David Ben Gurion once stated that “it is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested,” but he probably wasn’t thinking about opera. Omer Meir Wellber, born in 1981 in Be’er Sheva, the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel, has carved out an international career as a conductor. His new book, “Fear, Risk, and Love: Moments with Mozart” from Ecowin publishers, describes his experience of conducting three operas written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.
Wellber’s U.S. debut was in 2014 with the Pittsburgh Symphony, following extensive experience across Europe. Acclaimed for his muscular renditions of operas such as Verdi’s “Aida,”; Boito’s “Mefistofele”; and Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin”, Wellber has also recorded an aria recital with the soprano Aleksandra Kurzak for Decca.. Recently Maestro Wellber took some time from his busy schedule to speak with The Forward’s Benjamin Ivry about matters musical and desertic:
At age five you were studying piano, accordion and violin and, at nine, composition with Tania Teler of the Be’er Sheva Conservatory. She would make students copy out entire symphonies. You called this a “profound spiritual experience.” Not boring?
Of course it’s not an exercise that would interest everyone, but the effect on my career was really profound. It was like getting into the shoes of someone else. Memorizing things, the mechanical activity of doing it, erasing when you made some mistake, is a very profound thing. I was a little bit of a romantic child and would light candles as if my room was in Vienna 1820.
Among your charitable projects was cofounding in Rahat, a predominantly Bedouin city near Be’er Sheva, the Sarab Strings of Change Program, named after the Arabic word for oasis, to provide musical education to Bedouin schoolchildren in the Negev. Does it matter how many of these students become professional…