This fall marks the opening of the third season of Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel, a cultural center and innovative high-end accommodation housed in a postwar Brutalist architectural masterwork (Yaakov Rechter’s Mivtachim Sanitarium) some 60 kilometers up the coastline from Tel Aviv. After two successful seasons, the Elma Hall has established itself as a destination worthy of a musical pilgrimage, with audiences flocking to the auditorium for its perfectly dynamic acoustics. Art is displayed in three galleries, as well as in all the hotel’s public areas. At the helm of Elma’s cultural programming, Israeli music educator and writer Noam Ben Zeev, a former critic for Haaretz newspaper, has curated a fall and winter line-up that rivals top venues around the world.
“It’s a very unique place, because it’s a cultural center but within a hotel,” says Zeev, speaking from Elma, which overlooks vast sloping forests and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. “Or as our founder says, it’s a cultural center that has a hotel,” he adds, referring to the Israeli philanthropist and art collector Lily Elstein, who bought the famed building that now houses Elma in 2006, driven by a profound desire to infuse arts throughout the dramatic structure. “So the question is, how do you keep the relationship between these two quite different entities?”
Seasonal highlights for the 2017/18 program include a concert devoted to Carmen, with highlights of the opera by G. Bizet, and the second Toujours Mozart Festival, an Elma production sponsored by Erich Fischer and his Munich-based foundation. The lively festival features 29 musical events spanning three days (Jan. 25 – 27, 2018), all devoted to Mozart—including oratorio music with an orchestra, a choir, and soloists; the whole cycle of violin sonatas; period dance lessons; and a surprise Mozart birthday party.
“We did this last year, and it was really fantastic,” says Zeev. “Four-thousand people came, and the whole place is buzzing with people running from one thing to the other. And because it’s a hotel, there’s also a culinary element. The kitchen here offers strudel pies and Wiener schnitzel, things connected with Vienna.”
Apart from the classical season, the 200-seat bar The Cube hosts a range of jazz, rock, folk, and myriad other styles, especially on Friday nights. “Wednesday Live” is a weekly series of young and promising rock performances; and Thursday and Saturday nights host bigger shows featuring popular Israeli artists.
“Many of our guests don’t go for the classical or heavier programs but more for the lighter pop shows,” says Zeev. “So for the weekend, we try to plan something more popular. We have two halls so we can play with that as well. One is a proper 450-person music hall, and the other is more like a pub, with people sitting around tables. But it’s really flowering, because now we have four shows a week. It’s becoming very rich and interesting.”
On the visual arts side, the permanent Elstein Collection includes works by such international Israeli artists as Yehudit Sasportas, Sigalit Landau, and Ilit Azoulay. As of September, three contemporary exhibitions are set, including works by painter Elad Kopler, who has exhibited solo at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Eitan Vitkon, an acclaimed contemporary photographer whose work has been exhibited worldwide; and lastly, the exhibition curated out of the collection of the Givon Art Gallery, a Tel Aviv gallery that has specialized in early and contemporary Israeli modernism since its establishment in 1975. And in summer 2018 Elma will host the Third Piano Summer Course, led by the renowned pianist and conductor Murray Perahia.
“In July, the whole of Elma will be filled with pianos and pianists, who will live here, work here, and give master classes to the public,” says Zeev. With an open environment and community-building central to the core philosophy, Elma offers free concerts to amateur musicians from the area, lends its auditorium to the local high school for concerts and plays by the music and theater departments, and hosts the year-end concert of the local music conservatory. “Elma is a place surrounded by a wall,” says Zeev, “but what we really try to do is to make it a place that is open to the town and to the community outside our doors.”
Highlights from the 2017/18 season
Nov. 23, 2017 – “Prayer of the Mothers” Ensemble: Yael Deckelbaum and a 16-women ensemble (an international project of Jews and Arabs singing for peace)
Jan. 05, 2018 – Subscription concert No. 5: Israel Chamber Project with renowned German violinist Antje Weithass playing Haydn, Schulhoff, and Brahms (Clarinet quintet)
Jan. 16, 2018 – Mercedes Band: a popular rock band in a special sweeping standing-performance
Jan. 25 – 27, 2018 – Mozart Festival: A great happening of Mozart, with an orchestra, a choir, soloists, and organ all performing in the historical performance practice with authentic instruments, in 29 concerts of all genres, lectures, and masterclasses
Feb. 24, 2018 – Subscription concert No. 7: “Music for Queen Mary,” with a choir, soloists, an organ drum, and a brass quartet
Mar. 24, 2018 – Subscription concert No. 9: “West Side Story – an American Journey,” a special vocal concert of American music, with an organ and soloists, celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s 100th anniversary, an Israeli world premiere
Throughout Winter— The arts exhibitions: new exhibitions and works by photographer Eitan Vitkon, painter Elad Kopler, and sculpturers Yigael Tumarkin, Sigalit Landau, and Bat-El Alfasi, as well as conferences on the topics of art, medicine, law, and economics.