My fondness for classical music is what sent me to Eilat in the first place and it was thus fitting that I came upon Gil Shohat at Sde Dov airport.
"You're going to listen to classical music by the Red Sea, too?" I asked him gaily.
"Actually," he said, "I'm the artistic consultant for the festival."
Silly me, imagining that any such event could take place without Shohat - the idol of female golden-agers everywhere - serving as musical consultant.
The program itself was fairly lame, as it turned out. Aside from the four major concerts that took place at the port venue, there were several smaller concerts at the Isrotel Theater. Some rather charming, some less so. I'd heard most of them a few months ago at the Ein Hod Festival - and all featured Shohat as composer, conductor or star performer. His female fans were in Eilat in abundance.
At the first concert, I was startled to see that I was in the lowest audience percentile, age-wise. It's been years since I was the youngest person anywhere. Sometimes I think I miss that feeling, but in Eilat I felt a Dorian Gray-like anxiousness when looking around at the sagging, expressionless faces of the people whose fondness for classical music had brought them to the southern resort city.
I will never ever ever inject silicon in my lips, I promised myself even before hearing the opening notes of the concert version of Verdi's 'La Traviata,' performed by the Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera orchestra, chorus and soloists. No one in the world will make me dye my hair blond, and no one will ever convince me to have permanent makeup applied to my face. For your information: Over time, permanently painted-on eyebrows take on a purplish-blue, bruise-like tint. And those Cicciolina lips that women nearing or even past the age of 70 are sporting these days aren't merely ugly. When adorning the visages of high-society ladies, whose facial expressions have long been erased by Botox and whose bluish eyebrows are raised in constant astonishment - those fake lips don't make any of them look younger; they just make them look more desperate.
'La Traviata' was wonderful, and my enjoyment was only slightly marred when, in the middle of the first act, the head of an elderly icon of academia drooped onto my right shoulder, rather than onto that of the lady on his other side, where it obviously belonged. The deafness in my left ear made his light snoring an almost imperceptible nuisance, though the thread of saliva drooling from his mouth onto my shoulder was a little more bothersome. My attempts to gently nudge the old professor's head onto his wife's shoulder were not met with any cooperation on her part.
With no consideration whatsoever for the average age of those sitting around me (which I cautiously estimated at 75), the concert began at 9:30 P.M. Here and there I saw the heads of various business tycoons droop forward, and a retired judge was snoring quietly in the row behind me.?
"It's great to be the youngest again, all of a sudden," said my friend A., when I placed an emergency call to her on my cell during the intermission. I told her it was actually a little scary, since I felt like I was seeing the future right before my eyes when, at my age, I might be better off recalling the glories of the past.
In any case, I thought later, how can one take seriously an acclaimed conductor like Valery Gergiev of the Kirov, who frequently appears with the Metropolitan Opera, who confesses that Tchaikovsky is his favorite composer? As grateful as we are to the Soviets for their efforts in World War II and their victory over the Germans, when it comes to music, the German, Italian and even French composers, not to mention that splendid Pole Frederic Chopin, should take far greater precedence. Indeed, the crowd quickly flowed out of the second concert, which was devoted entirely to Tchaikovsky.
On a totally different note, there was also the performance, in two parts, of the monumental ?(in terms of its length?) opera 'Les Troyens,' by Hector Berlioz. First off, I must come clean and say that opera is not my favorite kind of music, although I did thoroughly enjoy 'La Traviata.' Verdi was a genius when it came to melody and harmony, and it also didn't hurt that just three months after I started studying Italian, I discovered to my delight that I could understand the texts being sung on stage (although the joy of this discovery was ruined when I realized that I'd subconsciously been reading the electronic supertitles). But I still say that opera should be left to the Italians or to Mozart.
As a rule, opera isn't the fastest way to get a message across. The dire warnings about the destruction of Troy in the Berlioz go on for hours without let-up. But who really cares? Between us, the destruction of Troy is one of those disasters I got over a long time ago. The boredom was interrupted by the racket made by the fighter planes that took off over the hangar just as the singers were starting to chronicle the final battle.
"To Italy! To Italy!" bellows Cassandra, daughter of King Priam, at the end of the opera's first half. And I couldn't help but nod in agreement with her: to Italy - and the sooner the better.
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