Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Portugal: Political Israel-bashing opera performed at the Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon)

A political Israel-bashing opera, The Sleeping Thousand, will be performed on 16 January at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. The Gulbenkian Foundation indicates that the opera was commissioned/supported/sponsored by the European commission and several European institutions: "Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. A Festival d’Aix-en-Provence production in association with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation [Portugal], Helsinqui Festival, La Monnaie/De Munt [Belgium], Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel [Belgium] and IRCAM-Centre Pompidou [France]. With the support of enoa and Creative Europe Programme of the European Union."

More via AFP/France 24 (2019):
It features an Israeli prime minister, Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, a hit squad and a Shin Beth spy chief. But this is not another story on the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict but an opera unusually with a libretto in Hebrew, the official language of Israel.

"The Sleeping Thousand", an opera by Israeli composer Adam Maor with the libretto by Yonatan Levy, was premiered at the prestigious Aix-en-Provence opera festival in southern France this month.

"This opera speaks of oppression and above all, its impact on the oppressor," Maor told AFP. [...]

Maor is hugely critical of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and spent two years behind bars for refusing to do his compulsory military service in protest at the "immorality of the occupation" of the Palestinian territories.

In the opera, which inhabits a world between science fiction and fantasy, a thousand Palestinian prisoners begin a hunger strike generating widespread media interest.

The Israeli government decides to sedate them "so that the world can move on to something else".

"It works very well until the day when the Israelis start having nightmares and wake up in the night speaking Arabic," explained Maor, 36.

One day, the government concludes that the Palestinians were seeking to sabotage Israeli dreams.

"They are tunnelling into the world of Jewish dreams and carrying out terror attacks!" declares an aide to the prime minister in the opera.

The prime minister then decides to send in the aide as a spy in Palestinian garb to kill them.

The different characters, all of them Israelis, are taken on by four singers. And at the back of the stage are the "sleeping" Palestinians, all played by volunteers lying on beds.

Referring to his own stint in jail, Maor said: "I chose to go to prison, whereas they (the Palestinians) didn't."

Thousands of Palestinians are held by Israel, some without charge under so-called administrative detention orders. They often go on hunger strike to highlight their plight.

Israel insists such detentions are necessary to punish criminals who carried out or planned violent acts, and ensure the Jewish state's security. [...]

Maor's family originally came from Damascus, where many Syrian Jews lived before leaving in the years before Israel's creation in 1948. But he is not sure he will ever be able to see his opera performed in Israel itself, complaining about the "the government's growing pressure on dissenting artists" under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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