and then served in the vastly more important role as director of the production.)

For through music the child at the center of the drama becomes much more than a single child and his story is far greater than the tale of one individual example of injustice. The Child is now a young Everyman with hopes for a better and more just world. That this world is closed to him — and not just by the near-criminality of captain of the ship that might have brought salvation — elevates Dream to the level of mythic universality. The story is quickly told. The Mother hopes to escape with her son on the ship. The Captain demands payment “in the flesh.” The ship reaches a ghost-like island, but passengers are not allowed to disembark by the despotic governor, the second evil figure in the story.

In one of the most moving moments in the score — 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission — a crippled child — mezzo Shira Raz — comments:

I’m a poet.
I write about you who come out of the fog
and return and disappear in it. I weep over your fate
and sketch it.
your faces approaching tell the tale of delusion;
but all human failure is stamped on the back of your
departing neck.

The Crippled Child speaks above and across the play for Levin himself who sees little but frustration and failure in the attempted escape.

The final act — an apotheosis of sorts — breaks with the seeming realism of the earlier three acts (and it was wise, therefore, to insert the intermission at this point). Dozens of “dead” children suspended above the stage whisper of their fate while the female nonet that opened the opera sings again of their sorry situation.

There is a Straussian sadness about this conclusion; it its muted melancholy it recalls the elder composer’s Metamorphosen, the “mourning for Munich” that he wrote after the destruction of his native city. It is deeply felt and moving music that might well become a concert piece in its own right.

And as the many who visit the memorial to children victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem experience not consolation but rather the hope beyond hopelessness so essential in any confrontation with the vast inhumanity of the 20th century, here too there is an elevation beyond meaningless suffering.

Child Dream is an ambitious work calling for a cast of 20, all drawn from the roster of the resident company. Outstanding among them were Larissa Tetuev as the Mother, a role she shared later with Ira Bertman, Hila Baggio as the child and Noah Briger as the Captain.

In only his second season as IO music director, David Stern extracted exemplary playing from the Rishon Le-Zion Orchestra, the company’s pit band. Sets and costumes were effectively designed by Austrian-born Gottried Helnwein. Lighting by Avi Yonah Bueno contributes to making this a colorful show engaging to the eye.

Shohat has documented his superlative command of the composer’s craft in an incredible long and diverse catalgue. In Dream, however, he travels on no new turf, but concentrates rather on giving musical meaning to an unusually demanding text.

Dream is written for reduced orchestra, and outstanding is the manner in which Shohat has woven the piano into the ensemble to achieve unusual effects. (The composer is a concretizing pianist as well.)

It is unavoidable that some find the opera with its focus on the death of children depressing and even morbid. In so doing, they overlook the strong element of empathy that Shohat’s music brings to Levin’s turgid story. In the final analysis, Child Dream is an affirmative work that deserves to be seen outside Israel.

The production celebrates the 35th anniversary of Israeli Opera; it further marks the 10th anniversary of Hanoch Levin’s death and the centennial of the founding of Tel Aviv.

Wes Blomster

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):