Israel breaks ground with opera on Dead Sea shores

Mon Jun 7, 2010 9:48am EDT
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By Ori Lewis

MASADA, Israel (Reuters) - Music lovers have found cause to celebrate in a groundbreaking spectacular opera event at one of Israel's most important landmarks.

The staging last week of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco on a patch of desert on the shores of the Dead Sea with the historic mountain of Masada as a backdrop has taken Israel Opera to new realms, its director said.

"We know how to mount an opera in an opera house as it is something we have been doing for 25 years, but it is not easy to build an opera city in the middle of the desert," the Israel Opera's general director Hanna Munitz told Reuters.

Outdoor opera is not a new concept and a number of well established, popular festivals have captivated audiences at ancient settings worldwide. But with no infrastructure to hand, the task at Masada was daunting and expensive.

"We came to virgin desert and we had to build everything: infrastructure, to flatten the rough terrain, to build roads, electricity ... a stage and a huge tribune for 6,500 people," Munitz said.

Masada is a flat-topped mountain where King Herod the Great built a fortress completed in 31 BC.

According to ancient historian Josephus it was the site of a Roman siege that ended in 73 AD when hundreds of Jewish rebels known as Sicarii committed mass suicide rather than fall as slaves to the Romans.

The story of the Sicarii's defiance has turned the bare sandstone mountain into a revered site for Israelis and Jews who see it as a symbol of defiance in adversity.   Continued...