The music, composed by Paul Salter and played by the New Savoy Orchestra, is awesomely suited to the plot and beautifully matched by the impressive voices of the singers and the dramatic, cleverly written libretto. Intrepid, a new opera which premiered in Jerusalem on Wednesday and is slated for another performance on Thursday night, brings to life a true saga of courage and tragedy. It is the story of the early fighters for Jewish independence who shaped the future by taking it into their own hands .
If you can possibly be in Jerusalem tomorrow evening, do not miss this work written and performed in English (with Hebrew translation beamed above the stage) by the Encore Educational Theatre and showing at the Hirsch Theater in the Beit Shmuel building near the Alrov Mall.
Robert Binder, who took a break from successfully producing classic musicals for Anglo audiences and composed his own opera, realized that the story of NILI is the stuff of which opera is made: Unfulfilled love, betrayal, tragedy, even the death of all the heroes, except that instead of a meaningless and contrived operatic plot, we are drawn into a stirring drama steeped in love of Zion, idealism and starring a heroine who is larger than life.
The story took place a century ago. This year, 2017, marks 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, the famous milestone in the creation of the Jewish state, but how many of us Anglos know much about the events leading up to it and to General Allenby's triumphant entrance through the Jaffa Gate in 1917 after his victory over the cruel and merciless Turks ruling Palestine?
I have always been at least a step behind my children and grandchildren, who were all raised in Israel and therefore grew up on books such as "Sarah, the heroine of NILI" and the Israeli Time Tunnel Series. Although I heard of NILI and once visited the Aaronsohn home in Zichron Yaakov, I really knew very little about the truly intrepid spy ring led by young Aaron Aaronsohn and his sister Sarah, who feared the Turks were planning a repeat of the Armenian Genocide for the Jews of Palestine and provided the British with the information they needed to conquer the land. The young idealists paid for it with torture, hanging, bereavement and the furious reactions of their frightened fellow Jews. Avshalom Feinberg, in love with both Sarah and her sister, was killed on the way to Egypt with crucial information and his remains, under a date tree which grew from the dates Sarah had given him for the journey - and the good luck charm her sister Rivka had given him - were only found in the Sinai after the Six Day War.
Intrepid is an operatic work worth seeing for its music, lines and acting, but its characters well deserve the tribute the opera's very performance grants them, while it brings their passions, ideals and conflicts to life. The late Sam Sylvester, who provided the inspiration for the plot and to whose memory the opera is dedicated, was a witty music lover who probably would agree that the subtle humor that here and there creeps into the otherwise serious plot, somehow makes it even more realistic.
Israel 2017 produces start-ups, algricultural innovations, medical technology, world-renowned musicians, scientists and just about everything else. A century after the Balfour Declaration declaring the rights of the Jewish people to a homeland - a date which the NILI heroes missed by a month - and half a century since the Six Day War liberated that homeland, we can add English language Zionist opera to the list of our country's accomplishments. And the cognizance that a nation that remembers those who gave their lives for its creation will also remember the values upon which it was established.
Aaron Aaronsohn, his sister Sarah, and Avshalom Feinberg examine a map where valuable information on Turkish military installations may be gathered in Intrepid: The Saga of the NILI Spy Ring. (Left to right, Michael Sacofsky, Aviella Trapido, and Rafael Apfel.)
Avshalom Feinberg (Rafael Apfel) and Sarah Aaronsohn (Aviella Trapido) work closely both in NILI spy affairs and in budding romance.
Avshalom Feinberg (Rafael Apfel) and Yosef Lishansky (Hanan Leberman) discuss how to develop plans for NILI activities.