Divas serenade Jerusalem drivers to boost festival

JERUSALEM Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:27am EDT

Members of the Israeli opera perform Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco during a dress rehearsal at the foothill of Masada historic site near the Dead Sea in Israel May 30, 2010. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Members of the Israeli opera perform Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco during a dress rehearsal at the foothill of Masada historic site near the Dead Sea in Israel May 30, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Four Israeli female opera singers braved unfamiliar territory on Wednesday to perform at a prominent outdoor Jerusalem landmark and sing classical arias in the midday traffic to promote an upcoming opera festival.

Cars, bendy-buses and garbage trucks rumbled along unfazed and traffic lights shifted oblivious to the cadence of the caressing sounds as the singers each took their turn to bellow out music probably never before heard at the scene.

"We are promoting the opera festival ... it is a bit weird to sing here but it is special," said mezzo-soprano Yifat Weisskopf.

The singers from the Tel Aviv-based Israeli Opera were promoting an opera festival inaugurated last year that will center around the outdoor venue at the foot of the fortress mountain of Masada on the shores of the Dead Sea.

The main work being performed at the festival in June is Aida by Verdi, with his lesser-known opera named Jerusalem to be performed next to Jerusalem's old city walls.

After singing arias by Mozart, Verdi and Gershwin the performers quietly made their way down from the imposing suspension bridge built for a new light-railway that was undergoing final trials even as the singers performed.

Any fears that ultra-Orthodox Jews, who believe the sound of a woman's voice in song is blasphemous, would take offence and protest, came to nothing as few of them even noticed an event they are almost certain to ignore anyway.

It was a marked contrast to the public outcry before the bridge's opening ceremony when ultra-Orthodox city officials forced female dancers to cover their hair and don sack-like dresses to avoid offending rabbis. The dance troupe moved its headquarters to more liberal Tel Aviv soon afterwards.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Paul Casciato)

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