The great mass

Claire Meghnagi (Maxim Reider)On Sunday at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv and on Monday at the Jerusalem Theater, the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, directed by the its honorary conductor Andrew Parrott, will perform Bach’s B Minor Mass on period instruments for the first time in Israel.

Sopranos Claire Meghnagi and Revital Raviv, mezzo-soprano Petra Noskaiova, tenor Nicholas Mulroy and baritone Yair Polishook will participate. A prominent Bach scholar, Parrott reduces the choir to five additional singers, who support the soloists, since this was how Bach’s choral works were originally performed.

Meghnagi, one of the most exciting Israeli singers of the young generation who receives rave reviews in the international media, discovered the bliss of singing in public at the age of two.

Born into the family of Italian cantor Isacco Meghnagi, she has been performing with her father from her early childhood.

Her first operatic performance took place in Boston, where she studied after graduating from the Rubin Music Academy. “As a student, I sang in a littleknown opera by Bononcini,” she says.

Meghnagi performed in Israel with the Israeli Opera and in other operatic productions, as well as on concert and festival stages at home and abroad.

But her career catapulted after she gained international exposure during an extensive tour with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants in 2007. Today she has a rich repertoire to her credit, raging from Baroque to contemporary, performed with the best ensembles at the world’s most prestigious venues, such as Lincoln Center, the Barbican Center, Frankfurt’s Alte Oper, Paris’s Opera Comique, Auditorio Nacional de Madrid and Lisbon’s Gulbenkian, and the Aix-en-Provence festival, with more captivating engagements scheduled for the future. “Martin Hasselbock invited me to perform in Infernal Comedy with John Malkovich.

Next summer, I will make my debut as Cleopatra at the Finnish National Opera, and I will also return to the Israeli Opera to sing Euridice.”

Mozart and Handel are the composers she loves most. “They knew how to write for voice, and Mozart’s music is also very humane. Susanna my favorite role. She wants to marry somebody she loves and to be happy in the place where it is almost impossible and emerges as a winner, without losing herself. There is a lot of compassion about this opera.”

Handel is another story. “Baroque arias are not easy to perform, but singing them is great pleasure because there is something very correct about it, and there are many ways to interpret this music. What also attracts me is the importance of the word in Baroque music.”

Exciting as it is, the life of a singer is not so easy: “Performing on international stages is a privilege, but I’m also a mother of two little kids, and it is emotionally hard to abandon them for long periods of time.

Luckily, I have a wonderful family, which is of great support. Another thing is the immense gap between the gorgeous stage life and the everyday reality, when you need to get up early and prepare sandwiches for your kids: One has to know how to make this transition.”

Speaking about her upcoming performance of Bach’s Mass, Meghnagi admits that when Parrott first told the singers that they were about to perform it without a choir, she was “shocked and did not know how to relate to it because I’ve never sung chorus parts, and we are all accustomed to a powerful choir sound. But while working on the piece, I realized that there is a musical logic behind it, and indeed these fragments sound better when performed by a small ensemble.”

For reservations: (02) 623-7000 in Jerusalem and (03) 546-6228 in Tel Aviv.

By MAXIM REIDER
11/03/2011

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