Contento de Semrik hosted a long series of Israel Award winners in its television studios with particularly moving stories. Netanel Semrik, today’s interviewer in Contento Now’s state-of-the-art digital studios, recalls the life-changing moments of the individuals the State of Israel has crowned as leaders in their respective fields of excellence.
People with incredible personal stories enter the unique portal that is the office of Contento Now, in the electronic television studios of publisher Netanel Semrik. They go to the studio, interview themselves in front of the cameras, the lights and come out with fascinating stories. Some join a Zoom call or via Video WhatsApp. Today, digital rules the “story” market, also in video and digital studios, and Semrick understands this.
Netanel Semrik, all the experience you’ve gained in the hundreds of TV shows you’ve created, to what extent does it help you today in the new era, or maybe actually hurt you?
“An interview is an interview, it’s an interview. In the past, every meeting was held face-to-face in large studios. Huge teams. Nowadays, the new era allows for endless flexibility in production, where we actually help each character from each story set up a mini TV studio and broadcast to us via Zoom – or video from his studio, when then, as always, the story and the charm that remains in the personal interview, is the headliner.’
Semrik has been fortunate to host a long line of Israel Prize winners who have chosen to tell their personal stories precisely in the studio of Contento de Semrik, a company founded with the fall of the Twins in New York and which has produced hundreds of television programs. Now he goes back to two he remembers well.
We are pleased to share this fascinating interview that Netanel Semrik conducted with the world-renowned Erez Bitton.
Writer and poet Erez Beaton joins us in the Contento Now e-TV studio. Hi Erez.
“Hail and blessings, Nethanel.”
Please call a moment. The most shocking moment you remember in your entire life.
“I had a few moments like that. Moments of elation. My wife was about to give birth. Then there was no clear, clarifying sound, we even thought that a girl would be born. With a lot of worry and fear, she needed an operative intervention for a caesarean section. I was waiting outside. After about half an hour, the nurse comes out and says to me, “Mr. Beaton, congratulations, you have a son. Come touch his head. Here he is in the cart.” Out of the blue. I didn’t know before that I was expecting a son. What was expected of me? And suddenly here is the defining moment that creates a lifelong process of endlessly meeting a son you never knew was in the plan.”
Were you able to see it in your personal “imagination”?
“I touched his head, a warm head, a soft head. I gently and gently ran my fingers over his face. Later I wrote him a song which I called “Settling with a first-born son,” which you will learn to play before my eyes as in familiar fields without fear of dark lairs. In return, I will teach you to walk with the darkness as friends, and you will not regret it, my son.”
Have you learned to walk in the dark without regrets?
“The second defining event, in the bad sense of the term, was around the time of my injury at the age of 10 and a half, when I was injured by a bomb that was circulating in Lod in the 1950s, years of infiltration. We found it near the house, we didn’t know it was a bomb and it went off and immediately I had to be transported into a world of touch, of touch, of hearing, of sensations of a completely different kind.’
Do you remember the last image you saw before the explosion?
“The last picture was a cinema, Thursday night, a cultural cinema in the city of Lod, a new cinema. We are ten-year-olds who help set up chairs in the cinema, and in return they let us see the movie for free. Tarzan is amazing, full of movement, full of color, jumping from place to place. The next day, Friday, the day of the accident, I could no longer see and was transported to another world. But you asked correctly what was the last photo? Because many pictures accumulated in me.
“Until the age of 10, you can see endlessly. And when you are an energetic child and a barefoot child and a child who climbs trees and walks in the woods and in the orchards of the city of Lod and picks sabers and goes to the cinema and sees a cinema above the tree outside the cinema, because “Five Cinemas” in the city of Lod it didn’t have a roof and it wasn’t. We have money to get in – all these attractions add up. Then I wrote the song “When I was a child of light.”
If you had to choose one moment in your life, the most touching moment in life – which moment would you choose to share with us now?
“This is the concert of my work at the opening of the Salzburg Festival. In our country it doesn’t mean much because today we are more interested in Mediterranean music and whatever that means, correcting history. My event is the performance of my work at the opening of the Salzburg Festival, which was about two years ago. The experience of seeing… – there were not many Jews in the audience – the Gentiles stood for a long hour and a half, weeping and shedding tears.’
Because what happened to them?
“I do not know that. In art, when the national rather than the nationalistic becomes universal, there is something in that. When you and I perceive Tchaikovsky’s music not as those who were born in Moscow, but from somewhere else, then Tchaikovsky’s music is universal.
“When Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn play in Moscow and understand their music there in their own way, it is universal music. Even if we take this thing to an extreme, if we take the Chinese, a billion Chinese pianists play Beethoven. What does their pentatonic music have to do with music that carries the unequivocal quasi-made-in-Germany message? But there it is.
“That’s how it became universal, and when that audience accepted the message of non-Israeli music. I want to underline the word Israel, not Israeli. It was written in Israel, Jewish music, and there is such music, Jewish music. If they hear something that changes things, for us it’s a multi-layered taste, many, many layers, like Agnon’s book, there are many, many layers. If you take that thing and turn it into something that the other person also understands. First, because in general, sometimes I see myself more as a museum than a gallery. In a gallery, you show your friends’ photos, come, buy and acquire.
“A museum has a completely different purpose, so that’s what it’s all about, it was a very big moment in my life when I went out there on stage and saw the audience and Zubin Mehta said to me, ‘Look, I’ve never seen anything like this’ – it was a very big moment and that big moment continued So when the New York Times music critic on the front page demanded that the piece be brought to the US and a month later it was at Carnegie Hall.
“Those were moments that should have been exciting, but you know I’ve learned to deal with the ups and downs by maintaining the middle because life goes through sections. You know the joke about the clown who sits and cries and you ask him why he’s crying? So he says, “I’m resting.” I feel that way sometimes.
Speaking of average on the side of those peaks in Salzburg, in Kearney Hall, in the New York Times, give me a moment when you feel like you’ve stopped for a moment on the side of the road to rest and shed a tear?
“Of course, when my first wife died. It’s not easy.”
To say goodbye?
“Yes, of course, I will tell you the key phrase – every meeting is the beginning of a breakup, and that’s how it is. Once you learn it, it’s good. In my life there have been many breakups, more than… I don’t say more than dates, because the meeting is actually, the breakup is sometimes imaginary. You prepare yourself for some kind of breakup that’s going to happen, you create all kinds of antibodies for yourself, you give yourself drugs that stop this thing, it doesn’t always help, you know, we live in a virtual world, which is the real world, a world of words and a world of sounds. The difference between sounds and words is very clear. Here in Israel, for example, we cannot live without words, it is a culture of singers, singers in front of an audience, singers not in front of an audience. You have text, you have opera. The music I studied and was brought up with was music with almost no words, and if there were any, the Words were words in German. So that’s what I’m saying.
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