Agnon to Levin

Day 
Date 
Hour

Agnon to Levin
Haim Permont / Yoni Rechter

World première

A world premiere of two one act new Israeli operas based on the works of two Israeli literary legends in varied and exciting musical styles.



The Lady and the Peddler
Haim Permont

Libretto: Tzruya Lahav based on the story of Shmuel Yosef Agnon

Conductor Eithan Schmeisser
Director Ido Ricklin
Set desighner    Alexander Lisyansky
Costume designer Oren Dar
Lighting Designer            Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi)
Choreographer Yoram Karmi 


Soloists:

The Lady Edit Zamir
The Peddler           Guy Mannhiem


Actors: Igal Berner, Ofer Feldman, Tzion Huri
Cover: Yoav Grinberg

Schitz
Yoni Rechter

Libretto: Hanoch Levin edited by Muli Meltzer

Conductor Eithan Schmeisser
Director Ido Ricklin
Set desighner      Alexander Lisyansky
Costume designer Oren Dar
Lighting Designer            Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi)
Choreographer Yoram Karmi

Soloists:

Fefechts Noah Briger
Tsesha  Ira Bertman 
Shprechzi  Yael Levita
Tcharchess       Oded Riech

Actors: Igal Berner, Ofer Feldman, Tzion Huri
Cover: Yoav Grinberg

Day Date Hour Back Stage Tours    Opera Talkback
FRI 3.7.15 13:00
SAT 4.7.15 21:00
*MON   6.7.15    20:00
TUE 7.7.15 20:00 18:30 After the show
THU 9.7.15 20:00 18:30 After the show
FRI 10.7.15 13:00

* PREMIÈRE - 6.7.15
** Towards Opening - SAT 27.6.15, 11:00
***
A pre-performance lecture (in Hebrew) is held one hour before every performance. Free admission for tickets holders.

‘A certain Jewish peddler was traveling with his stock from town to town and village to village. One day he found himself in a wooded region far from any settlement. He saw a lone house and, standing before the door, cried out his wares. A lady came outside and said to him, “What do you want here, Jew?” Bowing, he wished her well and said, “Perhaps you can use something of these lovely things I have?”’

Thus S.Y. Agnon opens his story, The Lady and the Peddler. Its operatic adaptation traces the story of this couple and reveals the many facets of the drama taking place between them.
Of all the Peddler’s wares the Lady selects an expensive hunting knife. She pays him without haggling, and he goes on his way. Evening falls, the night is dark and stormy, and the frightened Peddler loses his way in the forest. He feels his way in the dark until he sees a light flickering through the trees. The house he comes to and from which the light is shining is that of the Lady from the beginning of the story.

The Peddler knocks on the door, and once again the Lady comes out to him. He asks for shelter from the storm, and she agrees to put him up in a narrow bed in the storehouse. Next day, at her request he climbs onto the roof of the house in the driving rain and seals a gap between the slates so that rain will no longer drip into the house, after which the Lady serves him a fine breakfast. The rain becomes torrential, the Peddler is hungry and tired, and the Lady invites him to stay until the storm passes.

The storm abates. Spring has come. By this time the Lady, a beautiful Christian widow (who refuses to talk about the circumstances of her husband’s death), and the Peddler are a couple. Their mutual attraction reveals various types of hunger and thirst, passion, lust, fear, and despair, and additional aspects of the human psyche. In the meantime the Peddler has moved from the narrow bed in the storehouse into the Lady’s bed, and she pleasures him and feeds him an abundance of fine food, but she herself eats nothing. In one of her arias she sings, “Sha, sha, do not fear, nothing bad has happened here / Fear loves the lordship of misery / The moment matures patiently and wisely / Sin is tasty… Bon appétit”.  In answer to the Peddler’s question of what she lives off, she replies simply, “Human blood I drink and human flesh I eat”. Not only does this forthright answer not make the Peddler flee the danger she poses, it heightens his pleasure and passion.

He lives with the Lady as man and wife for months, in a seemingly comfortable and satisfying routine, which has its ups and downs. Even when he detects the awful stench coming from the Lady’s mouth, the Peddler does not flee. Yet fearful and concerned as he is, he dares to ask her again about how her husband died, and this time he is given answers: She had more than five, perhaps seven or eight husbands before him. To the question of “Where are they?” she replies while patting her belly, “Some, perhaps, are here”. Then she kisses his neck and sings, “Not yet, my skin and bones / Not yet / I shall not bite yet / I want him in me, all of me / All of him / Wait / I too am tensely patient”.

Even now the Peddler does not flee. But he returns to the storeroom and the narrow bed the Lady makes up for him. That night, brandishing the hunting knife she bought from him, she stabs what she thinks in the dark is the sleeping Peddler covered with a blanket. But he is not there. Terrified, he had fled the house and was now trudging through the snowbound forest, lost, shouting the Shema supplication, and calling on his god. When the Lady discovers that her prey has eluded her, she goes mad with hunger, stabbing and ripping the bedclothes into shreds, and in so doing stabs her own arm. The Peddler returns to the house, to her, discovers the horror, and finds the Lady unconscious on the floor. He lays her on the bed, and when she raises her head he bends over her in a movement that presents his neck to her. She buries her teeth in it, biting and sucking, but then recoils in revulsion: “Phooey! / … Your blood is not blood, but ice water… / Wretched man… / All is wretched… / Eternal desolation… / Phooey…” The Peddler tends her until she starves to death. He places her body enshrouded in a blanket on the snow, and carrying his peddler’s case goes on his way, continuing to “travel”, as Agnon writes, “from town to town and village to village”.

Zeruya Lahav

Businessman Fefechts Schitz and his wife Tsesha eat well, but the aging couple are impatient to see their grownup daughter Schprachtzi get married and give them grandchildren. For her part, the daughter wants to get rid of her parents as expediently as possible, and longs to find a husband herself, a man upon whom she will be able to hang her life. Against the backdrop of rocketing meat prices Schprachtzi goes out to try her luck once more and meets Tcharchess, a former officer and tyro businessman. After making inquiries into the state of Fefechts’ business (“Two trucks and part owner of a shovel dozer”), the potential bridegroom enters into crude bargaining with the father of the bride, and they reach agreement on the marriage terms. Fefechts sums up the haggling thus: “You’re a Romanian thief, but I’ll turn you into a Persian carpet”.

The intrigues begin immediately: Tcharchess schemes to get rid of the elderly couple, first the father and then the mother, in order to inherit their assets quickly, whereas they, with their daughter’s help, seek to deceive Tcharchess, and play one against the other. In the loyalty war Schprachtzi shifts from the old people’s camp to that of the young.

The real war bursts into their life in the middle of the wedding. Tcharchess is called up for reserve service, “leaving a wife on the home front” to hoard food for emergencies. The war ends with a great victory: Tcharchess comes home, embarks on entrepreneurship, and within a short time realizes his ruthless capitalist “vision” by becoming a successful earthmoving contractor, rapidly overtaking his father-in-law Fefechts.

Schprachtzi becomes pregnant, and while her mother Tsesha hopes to become a happy grandmother, Schprachtzi mainly promises her lots of cleaning, washing, and so forth. The young couple enlists the mother to increase pressure on Fefechts. And indeed, the father, in the wake of a burst of gluttony, suffers a heart attack that almost totally paralyzes him. Tcharchess, who is deeply embroiled in loans and is keen to increase his credit, attempts to asphyxiate Fefechts in bed with a pillow in order to speed up the inheritance, but another war foils his plot. Tcharchess is called up again.

This time it is a different war that exacts the full price: Tcharchess is killed, and when the despairing Schprachtzi, with Tcharchess’ son in her belly, discovers how much she really loves Tcharchess and realizes that she will have to start everything afresh, we return to the opening situation: They are preparing to eat and are grumbling about the price of meat.

Towards the end of the play, the ghost of the dead Tcharchess appears in the Schitz home – he too wants a steak, and begs them to at least allow him to remain a sad memory. Fefechts, who is now completely paralyzed, miraculously gets to his feet and reassumes command of the family. He “accedes” to leaving the dead Tcharchess under the table to pick up scraps, and in a Churchillian speech announces that now he, Fefechts, will take the business in hand: “I’ll go on working in earth, water and air / I’ll double the capital… / I’ll double the war… / I’m building on the dead, building from the dead, / Dead, dead, dead…” And before they all sit down at the table – for what remains apart from eating – Tsesha summarizes the affair: “Had I known we were living history, / I wouldn’t have survived”.

Muli Meltzer

About Hanoch Levin’s Schitz
Schitz, which premiered in January 1975, was written in the course of 1974, a short time after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Together with a description of the mood in Israel following the victory of 1967, the play does not spare us Levin’s trenchant criticism of the social significance of that triumph – criticism he had already voiced in his political cabarets, You, Me, and the Next War (1968), and Ketchup (1969).
The first war in the play, which ends in “the great victory”, is of course the Six-Day War. As we know, the period that followed June 1967 provided many Israelis with an opportunity to get rich quick. This is aptly described by Tcharchess in his “vision”: “In my vision there is peace and quiet… No borders, no barbwire fences. In my vision the people work in field and factory without hatred, without fear, they work together, irrespective of nationality, religion, race, or gender, because everyone is working for a common cause, everyone is working for me”. In Levin’s view, this was also the beginning of a grave moral decline embodied, inter alia, in the gluttony of all the play’s characters.

The Israeli get-rich frenzy heightened, particularly from the end of 1968, when work commenced on “the Bar-Lev Line”, the Israeli line of fortifications along the Suez Canal. And again, as Tcharchess, who indeed got rich from the war, says: “There’s no shortage of earthmoving work, the army must dig in. / I submit invoices, and the Defense Ministry approves them”.

The crisis breaks with the second war in the play, which is clearly the Yom Kippur War (“Who starts wars between two and four in the afternoon?” Tsesha asks bitterly). Tcharchess is called up, and in this war is killed. If previously it seemed that Citizen Tcharchess manages to “screw” the state (“the Defense Ministry pays”), it transpires that the state has the last word. And Schprachtzi delivers a chilling monologue which is a bitter indictment of the brutality and frivolousness with which the state treats its citizens’ lives: “In the middle of fatiguing life, / The state came to my home, extended a vulgar hand, / And took my husband. / Now it wants me to greet it on death too; / Welcome, death…” And Tsesha’s words at the beginning of the play, “Human flesh has become cheaper than pork”, suddenly take on an awful meaning.

Prior to Schitz Hanoch Levin wrote on two parallel tracks: plays on the family as an arena of clashes between egotistical drives, and cabarets (sketches and songs) dealing mainly with war that brings with it not only death and bereavement, but also getting rich and exploitation. Schitz is the first work in which Levin integrates the sociopolitical aspect into a “family” play, and melds the two subjects into a work of great emotional, personal, and social potency.

Muli Meltzer

Day Date Hour Back Stage Tours    Opera Talkback
FRI 3.7.15 13:00
SAT 4.7.15 21:00
*MON   6.7.15    20:00
TUE 7.7.15 20:00 18:30 After the show
THU 9.7.15 20:00 18:30 After the show
FRI 10.7.15 13:00

* PREMIÈRE - 6.7.15
** Towards Opening - SAT 27.6.15, 11:00
***
A pre-performance lecture (in Hebrew) is held one hour before every performance. Free admission for tickets holders.

A 30 minute pre-performance lecture (in hebrew) takes place at the auditorium one hour before each performance.

SAT 27.6.15, 11:00

Selection of topics for printing

Agnon to Levin
Synopsis - The Lady and the Peddler
Synopsis - Schitz
Dates
Towards Opening
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