Israel and Poland Are No Longer Poles Apart

The Poles are invading Israel this month — but it is an artistic invasion.

The Warsaw National Opera last night gave its Israeli premiere of “Mannikins,” based on a story by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schultz, at a performance at the Cameri Theater, its hosts in Israel, attended by President Chaim Herzog, Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

As the Warsaw Opera group was preparing to go on stage, another Polish theater group — Tadeusz Kantor’s “Crico 2″ was arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, to give the first performance here of its “Dead Class” at the Beit Lessin’s Warehouse Theater in the old Jaffa port.

The performances of the two theaters mark the first visit by a Polish cultural group since Warsaw broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

PUPPETS AND LIVE ACTORS

Both theatrical productions use a combination of puppets and live actors, and the emphasis on visual effects make them accessible to audiences who do not understand Polish.

“Mannikins” deals with a Jewish tailor’s attempts to transform his dummies into living things.

The Cricot 2 group is one of the best-known troupes in experimental theater. “Dead Class” is described as an exercise in nostalgia — what happens when a group of elderly citizens return to the school of their youth and see themselves as they were — in the form of puppets.

Plans for Polish performances here next year include visits by the Mazowsze Folklore Ensemble and the Warsaw Opera Ballet whose director, Josef Szajna, will also be coming to work at the Habimah National Theater.

A POSSIBLE NEW APPROACH TO ISRAEL

Observers are speculating whether the reopening of cultural exchanges heralds a new approach to Israel by the Warsaw government. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is reported to have an as yet unofficial invitation to visit Poland next year for a series of performances.

It was reported recently that Israel and Poland may soon exchange diplomatic representatives in a first step towards renewed full diplomatic relations.

Another Communist bloc artistic group to come to Israel is the Rumanian Rhapsody folklore dance group. It is due in Israel next week, for six performances. The group, which is bringing 26 dancers, singers and musicians was established over 100 years ago.

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