Turandot at Masada - June 2013
Open air opera festivals under the vast canopy of shining stars exist all over the world. Numerous historical and archaeological sites, such as the famous Arena in Verona, Italy, host such festivals. Even more so, opera festivals are also inaugurated in cities that do not feature such historical sites, like the floating lake stage in the town of Bregenz, Austria. Each and every one of these numerous festivals has its own set oftourism, social, economic, environmental and at times even political facets. The Israeli Opera has inaugurated its openair festival in Masada in June 2010 and now, in its third season it has already become a tradition.
Having such a festival in Israel is not that obvious simply because of the very complicated political,economic and logistic issues in this part of the world. Like any other festival around the world, an entire infrastructure and production organization is needed to make this festival a reality.
An open air opera festival enables to present productions on a much larger scale than can be done in opera house in Tel Aviv. On the one hand the stage can be much bigger and showcase many more performers, as is indeed needed in such operas as Aida by Verdi or Carmen by Bizet. The larger than life operatic music enjoys a much bigger spectrum once it is performed under the stars and even more so by the Mt. of Masada with its extra added emotional value. The size of the festival enables us to bring to Israel the best opera artists, such as conductors, singers, orchestras and designers. The sheer size also enables us to expose opera as a genre to a much larger national and international audience than those who can come to our opera house in Tel Aviv.
Masada National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
People have streamed to Masada in the millions since the archaeologist Yigael Yadin first revealed its story in the 1960s. Masada is on the itinerary of virtually every tour group from abroad and continues to be a prime destination for Israeli youth groups and school groups, and for Israeli army units, some of which take their oaths of allegiance in ceremonies atop Masada.
Masada is located on a solitary plateau in the Judean Desert, whose rugged slopes rise to a height of more than 400 meters above the Dead Sea. The combination of steep cliffs and desert surroundings provided the perfect natural defenses that attracted King Herod. But Masada was not just a strong-walled fortification; it was a royal fortress, with palaces both large and small and a sophisticated bathhouse.
The palace on Masada’s northern cliff, with its three stone terraces that seem to hang over the abyss, is the mountain’s most impressive structure, built by a technique that is amazing to this day.
The extraordinary universal value of Masada led to its inscription in 2001 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to be protected and conserved for all humanity. The basis for the inscription included the fact that Masada symbolizes the ancient kingdom of Israel and its violent destruction and exile at the end of the first century CE.