Israel Festival – the beating heart of Jerusalem culture

Gérard Depardieu and Anouk Aimée lead the international guest list at this summer’s premier cultural happening.

Once upon a time, the Israel Festival was the country’s only multi-day, multi-discipline cultural event. Five decades later, the flourishing Israeli and international meeting place for the performing arts proves that competition is good for local culture.

Despite dozens of other arts festivals around the country these days, the Israel Festival continues to be the most identified event of Jerusalem (though some shows take place in other cities).

Organizers recently announced the lineup for the 53rd Israel Festival, from May 29 to June 20, 2014.

French actors Gérard Depardieu and Anouk Aimée will take the stage with the play Love Letters. Choreographer Hofesh Shechter – born in Jerusalem but based in the UK – is bringing his eponymous international dance company to Israel for the first time. Ballet Biarritz from France, headed by choreographer Thierry Malandain, is also making a first visit.

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Clipa Theater makes a return engagement. Photo by Eyal Landsman

“The program of the 2014 Israel Festival not only brings us leading and unique artists from around the world, but also focuses on some of the great Israel artists and performers who broke out into successful careers from the breeding ground of Jerusalem, the Festival’s beating heart … alongside the new generation of artists growing up and working in the city,” says Yossi Tal-Gan, Israel Festival CEO.

This year, in the Israeli section of the program, the spotlight is on Jerusalem born-and-bred artists of different generations who have made it big domestically and abroad. The lineup includes a tribute to Yossi Banai; a special performance by Yehoram Gaon featuring Esther Ofarim; an acoustic performance by musician Asaf Avidan; and Jerusalemite groups such as the Vertigo Dance Company, the Israel Camerata, the Theatre Company Jerusalem and the Kolben Dance Ensemble, among many others.

Worthy of a mention from abroad are the likes of the Kote Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre of Tibilisi, with its production of Molière’s Tartuffe; Germany’s Barbara Dennerlein, one of the world’s leading organists; Grammy-Award winning guitarist Hernan Romero from New York; fado singer Cristina Branco from Portugal; Mexican-born virtuoso violinist Adrián Justus; and dozens of other top performers.

Vertigo Dance Company. Photo by Elad Debi.

Vertigo Dance Company. Photo by Elad Debi.

Return appearances at the event will include the Clipa Theater, Center Stage Festival, Israel Children’s Festival, Italian trumpet player Paulo Fresu, Estonia’s Hortus Musicus ensemble and award-winning pianist Maurizio Baglini.

As for Gil Shohat’s yearly classical music marathon, the 2014 focus is on the classical genius – Mozart. The six-hour, three-part epic, broadcast live on the Voice of Music Radio, promises unique and unconventional interpretations of Mozart’s masterpieces.

One of the unique characteristics of the festival is the choice of venues. It’s not just about seeing a show but also getting a feel of the locations. Festival events will take place in the First Station , Sultan’s Pool, Ein Karem, the Israel Museum, Masie House Theater Center, the Shalom Hartman Institute, the Gerard Behar Center, the Jerusalem International YMCA and the Jerusalem Theater.

The Hofesh Shechter Dance Company. Photo by Gabriele Zucca

The Hofesh Shechter Dance Company. Photo by Gabriele Zucca

In keeping with tradition, free events are a central part of the Israel Festival once again.

“The Israel Festival, in its 53rd year, continues to surprise and excite every curious lover of the arts,” says Chairman Dan Halperin.

To find out more, see http://israel-festival.org/

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.
  • http://Gnarlodious.com/ Gnarlodious

    Pretty sure Depardieu-ing acrobatics would be a show stopper.