Opera at Masada

The Masada Opera Festival was founded in 2010 by the Israeli Opera and became an annual event drawing in a younger audience than traditional venues. The productions are presented on a large stage at the foot of Masada with the mount as the backdrop under the night sky. Masada is one of several historic landmarks worldwide which has become a venue for open-air opera. So far each year the productions at Masada have been sold out. Each year the huge stage is rebuilt especially for the opera festival which usually takes place in June when the weather is warm but not yet swelteringly hot. The construction of the stage takes several months and the project employees 2,500 people just in the technical and construction side of the festival. The stage measures 35 meters in depth and is 64 meters wide with 6,500 seats in the audience.

opera in masada


The advantage of staging a production in an outdoor venue of this kind is that it enables the company to produce on a much larger scale. The company can include a large number of cast members, spectacular elements like pyrotechnics and showcase large elaborate sets. The setting is perfect for larger than life music and the unique venue attracts an audience which would normally not visit the traditional opera house. Each year a reception area is created which conjures up the atmosphere of the opera to be performed. In previous years this meant that a Parisian street was created and another year it was a Roman palace with faux-marble columns and low tables.

There is also a dedicated group of international opera fans which travels the world specifically to see out-door grand-scale productions. For tourists who arrive in Israel primarily to see the historic landmarks the Masada Opera Festival serves a double purpose of entertainment and exposure to the landmark site of Masada. The festival also generates employment opportunities for those living in the Negev who would normally not reach the “big cities” further north on a regular basis. The locals are employed in the backstage organization, construction and establishment of the infrastructure. The locals are also invited to the dress rehearsal free of charge. Together with a number of cultural activities associated with the opera festival the local residents are exposed to opera in a way they may never have been if the festival had not been stage in southern Israel. Ticket prices range from 300ILS to 1300ILS.

Previous Masada Opera Festival Productions

The first production at Masada in 2010 was Verdi’s Nabucco when 50,000 saw the production. Verdi’s Aida was performed at the Masada Opera Festival in 2011 featuring American soprano Kristin Lewis. In 2012 the festival presented Carmen. During this production the dry, dusty atmosphere of the desert led to understudy Na’ama Goldman stepping in for the last two acts of the premiere to replace Nancy Fabiola Herrera who was unable to continue. In 2013 the festival was canceled due to financial difficulties.

In 2014 the Masada Opera Festival production was Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Daniel Oren, directed by Michal Znaniecki and featuring Elena Mosuc as Violetta (alternating with Aurelia Florian) and Celso Albelo as Alfredo. In addition to the main opera production in 2014 there was also a recital of Beethoven’s Symphonies #1 and #9 by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with international soloists and a performance by the Idan Raichel Project. In June 2015 productions of Puccini’s Tosca and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana were presented at Masada. There were four performances of Tosca and two performances of Carmina Burana performed on two successive weekends. Tosca was conducted by Daniel Oren, Israeli Opera musical director who will also be conducting the 2016 production. It was directed by Nicolas Joel and featured both Israeli and international singers including the Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva as Tosca and the Israeli Opera Chorus, the Moran Children’s Choir and the orchestra was composed of musicians from the Rishon Lezion Philharmonic.

Upcoming Masada Opera Festival 2016

The next opera to be presented at Masada has been announopera in masada2ced. It will take place on September 15th and 17th 2016 at 10pm (final times to be announced). The production will be of Samson et Dalila. The opera tells the Biblical story of the Israeli Samson and the beautiful Philistine, Dalila. The production will be conducted by Daniel Oren an Israeli born to a Muslim father and Jewish mother. At the age of 13 Oren was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to sing the solo part in the Chichester Psalms and he went on to have a brilliant career as a conductor in opera houses across the globe. Daniel Oren has conducted in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Met in New York, the Arena in Verona and the Bastille in Paris among other venues. The 2016 production of Samson and Dalila at Masada will take place on the huge outdoor stage at the foot of Masada in the same tradition as previous opera festival productions. The production will be directed by Michal Znaniecki, set design by Luigi Scoglio, costume design by Magdalena Dabrowska, lighting by Bogumil Palewicz and choreography by Diana Theochardis. Among the cast of Samson and Dalila will be more than 200 Israeli school children. The French opera was written by Camille Sant-Saens to the libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire and runs for approximately 3 hours. It was first performed in 1877 in a German translation but will be performed at Masada in the original French. The grand opera has three acts; Act 1 is set in a square in Gaza at night; Act 2 is set in Dalila’s retreat in the Valley of Sorek; Scene 1 of Act 3 is set in a dungeon in the city of Gaza and Scene 2 of Act 3 is set in the Temple of Dagon.


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