It was a bit of a challenge to pin down this world-famous Israeli entertainer, most known in America for his performances on Broadway as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. Lessons to publicists out there: Always set up a time between your client and the reporter. Do not just give them your client’s phone number and tell the reporter to “just keep trying.” Also, make sure your client has a working cell phone with voice mail. I am just saying this as kindly as I can.
In the end, it all worked out and I got my story. Here it is, as printed in last week’s Detroit Jewish News.
The Israeli entertainer does it all — and brings it to Metro Detroit.
Stacy Gittleman Contributing Writer
According to world-renowned Israeli entertainer Dudu Fisher, no other Broadway musical — not even Fiddler on the Roof — speaks as well of the psyche of the Israeli people, with its themes of going to battle and losing loved ones in war, than Les Miserables.
On many different levels, Fisher says it translates very well to Hebrew.
“When I first heard [the song] Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I was thinking of all my friends killed in battle,” Fisher, 64, says. “After the Israeli premiere, [producer] Cameron Mackintosh said he sensed a response from the audience that he never felt from audiences in other countries. I had to explain to him that 99 percent of the people sitting in the theater were serving in the army or have someone close serving. I told him not one of us does not know people wounded or killed during the time of Israel’s existence.”
Fisher, who tours the world sharing his love and talents for Hebrew, Yiddish and cantorial music, as well as operatic, reggae, pop and country, will perform 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.
After service in the Israel Defense Forces, Fisher studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music and, at age 22, he became the cantor of the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv. For three decades, his cantorial services have been sought throughout the world, from South Africa and Brazil to the United States. To date, the tenor, who speaks three languages and sings in 10, has recorded upwards of 40 albums, plus a number of children’s DVDs, teaching Jewish customs and traditions.
On a 1986 trip to London, he caught a performance of the then-new musical Les Miserables and was enamored. When news spread that a Hebrew-language Israeli production of the show was in the works, Fisher, with no theater experience, landed the leading role of Jean Valjean.
He performed for three years in Israel, plus lengthy stints on Broadway and London’s West End.
Fisher’s Hebrew performances launched him to international fame, and his 2008 PBS special Dudu Fisher: In . Concert from Israel was enormously pop ular. But performing on Broadway as an Orthodox Jew came with its challenges.
He was able to negotiate a contract for Les Miz which made him the first observant Jew on Broadway and the West End to be excused from performing Friday nights, Saturday matinees and all Jewish holi days, but his observance impeded him from landing additional roles. He wanted to audition for Phantom of the Opera and still dreams of playing Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.
“[Observant Jews in show business] should be mentally prepared to be met with many setbacks,” he says. However, setbacks often lead to inspiration. When Fisher sings at Shaarey Zedek, he will perform songs from his 1999 autobio graphical off-Broadway musical, Never on Friday — an anecdotal work exploring the complications of his experience on Broadway as an observant Jew. The tenor also will perform pieces from his 2008 show, Jerusalem, based on a collection of songs and stories that tell the history of the ancient and holy city.
Fisher has a passion for sharing the music of what he calls “his most beloved city” with audience members Jewish and non-Jewish alike. His own father and other family members survived the Holocaust when a Christian couple hid them in a bunker in Poland.
Fisher, who wants to let his listeners know that Jerusalem is holy to all reli gions, tries to reach audiences outside the Jewish community, too — and fans in Branson, Mo. (known as the Las Vegas of the Bible Belt), welcome his annual visit.
“It is important for the State of Israel to have non-Jewish people hear the true story of Israel’s history and current issues,” he says. “Not only what they see on the news.” Dudu Fisher performs 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 19, atCongregation Shaarey Zedekin Southfield.
Free to CSZ members;$36-$236. (248) 357-5544.
This gallery contains 2 photos.
Frolic in the lilacs. Check out some free music from the TCMS Jazz Band this Wednesday at lunchtime!
Here is my article on Susan Ferrari Rowley’s Rochester exhibit which ran in the November 11, 2012 Living Section of the Democrat 7 Chronicle:
In the male-dominated world of art, it’s tough to be a woman sculptor. Women artists seldom get the space they deserve in the pages of an Art History 101 textbook.
The exclusion of works by women is further evidenced in the inventory of American museums, where only about 5 percent of museum collections include works by women artists, according to the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. An even smaller percentage include sculptures by women.
That is why Robin Muto, who is the co-curator of one of Rochester’s newer galleries, AXOM Gallery & Exhibition Space, jumped at the opportunity to show the work of Rochester-based minimalist sculptor Susan Ferrari Rowley in an exhibit specifically designed for the studio’s airy, high-ceilinged space.
“New Directions,” on exhibit at AXOM, 176 Anderson Ave., through Saturday, offers the viewer a range of human emotions in stark white fabrics, stretched and sewn onto soldered aluminum frames. The works will head to New York City’s OK Harris gallery in December.
Contrast in form
“New Directions” reveals Rowley’s current migration from creating larger outdoor and public sculptures to works scaled for private residences. Asymmetric pieces likeInseparable, Centered and Off-Balance exude an edgy tension as they balance precariously on pedestals Rowley custom designed to be just big enough for their footprint.
The “living on the edge” quality of these smaller works also suggests anatomical elements of a body, legs and arms. A calming, translucent glow that seems to start from within the sculptures hints at an inner soul.
Rowley’s sculptures are a contrast of materials and moods. They are large and imposing, yet they invite the viewer to come closer. Through cloth and metal and angular and curved lines, the exhibit of about a dozen abstract pieces can be experienced by stepping around, over and through them.
Outside the main gallery is the story of the art through photos of Rowley making them in her Scottsville studio.
The dominating work in “New Directions” is 4-2-2, a 10-foot composition of three geometric forms. This construct of three white, billowy shapes gives off a peaceful, translucent glow made possible by the carefully placed overhead track lighting. At the same time, three enormous metal poles that extend from the floor to the 14-foot ceiling impale the composition. The very moment of this piercing appears to be captured within the tension of the cloth.
Though abstract and stark in composition, 4-2-2 was created out of a very human emotion: the heartbreak of impending loss. Rowley says it was inspired by the death of her dog Tu-Tu (pronounced tiyu-tiyu), who was a loyal companion for almost 14 years.
Rowley melds techniques like sewing, traditionally regarded as a feminine skill that she learned from her grandmother, with the more masculine crafts of soldering metal and machine tooling. The combined media make each sculpture confrontational in its large scale, yet lightweight and vulnerable in overall appearance.
“I like to work in opposites,” says Rowley, associate professor of fine arts at Monroe Community College. “Metal is hard, and poly fiber fabric is soft. There are male and female qualities, a vulnerability yet strength in my work that are emotions I needed to embrace in my own life as I evolved as an artist.”
A cause in jewelry
“New Directions” also includes Angular Extremes, wearable bracelet art that is the result of Rowley’s tenacious three-year campaign to convince American machine tooling factories and other manufacturers that they can make art and jewelry.
The aluminum bracelets are cast in a Milwaukee factory that did not think they were cut out to manufacture jewelry until Rowley talked them into it. The bracelets are shipped to Rochester, where another company provides the black-and-white nickel color coating.
She then designs the boxes, made from post-consumer recycled materials, with New York’s Jamestown Container.
It is a company where her late mother-in-law spent most of her working life. The label for the packaging was produced by another American company.
These bracelets are also part of the AXOM exhibit and available for purchase at Shop One2 Gallery on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus and the Memorial Art Gallery Store.
Influences on work
Growing up on Long Island, Rowley developed an appreciation for the arts by making treks into New York City. She found art in museums, but also in the windows of Macy’s or in the hand-drawn fashion advertisements in the Sunday New York Times.
On a sixth-grade field trip to the Museum of Modern Art, Rowley fell for a sculpture of abstract feminist sculptor Louise Nevelson. Rowley had found her calling.
“I remember on the train ride home thinking, ‘Making sculptures and placing them on pedestals, that’s what I want to do with my life!’ ” she says.
Later in graduate school, Rowley wanted to find additional 20th century female sculptors to emulate. She had studied the work of Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp. Then she found fiberglass artist Eva Hesse and sculptor and printmaker Nancy Graves.
“When I read about their lives and how they struggled as women sculptors, their drive inspired me. I knew if I was driven, I would be OK,” Rowley says. “I had to live up to my potential; I had to produce and show as a woman sculptor.”
More than 30 years into her career, Rowley still possesses that drive. She sometimes works alone in her studio. Sometimes she is “making it happen” on group collaborations. In 2004, she proved to be a quick study on zoning and construction codes when she designed relief art for noise-barrier panels placed along Rochester’s western highways for the New York Department of Transportation.
Rowley also made a suspended sculpture for the set of Garth Fagan’sLight Night and Melanin.
The diversification of work, trying to make it fit in several situations, is what she tries to impart to her MCC students, says Rowley, who received the 2011 SUNY Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.
“I tell my students that our brains have tremendous capacity to diversify,” she says. “Artists today have to have communication and business skills as well as artistic talents, especially when they are commissioned on a piece and will need to work with those with non-artistic backgrounds.”
A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of writing a story about the father-in-law of a very good friend. At the time, Mr. Lempert, a longtime Brighton resident, was mourning the death of his beloved wife Ruth, an artist and writer in her own rite.
Now, Daniel has also passed on and was given a burial with a full military honor. I was so honored to have written down his story in his final year on this earth. May his memory be for a blessing.
This was published last November in the Democrat & Chronicle:
It is said that a picture paints one thousand words. When Daniel Lempert completes a painting, he wants its viewers to hear music as well.
“I paint what I feel. As a musician, I feel the rhythms and chords of music,” said Lempert in his Brighton home, which is adorned with paintings he started creating in his 40’s.
Now, at 87, the retired music teacher claims to have painted hundreds of works. The paintings above his mantelpiece are filled with intersecting multicolored lines to represent the textures of a jazz improvisation. Other abstract works include pieces of sheet music or actual workings of old instruments layered on top of brightly colored shapes.
Lempert also paints local landscapes such as the lakeshores of Mendon Ponds and Lake Ontario. He does not bring his oils or canvas out to the scene, but rather paints from his mind’s eye. His works are the stuff of memory. That way, his emotions shape the outcome and look of the final painting.
His beloved wife Ruth, who passed away on Oct. 1 at 81, inspired his artistry through their 58-year marriage. “Ruth really pushed me with my art. I had teachers back in grade school that said I was no good at it. If it weren’t for my wife, I never would have painted,” he said.
When he was a music teacher in the East Rochester school district, Lempert came home from work one day quite upset that the custodial staff had left his music room a cluttered jumble of desks and chairs in efforts to empty out another classroom.
“I told this to Ruth and she said, ‘Why don’t you paint it?’” So he did. The result is one of Lempert’s earliest works: a jumble of chairs and desks in an abstract composition, and painted between the furniture is a sousaphone. It remains one of Lempert’s favorite pieces.
It was Ruth who bought her husband his first set of oil paints in 1968. The University of Rochester alumna and author of the 2008 memoir “Fish, Faith and Family,”also encouraged her husband to take art lessons at this time at the Memorial Art Gallery, where he has been taking classes since 1976.
Like his paintings, the photographs in Lempert’s home also tell stories. One is a black-and-white snapshot of Lempert as a young man with a head of thick wavy black hair playing trumpet in front of a tent.
After high school, Lempert enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII. He finished basic training in North Carolina and was about to get shipped overseas when opportunity came knocking. The army needed a stateside trumpet player. He auditioned before a group of officers. He still remembers playing the “Carnival of Venice,” a folk song that most known as the melody for “My Hat it has Three Corners.”
The complexity of the trumpet solos won the approval of his commanders. Instead of going off to battle, Lempert stayed in North Carolina for the war’s duration playing reverie in the morning and taps each evening.
“The trumpet saved my life,” he said.
Lempert’s son David recalls how his dad had three jobs when he was growing up: He was a school music teacher, a private tutor on Saturdays, and a big band player late at night. “He would teach during the day, head to a club around 10 in the evening, come home at 3 in the morning and then get up to teach. He was tired but he loved it,” said David Lempert.
The talent for the arts runs in the Lempert family gene pool. His late daughter Judith earned a degree in fine arts from RIT. Judith’s daughter Rebecca Zaretsky is now studying art at Wheelock College in Boston. Lempert still practices for up to two hours a day every day. The only time he stopped playing was for a brief time after Ruth passed away.
His advice to young musicians and artists: “If art and music are a part of you, you must keep practicing your craft.”
Getting to Know Daniel Lempert
Education: Graduate of Fredonia Music School and Columbia University
Occupation: 37 years as music teacher in East Rochester. Retired in 1984
Hobbies: Painting. Trumpet player in Jack Allen’s Big Band
This is a self-portrait of my daughter
This is a self-portrait of graphic artist Sarah Wisbey:
One day, visited
in her high school visual arts class to share with them her experiences as a professional graphic artist.
That prompted my daughter to ask me something very unusual.
She wanted to accompany me on my next trip to the grocery store.
She was not necessarily going with me to help me pick out groceries, she was there to look at art.
Once inside our supermarket, Wegman’s food markets, she could not wait to go visit the pasta aisle.
My daughter was downright giddy
“Mom, today in art class, I met the woman who drew the illustrations on these red boxes!”
She then pulled me over to the coffee aisle pointing out other packages that Sarah Wisbey illustrated.
Later that month my daughter interviewed Sarah and how she got started in her career in graphic design. Sarah also took the time to look at some of my daugher’s most recent compositions.
So, when I needed to write a feature about a prominent person from Brighton, I knew just the person to profile.
Here is my piece in the D&C about Wisbey. Thought it would be best to keep it here on my blog, for you never know when the links will go dead.
Thank you again Sarah for, inspiring my daughter, and your time for developing this piece:
It’s not often that an artist cooks the subject she is painting, especially when the artist does not like to cook. However, when Wegmans Food Markets hired Brighton resident Sarah Wisbey to work on the packaging for their pasta line, the freelance illustrator wanted to perfectly capture the shape of spaghetti, the color of a campanelle and the texture of tortellini.
Shortly after she took the job, she found herself at the supermarket with 20 different boxes of pasta in her shopping cart.
“The cashier wondered why I was buying so much pasta. My children wondered why they were waking to the smell of cooked pasta every morning,” said Wisbey.
Overall, Wisbey illustrated 27 different kinds of pasta — from egg noodles to frozen ravioli. Her colorful illustrations are also on the labels that entice Wegmans shoppers to try flavors of coffee like orange cappuccino, raspberry hazelnut or crème brulee.
Wisbey saturates her illustrations with color, playful black lines and gaps of white space that suggest a sparkling light. Her food illustrations, like the label for the orange cappuccino, emit a tempting juicy quality that seems to drip off the packaging.
Wisbey jokingly blames her less-than-perfect visual depth perception for her flat illustrations. Since her earliest explorations in art, her style has been shaped from the books she read in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries. She was drawn to the vibrant, simple lines and collage work of Eric Carle and later, Fauvist painters such as Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin.
When she started out as an artist, Wisbey attempted to capture Carle’s watercolor collage technique, though she admitted the result was “messy, tedious and frustrating.”
“Watercolor can be unpredictable. One wrong brushstroke and everything can turn out looking like mud,” she said.
The “aha” moment came when Wisbey realized she could achieve the look of the collage by painting swaths of color onto single sheets of paper, which she scans into her Mac computer and manipulates in Adobe Photoshop.
“In Photoshop, I can easily tweak the colors, cut and paste shapes and manipulate them into the ideal composition. The white gaps are just as important to me as the color. This gives my illustrations a light, airy feel,” she said.
But it takes more than talent to make it as an artist.
She said to be successful as a graphic artist as opposed to a fine artist, one must think of a project from a collaborative rather than an individual standpoint.
“The difference between being a fine artist and a graphic artist is that you are creating not just for yourself but for a client. You must know their parameters and expectations.”
She credits her ability to work on a team to her 11 years of experience at Rochester’s Icon Graphics. There, she learned the business side of art, the importance of sticking to a deadline and how to effectively collaborate.
It’s been four years since Wisbey embarked on her own freelance illustration business. When Wisbey was commissioned by Wegmans to work with their in-house design team for the supermarket’s pasta line, the red color of the box, the style of lettering and even the illustrated steam were already in place. She was strictly charged with designing the look of each variety of pasta.
“Wegmans has a style that really meshes with mine. They put a high value on illustration. I love that they give me a basic direction on a project and just let me run with it,” she said.
Her advice to those seeking a creative career is to become immersed in any artistic resources available. College students and recent graduates should get as much paid and unpaid experience as possible. Most importantly, just keep creating.
“Draw every day just for yourself. That’s how you will develop your own style. The creative process is a way of life.”