Opera Launched in Palestine
Mugrabi Theater in Tel Aviv. Photo: Beit Ha’Tfutsot

July 28, 1923

Mordechai Golinkin’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” marks the beginning of opera in Mandatory Palestine. Because Palestine has no opera house, the performance is in a movie theater.

Golinkin, who wrote his thesis in Moscow on “The Vision of the Hebrew Art Temple of Opera Work in Palestine,” has arrived in Palestine in 1923 to try to make that vision a reality. He directs the Palestinian Opera for four years.

The Palestinian Opera stages 16 productions by 1945, including “Dan Hashomer” (“Dan the Guard”) by Marc Lavry, the first opera written in Hebrew. On Nov. 13, 1945, American soprano Edis De Philippe arrives in Israel and creates the Israel National Opera Company. The successful company attracts rising international opera stars to spend time in Israel.

In 1982 the Ministry of Culture and Education cuts off funding to the Israel National Opera, and it closes. Three years later, the Council for Arts and Culture creates the New Israeli Opera. Its first production is Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Opera, directed by Hanna Munitz, stages about eight productions each season and draws Hebrew and English speakers. The company also presents dance, classical music, jazz and children’s music series at the Opera House in Tel Aviv.