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Handel's Oratorio Israel in Egypt

Especially for Passover
Handel's Oratorio Israel in Egypt
In the Liturgical Series of the Israeli Opera
And the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA
Performed by choirs and soloists
Conducted by David Stern, April 7, 11

The popular liturgical series of the Israeli Opera and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA continues with a concert featuring one of Handel's most popular oratorios – Israel in Egypt, conducted by David Stern, the music director of the Israeli Opera, who is a specialist of conducting the music of Handel.
Stern will lead the orchestra, the singers of the New Vocal Ensemble and the Kibbutz Arzi Choir and six Israeli Opera soloists including soprano Claire Megnaghi and counter tenor Alon Harari, who regularly perform baroque vocal music in Israel and in opera houses and concert halls all overt the world. Other soloists are soprano Avigail Gortler, tenor Nimrod Grinboim, baritone Yair Polishuk and bass Amit Freedman. 
Israel in Egypt, which follows the story of the Exodus from Egypt, will be performed twice, on April 7 at the Henry Crown Symphony Hall in Jerusalem and on April 11 at the Opera House in Tel Aviv.

Handel in London
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was born in Germany and made London his second home later on in his career. In 1719 Handel was named the Master of Musick at the newly inaugurated Royal Academy of Music whose sole purpose was to produce operas at the King's Theatre. When the Royal Academy ceased operations in 1728 Handel became associated with the management of the King's Theatre. Operatic life in the London of time was full with intrigue, with many back stage rivalries between singers, composers and management. Many opera companies have started and then had to fold in a relative short time but Handel seemed to always find an outlet for his works. He wrote many operas but only a handful are still in the repertoire in our times. For today's audience the very stylized productions these operas received at the time are a thing of the past. Handel's last opera, Deidamia, was premiered on January 10, 1941.
Once Handel shifted his musical efforts and interests from writing operas to oratorios his fame grew in a most substantial way. For inspiration Handel now turned to the Bible using English texts and not foreign, Italian librettos. On January 16, 1739 Handel premiered his oratorio Saul and later that year came Israel in Egypt. In 1741 Handel was invited to Ireland where he presented what would eventually become his most famous composition, Messiah. Other oratorios include Solomon, Jeptha, Athalia, Esther, Belshazzar, Joshua, Judas Maccabaeus and many more.

Israel in Egypt
Handel was quite disappointed that following the great success of Saul, the premiere of Israel in Egypt (April 4, 1739) was far from successful. Following the premiere Handel edited and rewrote the piece, adding quite a few arias for soloists, to a work that in its origin was primarily choral. Handel also totally eliminated the first choral part of the piece, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the Death of Joseph, yet in spite of his many editorial efforts, the work never attained popularity in his lifetime. Israel in Egypt gained popularity only in the 19th century when it became one of Handel's most performed oratorios, second only to Messiah. Since then the performed version of Israel in Egypt contains two parts (Handel's original second and third parts) – Exodus and Moses' Song.  
Israel in Egypt follows the story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt, from the yoke under the new Pharo, through the ten plagues and the parting of the Dead Sea. The second part, which Handel composed in 11 days, of the work is a hymn of praise to the God of the Israelites for delivering his children from Egypt and it has also been suggested that Handel might have written it in thanksgiving for his recovery from a stroke in the previous year. The text of the oratorio is in its entirety from the Bible (Exodus and Psalms).

The Soloists:
Claire Meghnagi, soprano, was born in Israel. In 2007 she performed with Les Arts Florissants and William Christie at their Jardin des Voix concert tour. Her operatic repertoire includes Tullia in Il trionfo di Camilla (Bonocini), Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Mpzart), Le Feu/ La Princesse in L'enfant et les Sortileges (Ravel), Night/the Plaint/ Spring in The Fairy Queen (Purcell), Galatea in Acis and Galatea (Handel), Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Ilia in Idomeneo, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Mozart), Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck), Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Almirena in Rinaldo, Morgana in Alcina, Dorinda in Orlando, Atalanta in Xerses (Handel), Norina in Don Pasquale (Donizetti), Soeur Constance in Les Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) and Anne Truelove in The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky). She performed in concerts and opera productions in Vienna. London, New York, Frankfurt, Paris and many other music centers. She performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Akademie, WNO Orchestra, Retrospect Ensemble, Israel Camerata, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Israeli Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion and others. Her concert repertoire includes Matthaeus-Passion (Bach), Messiah, Gloria, Dixit Dominus and Silete Venti (Handel), the Requiem by Mozart, Faure and Brahms, Mozart's Mass in c minor, Mahler's 4th symphony and Poulenc's Gloria, as well as cantatas by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi and concert arias by Mozart. She received scholarships from the America- Israel Cultural Foundation, the Israel Vocal Arts Institute, the Annie Sankey Bursary of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, and IMERYS. At the Israeli Opera she performed Zerlina in Cosi fan tutte (Mozart), La Bergère in Armide (Gluck), Prima Cercatrice in Suor Angelica (Puccini).

Avigail Gurtler, soprano, was born in Israel. She graduated from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, where she studied with Miriam Meltzer and David Sebba. She performed in concerts all over Israel, including at the Abu Gosh Festival and the Jerusalem Arts Festival in varied repertoire including works by Pergolesi (Laudate Pueri), Beethoven (Mass in C), Mendelssohn (Psalm 42) and Haydn (Nelson Mass). During her studies she has performed the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflote (Mozart). She is the winner of the Academy’s vocal competition for 2010, accompanied by the Israel Sinfonietta Beer Sheva. Avigail Gurtler is a member of the Israeli Opera's Opera Studio where her repertoire includes the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflote (Mozart), The Sand Fairy and the Dew Fairy in Hansel und Gretel (Humperdinck) and other roles.

Alon Harari, counter tenor, was born in Israel. He graduated from Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel-Aviv. He performs regularly with all leading Israeli orchestras as well as the Abu Gosh Festival and the Eilat Chamber Music Festival. In 2007 he made his first appearance at the Lithuanian National Opera as Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck) the Sorceress in Dido & Aeneas (Purcell) with the Israeli Camerata Orchestra, in The Fairy Queen (Purcell) with Matthew Halls and Retrospect Ensemble London), Eustazio in Rinaldo (Handel) with the Muenster Opera, Tolomeo in Gulio Cesare in Egitto (Handel) with the Dortmund Opera as well as numerous concerts of liturgical repertoire in Israel and abroad. He was an affiliate singer of the Opera Studio of the Israeli Opera and participated in numerous Israeli Opera concerts all over Israel. He also performed recitals in England, Scotland and Lithuania. He recorded the role of Zephyrus in Apollo & Hyacinthus (Mozart) for Brilliant Classics, conducted by Nicol Matt He was awarded scholarships from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and the Colton Foundation for M.A studies. 

Nimrod Grinboim, tenor, was born in Israel. He appeared in concerts and recitals in Europe, the USA and Canada and performs regularly in festivals throughout Israel. He performed Tamino in Die Zauberflote (Mozart) with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the title role in Dr. Miracle (Bizet) and in an evening of scenes from Alcina (Handel) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi). He participates regularly in the International Opera Summer Program in Tel-Aviv where he has sung roles in the operas Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Werther (Massenet), Carmen (Bizet), Yevgeny Onegin (Tchaikovsky) as well as in the musicals West Side Story, On the Town (Bernstein) and My Fair Lady (Lowe). He has performed as soloist with most local orchestras including the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Raanana Symphonette in a wide repertoire including works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Schumann as well as Die Schopfung (Haydn), Messiah (Handel), Stabat Mater (Dvorak), Magnificat (Bach) and other works. He received the IVAI and AICF scholarships. As part of the Israeli Opera's Opera Studio productions he performed Don Basilio and Don Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Evangelist in the world premiere of Orpheus Passion (Bach). At the Israeli Opera he performed the Woodpecker in The Cunning Little Vixen (Janacek) as well as The Rabbit in the premiere of Alice in Wonderland (Sebba) as well as Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore (Donizetti) and Ramiro in La Cenerentola (Rossini), both in the Israeli Opera's community productions. 

Yair Polishook, baritone, was born in Israel. He graduated from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. He performs in concerts all over Israel including with the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, the Israel Sinfonietta Beersheva, the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra and others. He performed Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini) with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Aeneas in Dido & Aeneas (Purcell), Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Papageno in die Zauberflote (Mozart),  as well as in the operas The Cheater (Avidom) and The Bald Soprano (Israel Sharon). His concert liturgical repertoire includes Messiah (Handel). St. Matthew's Passion (Bach), the Faure Requiem, Schonberg's serenade Op. 24 and other works. These days he is a member of the Israeli Bach Soloists. Beside his singing career he studies conducting with maestro Avner Biron. He received the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and Ronen Foundation scholarships.

Amit Friedman, bass, was born in Israel. His repertoire includes Rocco in Fidelio (Beethoven) in Theater Rudolstadt, Germany, Crespel in Les Contes D’hoffmann (Offenbach) in Theater Nordhausen and Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola (Rossini) in the Sondershausen summer festival. He has performed many roles in summer productions of the IVAI. His vast concert repertoire includes works by Schubert, Faure, Beethoven, Schumann and others. He was a member of the Opera Studio of the Israeli Opera where his repertoire included Papageno in Die Zauberflote (Mozart) and many others. He performed Colline in a recent Opera Studio production of La boheme (Puccini). At the Israeli Opera he performed the role of the Spider in the world premiere of Half a Moon Tale (Shenhav), Sarastro in family production of Die Zauberflote (Mozart) and the Police Officer in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Shostakovich). 


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