Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An interview with Israeli soprano Revital Raviv

On February 22,2009, I interviewed Israeli soprano Revital Raviv.

Pamela: Did you begin singing as a child?

Revital: Yes. I grew up in Moshav Hogla in Emek Hefer and began singing in the Moran Children’s Choir at age ten. I was attracted to singing jazz, Israeli songs and songs from musicals. But as I slowly became more familiar with classical music, I developed a taste for it. When I was 15, I started taking voice lessons and became a soloist with the choir. Then, in the army, I sang with the Israeli Army Orchestra.

Pamela: After completing your army service, where did you study?

Revital: I enrolled to study voice at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, studying with Marina Levitt. At the end of my first year at the Academy, David Shemer formed a Baroque music ensemble which was to take part in an early music festival in Slovenia. That was my introduction to Baroque music, opening up a whole new window of opportunity. I went on to perform with the “Meltzer Consort”, the “Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra” and in the “Arcadia Ensemble”. I would say that Baroque opera is what I most enjoy doing at the moment.

I then spent a year in the Young Artists’ Program of the Israeli Opera, taking part in a number of projects, after which I left for London.

Pamela: I understand you spent some five years in London.

Revital: Yes. I took two years of post-graduate study at the Royal College of Music there, with Marie McLachlan as my vocal coach. I had also auditioned for Philip Pickett and this resulted in my joining his and Jonathan Miller’s production of Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo”. With Pickett, I took part in a recital with “The Musicians of the Globe”, a group that explores a wide repertoire, much of it English and much of it inspired by Shakespeare’s works. I am still performing in Pickett’s production of Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas”, which premiered last June.

In England, I also took part in the recording of a disc with the “Lieder Theatre London” whose aim is to present song repertoire with emphasis on introducing both its poetry and its music. This CD “Engel Lund’s Book of Folk Songs” is a unique collection of folk songs from 14 countries, it was first performed by Lund herself in 1936 and has now been revived by a number of young singers all singing in their native languages. I sing the Yiddish songs on the disc. It was both exciting and sad to be learning these wonderful melodies of a language and culture that have almost disappeared. My mother-in-law was of great help to me with learning Yiddish diction. I would really like to see this wonderful group perform in Israel.

London offers so much in the way of concerts and I found myself going to hear concerts and opera three times a week, gathering much listening experience and learning from other artists.

This coming May I will be returning to London to perform a concert of Victor Ullmann’s songs. Born in 1898 in Silesia, Ullmann was deported to Auschwitz in 1044, where he perished in the gas chambers.

Pamela: Hearing and seeing you perform, one is aware of your background in theatre.

Revital: In Emek Hefer, I performed in amateur theatre playing Mika in Moshe Shamir’s play “He Walked in the Fields” and in “Utzli Gutzli”, the Hebrew version of “Rumpelstiltskin”, the latter being a musical for children.

England has a rich musical tradition and at the Royal College of Music much of our training was a very thorough preparation for an opera career: we studied movement and acting and we performed scenes from operas, working under many different directors.

Pamela: So you are now back in Israel. What are your plans?

Revital: Yes. My husband and I returned six months ago. I plan to sing and perform as much as possible. The concert “Handel the Entertainer” I recently performed with the PHOENIX Ensemble was my first appearance since the birth of our son. It was a wonderful start to many more concerts to come. I loved playing the different characters in the arias from so many of Handel’s works. I am also interested in teaching voice and passing my own experience on to young singers.

Pamela: Do you enjoy performing to Israeli audiences?

Revital: Very much. Israeli audiences are warm and communicative. In London, I sang in large halls. In Israel, I enjoy performing chamber concerts in smaller venues and seeing the expressions on people’s faces.

During the Second Lebanese War, I performed three concerts here of “Songs of the Gondola”, works of pre-Baroque music from Venice, and was moved to see people taking time out from the tensions and anxiety of what was happening here to enjoy an hour and a half of music, to smile and relax. There is no greater satisfaction to the performer than that!

Pamela: Revital Raviv, thank you for giving us of your time. We, at Living in Harmony, and I am sure our reading audience too, look forward to hearing you in recitals and concerts and warmly welcome you back to the Israeli concert scene.

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