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Schubert Plus: A pleasure for all senses
By Franziska Windisch

Franziska Windisch is a student of Jewish Studies and Journalism from Berlin, currently living in Israel. Served as an intern for German television and now writes for a daily German newspaper. Writes for All About Jewish Theatre on German artists coming to Israel and on Israeli theatre in general from a Berlin point of view.e-mail : franzi_windisch@yahoo.de  

Tel Aviv : A piano, a clarinet, a tenor, a soprano and a minimum of props – it doesn't take much more than that to fascinate an audience with Romantic melodies for almost two hours.

Schubert Plus: An Operatic Episode in Two Acts does not really tell a story, but rather picks an episode from everyday life and casts it in the guise of opera. Set in a café, a tender and fragile love story develops between fun-loving waiter Gabi (Gabi Sadeh) and his client Silvia (Alma Moshonov), who is disappointed with love and life. The stage is rather sparsely equipped: two tables with two chairs each, a tea trolley with dishes and a grand piano, of course. Then again, it seems nothing more is necessary.

The first episode begins with Silvia seated in an empty, half-closed café; her table is not set and chairs are placed on top of the other table. She is in tears, trying to write a letter to her lost love, as she sings Goethe's "Meine Ruh' ist hin" ("My peace is gone"). It took me some time to realize that it was German, and then I started wondering: Wasn't she speaking Hebrew before? And how are those who do not know German supposed to follow? I then noticed the subtitles projected just above the stage, without distracting too much attention. Indeed, the few dialogues between the melodies are in Hebrew, but there is no need for more words. The actors' expressiveness makes it possible for anyone who does not understand the lyrics to still follow the plot.

With his joie de vivre, Gabi manages to pull Silvia out off her sadness, at least temporarily, and injects the play with more dynamics. And so the love story goes, only to find a sudden end when the ringing of Silvia's mobile phone disrupts not only the "couple's" last moments of joy and intimacy, but also serves as the first reminder of the twenty first century in almost two hours. In the end, it seems that Silvia has passed her sadness on to Gabi who removes the tablecloth, puts the chairs back on top of the table, and finally leaves the stage, heart-stricken and silent. Yet Silvia is not much happier either; she leaves a note for Gabi but tears it up before walking out of the café, accompanied by beautiful-sad clarinet music. The spectator is left unsure of whom he should feel sorrier for.

Internationally recognized tenor Gabi Sadeh and his niece Alma Moshonov are utterly convincing as Gabi and Silvia. The relationship of this lopsided couple evolves like a soap bubble which, having been created with caution, floats a bit until it finally bursts. And no other lieder could fit the bill better than those by the famous Romantic composer Franz Schubert.

The singing is effectively accompanied by only a piano (Bart Berman) and a clarinet (Mor Levine), which really makes one wonder if a whole orchestra is always needed in order to endow music with utmost emotion. Together with the light that always reflects the mood, the singing and music form a fascinating unity.

It is amazing how director Alex Kagan manages to revive Franz Schubert's formal melodies in such informal surroundings and to adapt them to modern times. In accordance with his original intention – to save the lyrics by poets like Goethe, Heine or Shakespeare from slipping into oblivion – Kagan gives Schubert's lieder a whole new meaning.

Schubert Plus is a pleasure for all senses and all ages, as was proven by the endless applause and the bouquets of flowers from the audience.

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Concerts at Shtriker Conservatory, Tel Aviv
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  • Franziska Windisch

    Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

    Gabi Sadeh and Alma Moshonov

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