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January 30, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 30, 2009

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PAGE 8A By Lyn Payne Associate Editor HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 30, 2009 French-Israeli baritone sings in Central Florida courtesy of David Serero David Serero's baritone will be heard in Central Florida in Donizetti's "Lu- cia di Lammermoor" today and tomorrow, and again in March in Bizet's "Carmen." hasn't been to Israel in about a decade, but "t am very, very proud of that country.""Even if I was not Jewish. I would have been fond of Israel. in terms of what that country has accom- plished in 60 years. Once there was only sand. Now there's technology, science..." Growing up Jewish in Paris in the 1980s and '90s wasn't difficult. "I had a really great childhood in Paris. because everything was about mixing all the cul- tures and the nationalities." Apart from some trouble at school: "kids telling me I was a dirty Jew, beating my nose, "Everything I do is to try to .convince as many people as possible that opera sing- ers really don't all weigh 300 pounds, and that operas really don't all last for several hours," says 28-year-old French-Is- raeli baritone David Serero. "I use opera as a way to show them that beauty exists in this world for people who are willing to see it." Serero performs as Enrico in Gaetano Donizetti's"Lucia di Lammermoor" today and tomorrow, and as the bull- fighter Escamillo in Georges Bizet's "Carmen" in March. Tonight's performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Lake Wales Art Center. and tomorrow. Saturday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Daytona Beach Seabreeze Auditorium. "Car- men" plays March 21 and 22 at Lake-Sumter Community College's Leesburg campus. 9501 U.S. Highway 441. For tickets and other information. call 1-800-624-8038. ext. 1. Serero was born in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. near the Bastille. He's the son of a Sephardi father born in Morocco and an Ashkenazi mother. Though his parents moved from Israel to Paris be- forehewas born, he holds both French and Israeli citizenship. Other than a trip to perform there about a year ago, Serero jumping on me to fight me for no reason." But Serero says, "That's kids--what can you do?" But since the second intifada against Israel in 2000. things are different: "Anti-Semitism is now very high." He says that since Israel's war with Gaza earlier this month, "there are a lot of protests against Israel in France. and they have the Israeli flag being burnt in the middle of Paris." "This is not the French. this is the Arabs, they are trying to import he conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which is absolutely ridiculous." On Nov. 19, 2008. Serero showed his support for Is- rael by performing in Paris in a concert in honor of Gilad Shalit. the IDF soldier held prisoner by Hamas in Gaza since 2006. "What got the Jewish people through all the horror and all kinds of terrible events that happened all along the way," says Serero. "'was the thought that we all have been united and caring about each other. It's one of the com- mandments. So I thought that I have to do something, espe- cially since he's like me he's French and Israeli." Serero thinks that his performance that day of operatic music. and of Israeli classics like "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" and "Hatikvah." helped draw attention to Shalit's plight in France. "Some people in France don't like Israel very much... I wanted to do some- thing at my level, which was to do a concert and to bring a lot of media exposure" to the Shalit situation. Serero met Shalit's father, who thanked him personally. Of his feelings during the concert. Serero says, "I have to admit itwas the most painful concert for me in terms of emotion. I really tried to restrain myself to not stop during the opera arias." Serero Is the youngest French opera singer to make a U.S. debut. And though he's sung a wide variety of roles, he's only been at it a few years. He originally went to New York to study jazz piano and theater, but at age 22. a concert at the Metropolitan Opera so enchanted him that he chose a different musical path, especially since people in the Manhattan theater scene were telling him. "You have a strong voice--you should be doing opera." He studied and performed in Russia. the first non-Rus- sian hired by the famous Mariinsky Theater. and at- tended Yom Kippur services just behind the theater, in "one of the most beautiful synagogues in Europe." Why Russia? "I've always been attracted by Russia... I like challenges. If you tell me to- morrow there is a new opera that's opening on the moon, give me the number." His favorite role? "My fa- vorite is the role I'm studying, the role that I'm singing." What he loves about opera isn't just the singing itself. If that were the case. "I'd rather do pop. It would be easier to get into nightclubs." It's the whole world of opera that engages him: "You get to meet all the time different singers, and there's such an exchange among singers." And he loves the theater and the drama. and the-chance to meet new people and to connect with the audience. He especially likes playing villains. He loves portraying Scarpia. the evil chief of police in Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca." It's "the kind of role you do at the end of your career," but he's done it in his 20s. "Now I'm not afraid." "I specialize in villains." says Serero. "In life it is very different. I am avery kind guy, but on the stage I like to play the bad guys. I see tenors who play the nice guys on stage and in life they are terrible people. (Although l~e tact- fully refrained from naming names when asked.) He's also taken on the "four villains" in Jacques Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman." "You have four in the same opera, which is the most taxing role, almost like two Scarpias in the same evening. And it's also taxing from the IRS, since you get paid a lot more." "The way to sing opera for me is to express my love for the people," he says. He loves singing for American audi- ences, because "the audience responds to that love. You see, they don't go to the opera and say, 'Well. I hope I am going to have something to criticize--I hope the soprano. is going to suck and I have an opinion to talk about.'" As opposed to a European crowd. most Americans "'go to the opera just to have fun." Serero says he's always glad to speak and perform before school and other non-profit groups--especially Jewish ones--so he can show them the beauty of opera. He's done concerts to benefit the Paris Jewish community and others. "I am at the service of the people a people's artist." "Even if my career in opera was over. I would still be happy to sing as a cantor in synagogue." He's studying cantorial music and hopes to put together a performance of it in the near future, as well as a possible performance of compositions written by Jews during the Holocaust. And if anyone's interested in booking it, he'd love to return to Central Florida "very soon to do a big concert for the Jewish community." For more information about David Serero, includ- ing concert schedules, visit Orthodox: Rabbi violated rules by joining National Prayer Service By Jacob Berkman NEW YORK (JTA)The main Modern Orthodox rab- binical association says a prominent member violated its rules by participating in the National Prayer Service. A Rabbinical. Council of America official told JTA that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the religious leader of Congrega- tidn Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, broke the organization's rules by par- ticipating in the service Jan. 14tat the National Cathedral on the morning after Barack Obama's inauguration. "The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Cbuncil of America, in accordance with Jewish law, is that participa- tion in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited," the RCA said in a statement. "Any member of the RCA who attends such a service does so in contraven- tion of this policy and should not be perceived as represent- ing the organization in any capacity." The RCA said that Look- stein's participation was prob- lematic both because the ser- vice was held in the sanctuary of a church, which Orthodox Jews are prohibited from en- tering, and because it was an interfaith prayer service, which the RCA discourages for fear that such participation could allow missionaries to legiti- mize their argument that Jews can indeed embrace Jesus. "To go into a cathedral. in this case an Episcopalian cathedral in the main sanc- tuary, is certainly by most accounts not appropriate," the executive director of the RCA. Rabbi Basil Herring, told JTA. "If one wants to visit the Sistine Chapel to view the art of Michelangelo it is prob- lematic. There is no political With a banjo on his knee Dr. Richard Knapp, better known as Dr. Rick of The Grateful Klez. will be the featured entertainer Sunday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. at Horizon Bay on Boston Avenue in Altamonte Springs. Knapp's favorite music is hot jazz of the 1920s and klezmer. Earlier in his musical life he performed at Your Fa- ther's Moustache in Philadel- phia, Tex Wyndam's Red Lion Jazz Band in Wilmington," Del., and Jackson's Ice Cream Parlor in Dania. He entertains with his banjo, maybe a little mandolin, and he might even tinkle the ivories. Inorder to financehismusi- cal muses, Knapp is a research psychiatristwith Florida Clin- ical Research Center, LLC at Maitland and Leesburg. The concert is part of the monthly Jewish music program sponsored by the Jewish Pavilion. There will be approximately a half hour of music followed by nosh, usu- ally Jewish delicacies such as homemade noodle pudding a~d ruggelah. Dr. Rick of The Grateful Klez is this month's Jewish Pa- vilion entertainer at Horizon Bay. The community is invited, and the program is free. perspective here that says you should not do it because it is politically sensitive. Of course it is a purely religious question." Herring was adamant that the RCA was not taking a political stance, noting that the organ!zation sent a letter to President Obama congratu- lating him and expressing confidence that "with the help of God, you will build on the respect and good will that you have earned to lead a united country in a successful con- frontation with the daunting challenges that we face both within and without." The RCA has been in con- versation with Lookstein, but at this point is not seeking to sanction him. a source familiar with the situation said. But. the source added. any RCA member can sug- gest that another member be brought before a disciplinary board for violating rules. It is not clear if any member intends to do so. Lookstein joined six repre- sentatives of various religious communities, including Rabbi Jerome Epstein, the executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. in reciting portions of a nondenominational re- sponsive prayer. Most of the overall service was nonde- nominational, but there .were a few distinctively Christian references. Lookstein said he was satisfied with his decision to participate. "After consultation with people who are absolutely committed to halacha, I had" originally decided to do it be- cause I felt it was a civic duty to honor the new president of the United States. That is why I .originally agreed to do it," Lookstein said. "But the people who spoke to me about it indicated it was an important contribution to the Orthodox community because it is only right for the Orthodox community to be supporting the president in a visible way when he is being supported by representatives of the Conservative and Re- form movements." Lookstein said he did not want a conflict with his col- leagues in the RCA and did not anticipate one. "I would be very sad if that happened." he said. Lookstein said he had two conversations with Herring about his participation. In the first, Herring tried to dissuade Lookstein from participating. In the second, he did not. Rabbi on page 19A Sipping some soup Residents at Savannah Court and Savannah Cove were treated to "all things Manischewitz" on Jan. 20 when Arlene van de Rijn, program coordinator for the Jewish Pavilion, presented a program on the history of the Manischewitz family and its matzah. As a special treat at the end of the program, the residents were treated to a steaming bowl of matzah ball soup and a piece of matzah. Yes, the soup and matzah were Manischewitz. For more information about the Jewish Pavilion, contact Nancy Ludin, executive direc- tor, orvan de Rijn at 407-678- 9363. The Jewish Pavilion is a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. Yetta Romer and other residents at Savannah Court and Savannah Cove enjoy Manischewitz matzo ball soup dur- ing a recent history lesson about the Manischewitz family presented by the Jewish Pavilion.