A dramatic, dark, and deeply thoughtful production of Faust


Review By George Walker

March 2, 2011 Indiana Public Media

The IU Opera Theater’s production of Gounod’s Faust offers a dramatic, dark and thoughtful production, in the capable hands of stage director Tomer Zvulun and designer C. David Higgins

The first act opens with the doctor in the present day. The contemporary set is complete with a wide-screen TV that Mephistopheles uses to conjure up images of Marguerite. Following temptation, it travels back in time to Faust’s youth in 1930s Germany. The flashy, decadent set and costumes evoke Cabaret or The Blue Angel.

The gaudy, garish set and lighting are more than matched by a large cast of beautifully dressed and coiffed choristers, each of whom seems to have a particular place and part in the festivities. This is only the first of many set arrangements; the evening is a rich one, with all the elements of theatre working together.

Conducting for this energetic and engaging production is by David Effron.

Sets, lighting and dramatics create effective

production of Faust

By Peter Jacobi Herald Times

February 28, 2011

Production values are high. What one saw on Friday and Saturday evenings at the Musical Arts Center in the IU Opera Theater’s new staging of Gounod’s “Faust” was striking.

C. David Higgins’ sets consist of elements that smoothly, sometimes magically, shift from scene to scene, sliding in from the wings and back, dropping from hidden heights and rising again, appearing and disappearing, changing so as not to disturb the flow of the performance.

The concept for this production is a shared one, with visiting stage director Tomer Zvulun who has given the multitude of performers — the major characters, the minor, the important chorus — personality and dramatic purpose. As theater, this “Faust” works. Sets, lighting and dramatics coalesce into an effective production.

"Cleveland has a real winner in this Lucia"

Daniel Hathaway for Cleveland Classical

May 23, 2010

Stage director Tomer Zvulun had the brilliant idea of taking Opera Cleveland's Lucia into the mob world of the 1930's. Unlike a lot of attempts to drag historical operas kicking and screaming into other eras, this one works seamlessly.

Erhard Rom's effective use of scrims and projections, Robert Wierzel's provocative lighting -- sometimes warm and golden, other times harsh as Klieg lights producing ominous shadows, and Carol Bailey's fine sense of period costume -- all work in harmony to create the look and feel of a period whose themes of "violence, murder, family honor, oppressed women, ruthless men, politics, social status and vengeance" as Zvulun says in his director's notes, are as much at home in The Godfather as they are in the world of Ravenswood Castle and the Wolf's Crag.

And sometimes the visual aspects of this production are as arresting as scenes in the Godfather movies. When Lucia appears in Enrico's office, the huge image of the family matriarch suddenly turns into an image of violent death. When the (enormous) doors to Lucia's bedroom are flung open in the third act, there is blood everwhere. Near the conclusion of the mad scene, Lucia disrobes and almost crosses the line from PG to R before a gangster kindly covers her with his suit jacket.

it's clear that the company has a real winner in its Lucia.

This Lucia was so well conceived, coordinated and executed that I left the theater completely satisfied by what I saw and heard. Bravo, Opera Cleveland. You should franchise this production.

"Opera Cleveland presents a winning new

Lucia di Lammermoor"

By Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer

May 21, 2010


Opera Cleveland

To open its 2010-2011 season, the company has created a "Lucia" that is smart, compelling and stylish both in musical and theatrical terms.

The action has been moved from the 18th century to the 1930s. Lucia's family is part of a crime syndicate that seeks survival by marrying the girl off to a member of another underworld group. Fiddling with matters of time and locale can wreak havoc on operatic coherence, but stage director Tomer Zvulun has come up with a through-line that adds emotional resonance without distracting from the musical focus.

The gang motif adds layers of dread to a tale already oozing with violence. Projections of ominous clouds, silvery trees, newspaper clippings and story texts rub shoulders with the ghost of a bride who emerges to give Lucia the willies.

It's a vividly atmospheric production played out on Erhard Rom's towering unit set of stone walls and doors and lighted by Robert Wierzel for maximum psychological effect.

Next up for Opera Cleveland in September is Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers," a work that needs extra-special handling to reveal its best attributes. On the basis of the company's winning "Lucia," Bizet should thrive.

"Opera Cleveland’s Lucia Shines Bright"

Laura Kennelly



Opera Cleveland’s modernized production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” shone brightly opening night.

The opera ramps things up visually with film projections across the set that flow and enrich it.

One must admire the frugality and the cleverness with which Opera Cleveland has learned to operate. With a winning cast, beautiful ghost, pistols, and bloody daggers all artfully arranged, director Tomer Zvulun, set designer Erhard Rom, lighting designer Robert Wierzel, and artistic director (and conductor) Dean Williamson created a mighty and entertaining evening of opera.

"Opera Cleveland’s Sicilian Lucia"

Kelly Ferjutz for Cool Cleveland

State Theatre 5/20/10

Donizetti’s famous setting of Sir Walter Scott’s 18th century Scottish romance The Bride of Lammermoor moved with surprising ease to Sicily of the 1930s in last week’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor by Opera Cleveland. Scottish Lairds or Sicilian dons – there’s apparently not much difference between them when it comes to family and supposed honor. And the original words were in Italian, anyway.

Director Tomer Zvulun and conductor Dean Williamson combined to keep the production moving smoothly and inevitably toward the notoriously unhappy ending. The stage set by Erhard Rom also made an easy transition from stone castle to stone villa, ably assisted by the frequently sunny lighting by Robert Wierzel. Carol Bailey’s costumes for the men were pretty much dark suits, but the women were mostly garbed in floating, light colors. Except for the white satin wedding gown, of course.

"The Magic Flute" charming and whimsical"

By Pierre Ruhe

For the Atlanta Journal Constitution

April 25, 2010

Mozart himself, in a dapper red coat and white powered wig, makes an appearance at the start of the Atlanta Opera's "The Magic Flute," one of many charming conceits in this convincing new production shared with Indiana University's professional-quality Jacobs School of Music.

In Tomer Zvulun's stage direction, the singers react naturally to each other and communicate directly with the audience. The almost-capacity crowd Saturday night laughed merrily at the jokes and cheered mightily when the music turned athletic and epic

It helps, too, that they had a good dragon. Puppets are in vogue in theater and opera these days, and this "Magic Flute," which premiered in Indiana in November, is wonderfully whimsical without being hollow -- a difficult balance.

Pierre Ruhe is classical music critic

Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’

By George Walker

November 16, 2009 for Indiana Public Media

The IU Opera theatre's production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Die Zauberflote is a wonderfully colorful evening of cleverness, wit and whimsy that doesn’t sacrifice a note of the music, the weighty messages that the Masonic Mozart include, or the humanity of his characters.

The new sets and costumes from David Higgins vary from the spectacular to the simple with lots of clever little variations. His costumes use a variety of color palettes, styles and textures to separate the characters and the groups clearly just as Mozart varied music does.

Throughout “The Magic Flute” stage director Tomer Zvulun has worked to see that the characters aren’t just stick figures who sing. There were nice little personal touches. The prince feels challenged and has his doubts. The bird catcher is a comic, but one with all too human concerns. The Queen of the Night is perhaps a misguided villainess, but she’s also a caring mother. There was plenty of action throughout. At the same time, Zvulun didn’t hesitate to stage a quintet with all five of the singers lined right up across the stage in a formal array.

One of the highlights of this production is the bird and animal puppets created by Lisa Sturz. They are wonderful whimsical creations and some of the best acting in the show comes from the feathered folk. They fly about, comment on the action, bill, coo, scrap and even eat out of the bird catcher’s hand. Later the menagerie is expanded with a giraffe, a kinkajou and just the cutest little porcupine that you can imagine. Parents or grand parents who’re looking for a first opera for a child might want to think about the first act of “The Magic Flute” as a wonderful introduction. The singing is in German, but the dialog and most of the humor is in English, it’s very active and the puppets are great. Adults will want to stay for the second act.

Set, costumes are stars of "Magic Flute"


David Higgins who conceived and designed the sets and costumes, provided an eye-catching environment that envelops the action for Mozart’s timeless entertainment. Even the composer makes an appearance amid the clever happenings that animate the Musical Arts Center stage. Panels open, slide, lift, and fold to shape seemingly effortless scene changes. Canopies and backdrops lower and rise. Gardens, grottos and assorted props glide in and out.

And to help satisfy the fairy tale elements of the story, there’s a huge and squiggly dragon. There are birds that nibble and peck. There are full-sized, huggable animals. All, of course, are make-believe and brought to life by puppeteers

Higgins’ imagination has made everything possible. His cohort in this endeavor is stage director Tomer Zvulun, a young Israeli visiting from the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere who sought ways to imbue this Mozart classic with the right blend of fantasy, magic, majestic ceremony and mirth. The team has managed to do so, with excellent help from Marie Barrett’s evocative lighting.

Herald Times 11/16/2009

"The Flying Dutchman"



Israeli director Tomer Zvulun created visual interest throughout the production and delivered a stunning stage picture for the initial scene. The opera opened with the entrance of Norwegian sailors struggling to bring their sizeable boat to shore as the tempest raged and thunderclaps resounded. Moments later, the Dutchman's breathtaking ship — easily four times the first vessel's size — glided on, with its blood-red sails swelling in the storm.
For the double chorus in Act III, Zvulun brilliantly placed the Dutchman's crew of eighteen men on the lighting platform at house left. Walter Huff's extraordinary chorus provided chilling "stereo" sound as the Norwegian crew sang from the stage and looked out, horrified.
 The production created a spooky, cinematic atmosphere that prompted one to think of the opera as a sort of nineteenth-century Pirates of the Caribbean. The Dutchman and his spectral crew appeared truly ghoulish.


Opera News, April 25, 2009


"La Bohème" – a slam dunk hit

By Alan Montgomery

 This time the company had a slam-dunk hit worthy of the local Gund Arena… A production that was both economical and lovely to see.
Director Tomer Zvulun elicited believable chemistry between the singers, all of whom looked and acted youthful enough to be the young bohemians. Interspliced with the many traditional touches were a number of bright innovations that caught the viewer off guard.
…Such a complete realization of this seminal score.

Opera News, April 18, 2008

“La Bohème ” is great fit in Cleveland

 This fresh, affecting production, symbolizes good things for Opera Cleveland. Tomer Zvulun's staging vividly conveys the work's amorous heat, playfulness and tragic desperation. The squalor of the artists' garret, excitement of the Café Momus scene and chill of the snow-bedecked third act all come vibrantly to life... With stage director Zvulun creating a vital sense of theater, the cast works beautifully as an ensemble as they share in the opera's joyous and poignant events. We really believe the seamstress Mimi and poet Rodolfo are in love… Act 2 is full of color and bustling activity, with the chorus in exhilarating form and the children spot-on in their rollicking duties.
A splendid start... Operatic things in Cleveland are looking up.

The Plain Dealer, April 20, 2008 

Opera Cleveland's "La Bohème"- wonderful


The cast gave director Tomer Zvulun opportunities to create the most physical "La Bohème" to come our way.       The young, energetic cast romps, cavorts and plays. Zvulun doesn't permit the cast to become staid, old or to slip into classical opera poses. Zvulun's direction brings life to an opera that too often seems as dead as Mimi. I hope Zvulun is brought back to direct more operas...

West Side Leader, April 24, 2008

A magical “Hansel and Gretel”


A magic spell was cast over the Tivoli Theatre on Thursday evening as Chattanooga Symphony & Opera presented “Hansel and Gretel”.
Veteran stage director Tomer Zvulun provided a delightful and traditional approach to this beloved work with maestro Bernhardt guiding the Chattanooga symphony…
Hansel and Gretel was one solid production with a uniformly strong cast of singers and actors.

Chattanooga times free press, February 1, 2008

CSO presents an exquisite “Figaro”


Delicious farce never sounded so good as in the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s musically and visually exquisite production of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”, courtesy of stage director Tomer Zvulun…The characters moved snappily from one situation to another as they deliver the bright and catchy Mozart melodies.

Chattanooga times free press, November 4, 2006