The concert, part of a special series of summer events at the museum in celebration of its 50th anniversary, attracted an overflow crowd; the main parking lot was full and cars rerouted 20 minutes before show time.
It was a rather informal affair: Plastic chairs were set up on a gravel plaza in front of an elevated, and seats were not numbered. It was first-come, first-served. Nor were there printed programs, and a concession stand was open and selling snacks throughout the concert.
The Israeli Opera and Rishon LeZion Symphony Orchestra kicked off the show with the overture from Bizet’s Carmen. The artistic administrator of the Israel Opera, Michael Ajzenstadt, served as MC for the evening, announcing each soloist and aria. It was an opportunity for the Israel Opera to showcase its young, up-and-coming stars, in front of an "out-of-town" audience.
One by one, the soloists – seven women and two men – took the stage and sang arias by Dvorak, Verdi, Donizetti, Puccini, Donizetti, Offenbach, Mozart and Saint Saens. While the voices were all top-notch, one soprano in particular, Hila Fahima, was singled out as a graduate of the Israel Opera’s own training program – the Meitar Opera Studio for Young Artists – who went on to star as Rigoletto’s Gisela with the Vienna State Opera.
After the first five arias, Achinoam Nini was introduced. She came onstage with her long-standing collaborator, Gil Dor, who accompanied her on guitar as she sang two Hebrew songs from her recorded albums, "Boi Kala" and "Bereshit."
After several more arias, Nini reappeared and charmed the audience with her sincere modesty, complimenting conductor David Sebba and paying tribute to her parents, whom she thanked for insisting on training her in classical music.
She then welcomed onstage with her two of the Israel Opera singers, Shiri Hershkovitz and Tal Bergman, who were to join her in a most unusual debut: Two children’s songs combined and arranged in a parody of an aria. It was great fun to both watch and listen to the familiar nursery songs rendered in the style of a true operatic aria, complete with acrobatic trills performed effortlessly by all three artists.
After graciously praising Hershkovitz and Bergman, Nini proceeded to perform two arias as a soloist: "Una voce poco fa", sung by the character Rosina in Rossini’s opera "Barber of Seville," and "Glitter and Be Gay," sung by the character Cunégonde in Leonard Bernstein’s opera "Candide."
The audience was treated to the full range of Nini’s talents as a world-class artist – as well as a glimpse of her theatrical skills – as she sang the demanding aria reflecting the turbulent personality of Cunégonde.
Her spellbinding performance kept the audience in its seats for the duration of Nini’s appearance – which, in retrospect, seemed all too brief.
Unfortunately, in contrast, a disruptive element in the undisciplined audience too frequently disturbed the majority of attendees, as they noisily crunched their way across the gravel on their way to buy drinks (and return with them to their seats) or get a head start to beat the traffic going home. There was no intermission. In the future, organizers might want to consider closing the concession stand while performers are onstage, perhaps scheduling an intermission instead.
And a tip for ticketholders as well: They might want to consider bringing a cushion, as some people do in Sultan’s Pool, since the unpadded plastic chairs can be hard on the bottom over the course of two hours.
Early leavers notwithstanding, the concert finale was a real treat: Two male and two female vocalists performing the famous Rigoletto Quartetto, from the opera of the same name by Verdi.