March 20, 2003 Concert:
Alte Oper Frankfurt
Esther Ofarim Interview

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Esther Ofarim - Concert Frankfurt
Esther Ofarim, Frankfurt 2003
commercial-poster of the concert Esther Ofarim - Frankfurt 2003

An Evening: a journey through centuries and continents

Esther performed in der Alten Oper (old opera) of Frankfurt
on  March 20, 2003 at 20:00 h.

>> see Reviews of the press

Review of the concert in the Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany
written by Ulrich Menzel

On March 20, at 8 p.m., Esther Ofarim made her entrance on the stage of Frankfurt's "Alte Oper" (not an Opera house, but a concert venue) to give her first concert performance here in over 20 years. She looked radiant wearing a black jacket over the familiar long white dress. Without introduction, she immediately launched into her first song "Shir Hanoded", accompanied by her long-time pianist and arranger, Yoni Rechter, and violinist Michail Paweletz. The two musicians were later joined by Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri.

Esther's song selection did not vary from the program she has performed in Hamburg. However, compared to the December 27, 2002 performance I witnessed at the Kammerspiele, there was a noticeable difference in her approach to singing: Her delivery of sections of the program was much more dramatic, somewhat reminiscent of her performances during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when she could sing up a storm leaving audiences gasping. This was not so much evident in the Hebrew songs, which received her unique melancholy or thoughtful/joyful treatment, totally appropriate for the material. But on some of the English songs, notably "She's leaving home", "Moon of Alabama", and especially "Mad about the boy", Esther pulled out all the stops projecting the songs' climaxes with all the vigor at her command.

Her interpretation of "She's leaving home" was full of irony and sarcasm, accompanied by gestures only a real actress could come up with. She sang Weill/Brecht's "Alabama Song" with an edge using that strident part of her voice, which delighted the critics. Her performance was all the more effective coming on the heels of "Ten Li Yad" - a vastly different song - which only confirmed her great skills as a singing actress. The big crowd pleaser was "Mad about the boy", which she later reprised as an encore. Here, Esther reached for the bravura effect in the final notes of the song , prompting one critic to call her "a brilliant comedienne".

She did her set of Yoni Rechter songs (Besade Patuach, Ten Li Yad and Demaot Shel Malachim), on which she was joined by the composer for back-up vocals. Wonderful, lyrical songs, so well-crafted they could be considered art songs, especially "Ten Li Yad".

As usual, Esther preferred to let the music speak for itself, but there were brief introductions to some of the songs: After explaining that "Damaot Shel Malachim" was a recent song written by Yoni, she told the audience that "Layla, Layla" was the first song she had ever sung. She introduced "Hitragut" by saying it was a Sephardic "dream" song about a grandmother and her grandchild floating in the nocturnal sky to count the stars. After singing "Speak low", she identified the song as being written by Kurt Weill.

As in her Hamburg concerts, there was no intermission, but 2 instrumental interludes played by all 3 musicians (for details, see below). The audience liked Esther's version of "Bird on the wire" very much, but I personally felt the arrangement was too busy, i. e. Esther's singing was sometimes drowned out by all 3 instruments playing simultaneously. In my opinion, the song is far more effective when done with a simple arrangement. I also found the saxophone a little too obtrusive in places, but this may have been due to the sound engineering. Otherwise, Eli Degibri, an acclaimed jazz musician, did a wonderful job, especially on "God bless the child". This version was the best I've heard Esther do so far, and that includes her studio recording.

The audience reaction was a little restrained at first, but soon members of the audience started applauding during songs, beginning with "Layla, Layla", which most people recognized from the old days with Abi.

By the end of the concert - judging from the audience's ovations - approximately 2000 people were completely won over by Esther's beautiful and expressive singing. Esther did 4 encores.

One footnote: After the second encore, some members of the audience got up from their seats and started walking out - apparently, because they thought that the concert was over. Then Esther returned to sing a gentle version of Brahms'Lullaby", and as soon as people heard the first strains of the song, they came back, even those who had already left the auditorium.

One of the leading Frankfurt newspaper critics called Esther's concert "a triumphant return to the stage". 
And, indeed, it was!

SONGS (in no particular order):

Shir Hanoded
Hinach Jafa
Ziunionei Haderech
Dirty Old Town
Oh Waly Waly
Besade Patuach
September Song
She's Leaving Home
Demaot Shel Malachim
Layla Layla
Speak Low
Ten Li Yad
Moon Of Alabama
Bird On A Wire
Me Emek VeGivea
Mad About The Boy

God Bless The Child
Mad About The Boy (Reprise)

Instrumental interludes:
Unknown Titel

A big thank-you to Ulrich Menzel, Frankfurt

concert reviews of the press:
Esther Ofarim
Frankfurter Allgemeine
Frankfurter Rundschau
Frankfurter Neue Presse
Main Rheiner

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