Mehta: Arab Spring may be upbeat for Israel Philharmonic

Thu Sep 1, 2011 11:27am EDT
 
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Indian-born conductor Zubin Mehta is touring the world with the Israel Philharmonic celebrating its 75th anniversary and his 50th with them, but what he'd like to do is add more Arab capitals to the repertoire.

Mehta, who is the same age as the orchestra which gave its first concert in 1936, said as he prepared to conduct a concert at the BBC Proms in London on Thursday night that the Arab Spring has thrown up new challenges, and new opportunities, for Israel and his Philharmonic.

"One wonderful thing is nobody is blaming Israel for anything that is happening in those Arab countries -- usually it is always Israel's fault," Mehta told Reuters in a telephone interview from Israel a few days before the Proms concert.

"I hope Israel takes advantage of the new regimes to come close to them and that the new regimes will also try to make a detente with Israel."

And does that possibly include a role for the Israel Philharmonic, as a musical ambassador of the Jewish state?

"We have scaled so many artistic heights but also on the political spectrum we went to India and China 15 years ago when diplomatic relations were resumed...we went to the south of Lebanon and played in 1982," Mehta said.

"This orchestra has done things that other great orchestras don't have to do, thank God, but because we find ourselves in this corner here we have to take part in the ebb and flow of the life of the country. Hopefully we will play music very soon in Amman."

Or Tripoli? "Who knows? ...yes."   Continued...

 
<p>International orchestral and operatic conductor Zubin Mehta speaks before receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>