Musical and poetic homage to a remarkable woman

By Leeor Adar

Few Australian audiences would be familiar with Leah Goldberg and her marvellous creative life.

For those who don’t know, Goldberg was one of Israel’s great poets, and the first woman to receive the coveted Israel Prize for literature.  It was only after receiving a PhD from the Universities of Berlin and Bonn that she travelled to Palestine and settled in a bustling Tel Aviv to find a home amongst the cafés and poets of her time.

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Goldberg’s fluency in multiple languages and beautiful prose solidified her as an extraordinary woman. Unsurprisingly, Goldberg would be a compelling subject for collaborators Deborah Leiser-Moore and Adi Sappir, who come together in The Leah Goldberg Variations to bring us storytelling, poetry and music.

Cellist Sappir brings to life the tragedies and rhythm of Goldberg’s life, immersing her audience in the melodies of the East with her beautiful Hebrew vocals and cello. There was richness to Sappir’s delivery that would strongly appeal to Israeli expats and appreciators of the Jewish cultural heritage. As someone who has travelled to Israel, I felt a profound sense of longing for the country as footage is shown of the old bus route Goldberg took between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Through reading her diaries, and reciting her poetry, Sappir and Leiser-Moore perform a lovely tribute to Goldberg’s legacy. It’s a worthy story – that is for certain.

There are however some teething issues in this first full-length collaboration between Sappir and Leiser-Moore. At times segments of the work are disjointed and difficult to follow. Both performers are stylistically differing, and occasionally there is no real cohesion between the two. In one moment we are drawn into the mysticism of Goldberg’s life through music and spoken poetry, and then jolted by short bursts of dialogue that detract from the immersive quality of the work.

The Leah Goldberg Variations is beautiful conceptually, but in presentation it will require further tenderness and care to bring it to the rounded life Goldberg’s story deserves. It was performed at The Butterfly Club from September 8th-11th, 2016 and is well-worthy of future seasons.