In Israel, two weeks before an election, almost everyone we meet says they want to get rid of Bibi Netanyahu – and almost everyone then goes on to say, wearily, that there’s not much chance of anyone else forming the next government. The hard right has dug in too long and too deep for there to be any sudden political landslide, say veteran observers.
Much the same holds true for the music scene in Israel. We meet the most brilliant range of creators and performers – young composers, singers, conductors – full of initiative, ideals and ideas, yet unable to breach the walls of an establishment that is ruled by the Israel Opera and Israel Philharmonic, themselves ruled for decades by the same old faces.
Hanna Munitz, 68, general director of the Opera for 20 years, has seen off one chief conductor after another, holding a Bibi-like stance of no change. Many of the finest Israeli singers now live in Europe, unable to break into Israel Opera.
The situation is, if anything, worse at the Philharmonic where Zubin Mehta is music director for life and his sidekick Avi Shoshani has been secretary-general since time immemorial. Each covers the other’s back. Their viewfinder points firmly backwards, to see who might be coming from behind. Neither has any known intention of stepping aside.
But amid the current election fever, there is talk of shifting the old musical guard. Wishful talk, perhaps, but still talk. A tentative article in Haaretz by Noam Ben-Ze’ev kicked off a small wave of speculation. More has followed on social media. There is an appetite for regime change. If Zubin were persuaded, after 46 years with the Israel Phil, to accept a presidential trole and make way for a young music director – one who might effect real change – he could trigger a landslide of possibilities.