Vardimon's multimedia epic '7734' bridges cultural divides

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Jewish artists who present Wagner's operas can have a tough time – from Jews who remember the Holocaust, and from their own consciences. But for Israeli choreographer Jasmin Vardimon – now animating Covent Garden's production of Wagner's Tannhäuser – this ethical wrestle is nothing new.

The daughter of a theatre director whose work consistently spans the Arab-Israeli divide, she imbibed her choreographic skills from a Holocaust survivor on a kibbutz. "Reconciling opposites, and collaborating across divides, is what my work has always been about," she says. Tonight at Sadler's Wells, her multimedia epic 7734 will get its second showing: she describes this as being "about humanity's simultaneous capacity for ingenious creation and brutal destruction".

For Tannhäuser she will have six male and six female dancers incarnating the thoughts of Wagner's hero and his ensnaring Venus: "As I see it, this opera is about the struggle of the artist, between his sybaritic appetite for fleshly delights, and his sense of duty."

Catching Tannhäuser's designer Michael Levine, I ask for his take on it. "I see the opera as being about creation, the making of art," he replies. "Tannhäuser is a singer/ songwriter, and I want to turn the Venusberg into a place of performance, full of the narcissism of perpetual youth." He's stringing a wall of fluorescent lights across the back of the set, suggestive of a club.

How does Semyon Bychkov, the eminent Russian-Jewish conductor around whom the whole production has been planned, react to these schemes? "I have no idea what it will be like," he says with a laugh. "The conductor is always the last to know."

'7734' is at Sadler's Wells tonight. 'Tannhäuser' is at the ROH from 11 December.

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