Israeli soprano clarifies her alleged withdrawal from 'antisemitic' Rossini

Israeli soprano clarifies her alleged withdrawal from 'antisemitic' Rossini


norman lebrecht

August 21, 2011

The soprano Hila Baggio has asked me to clarify Italian reports that she walked out of Graham Vick’s festival production of Mose in Egitto on the grounds that it was ‘dangerous and offensive.’

On the contrary, she was never part of the cast, and never left any performance in the middle.

In an email she adds: ‘I actually saw the production two days ago and I found it not Anti-Israeli and not Anti-Jewish. I found it very emotional and a sad reality of a conflict that exists forever between Israelis and Arabs and Grahm Vick showed it in a very intelligent way. ‘

Hila can be seen at the Rossini Festival in “La scala di seta”.


  • Cesare Sacerdoti says:

    There are a few conflicting reports about Hila Baggio’ supposed reactions to Vick’s Mose. She was a delightful Giulia in “La scala di seta” partially helping me and I suspect others not to regret having gone to Pesaro this year.
    Let us leave her out of it and concentrate on Vick’s butchering of Rossini and to an extent spoiling the wonderful perfomances of the orchestra under Abbado , all the singers, and Lorenzo Fratini with his choir.
    This production was not only offensive but had no merit what so ever as far as Vick’s contribution is concerned.

  • John Zuckerman says:

    Before we begin, full disclosure: I am an opera singer, I sang at the Rossini Opera Festival this year, I have sung with the Israeli Opera, and I’m Jewish. I saw the production, and I was profoundly moved, shouting “Bravo” over the woman booing next to me, when I should have been resting my voice for the next days performance.

    The discussion of the merits of the production aside, there is another problem here: a journalist wove out of whole cloth a story about Ms. Baggio leaving from the audience after the first act on opening night of Mosé, when she did not attend the performance that night, and had not yet seen it. One can only speculate what the motivations for this fabrication are, but it seems to be a case of an irresponsible journalist not letting the facts get in the way of what he thought was a good story.

    As to the production, I think it is a gross oversimplification to look at the production and see it as solely reflective of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and therefore anti-Israeli and/or anti-Semitic. One could just as easily see parallels with many of the intra-state conflicts within the Middle East, where politics and religion meet in often dangerous ways, and have a human cost. Mr. Vick left much to interpretation, including a very significant final tableau.

    Of course, anything that is left open to interpretation is also open to misinterpretation, and there very well may have been some things that could have been misinterpreted as to be offensive.

    That said, painting this production and this director with charges of anti-Semitism on the basis of “it could be interpreted as x, y, or z”, and the related attempt to remove him from the Israeli Opera is more than a bit heavy-handed. As audience members, as critics, and performers, it is incumbent upon us to approach the arts with open minds, to be mindful of our own prejudices, and to be willing to see things from a new perspective, so that we may be moved and move others.

    • Thank you, John, for the light of reason.

    • Cesare Sacerdoti says:

      To John Zuckerman thank you for performance in “lLa scala di seta”
      I actually found Vick’s work in very bad taste and offending by mixing all sort of bits together. It detracted as already said from the purely musical performing. If it was anti-semitic or not you argue but…certainly was crazy to portray Moses ,the deliverer of the X commandments, as Bin Laden offending all the Mosaic religions at a stroke.
      What is the point anyhow to mix up different episodes of terrorism instead of helping to understand, certainly even in a general statement against terror, oppression and wars in the name of religion you should distinguish and not cloud the issues. Not to differentiate between victims and perpetrators glorifies violence, a rather inappropriate message under the Alto Patronato of the Head of a democratic state which I think is being abused. Gas and Jews is an other unnecessary piece of insensitivity, you must not dissociate reality past and present in the pursuit of “artistic freedom” which to be such assumes responsibilities
      As far as Vick working in Israel I would find it unthinkable after this affair.

    • This has become so dizzy (this is what happens when you do pirouettes and you don’t spot) that one wonders whether people are wearing masks when they look in the mirror to make sure they don’t see they’re killing themselves. All this business of pointing out who’s the bad guy! Let’s forget that one can kill EVERY human being on the planet 20 times over with nuclear weapons which is then called “overkill,” (this makes sure you win when you can kill everyone 20 times which serves to make sure the “enemy” is dead and leaving the rest of humanity as collateral damage). This also destroys any idea of evil anywhere because the very method to counteract it ( 19 times overkill of all of humanity) is hardly standing up to a test of what’s “not evil,” anymore. If you’re interested in deciding something is evil you can pretty much pick any side you want! “New and Improved” war…Um… and it’s insulting and “crazy” to… um Mosaic religion to compare Moses with Bin Laden (not that it might be insulting to Islam to say there’s no comparison possible). On the other hand maybe it’s insulting to Islam to say that Bin Laden is one of their religious leaders, so that might make the comparison (which is presumed I presume) insulting to Islam and Judaism. And since it’s not really clear that this was the intention – it’s what other people said was what the Opera staging was about – what about the rest of the “religions?” Also, I thought a religion spoke for itself because it nurtures thought rather than having ANY need to be advertised and thus indoctrinated, but anyhow, I regress..But Moses is justified in his violence because he’s the “winner” and the “victim” which is why he’s entitled to be violent (and “different”) and it’s “crazy” to associate him with another purveyor of violence because otherwise we’re not putting the past in perspective, which we need to do in order to excuse 20 times overkill to prevent “victims”! I guess I’m repeating myself:

      war is war is war is war is war is war is war is war is war
      and when it’s all over
      a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
      a strawberry is a strawberry is a strawberry is a strawberry

      But it could never have been because it would have had to begin and
      war is war is war is war is war is war
      It’s not a rose and it’s not a strawberry
      and it never will be because to be they have to come from where they came from
      and that isn’t war…

      I don’t even believe “violence” is “real” by the way. Look at is as if it will last forever but were it real it seems it would have to destroy or protect something; and I don’t believe it does either…
      Now would this make me “Egyptian” or “Jewish?”

      And what if Moses, having been through the whole ordeal, having become a pundit for militarism, having waged and “won” a whole war; what if his not going into the promised land expresses the fact that he saw that, after it all, war doesn’t work; and that he becomes the very enemy who he’s fighting against perpetuating the excuse for violence rather than stopping the vicious cycle? Apparently, if he came to that conclusion according to those trying to “defend” him, he would be insulting himself not wanting to be a pawn for violence…

      This is an opera by the way. Can be seen as a dream where you discover different parts of yourself. (warning parts of post may be sarcastic)…