La Traviata staged at UNESCO site in Israeli desert

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La Traviata staged at UNESCO site in Israeli desert

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Four years ago, in an ambitious move to rejuvenate flagging audiences, the Israeli Opera launched a festival at the historic Masada site.

A spectacular performance of 'La Traviata' is the focus of this year’s event.

A rugged natural fortress set in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea, the hulking Masada mountain provides an unforgettable backdrop.

Daniel Oren is the Israeli Opera’s music director: “Through the music you can go really very, very, very high and in this place in the desert you can achieve magical things,” he says.

“My dream is that this really becomes one of the most important festivals in the world because the place is unique in the world, you can’t find such a place (elsewhere),” he adds.

‘La Traviata’ holds special significance in Israel’s musical history as the first opera to be staged in British-mandated Palestine, performed by an amateur group in Tel Aviv in 1923.

“We don’t have a tradition for opera in Israel so the people that come here are mostly people that are not used to opera. Some of them, even maybe most of them, are people that see opera for the first time in their life, so you have to make it very accessible to them,” says Hanna Munitz, general director of the Israeli Opera.

Preparing Masada for the event is a major effort requiring more than six months’ work to create an elaborate set of Parisian-style streets, with restaurants and bars for guests in this hostile desert. Between events, the UNESCO World Heritage site returns to its natural state.

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