Viva Espania: A Tale in Four Octaves
Ofer Naim's film, Viva Espania: A Tale in Four Octaves, is a documentary about Israeli singer Hanna Aharoni and is being released in the United States this November.
Hanna Aharoni’s singing career began in her teens, when she began singing at the Lo La Li Theater at age 16. Her first song, “Zecharia ben Ezra,” was released; thus began her career and her journey to becoming the first (and, until Ofra Haza, the only) Israeli singer to gain international recognition. “No one else did what she did,” her husband tell us.
During her time in Israel, she gained national recognition and entered the so-called “elite” of Israeli singers, and competed with Shoshana Damari and Yafa Yarkoni. Early on in her career (before gaining international recognition), she became famous in Israel for singing the “Shepherds’ Songs” of the 1950s. In an effort to make a name for herself, Aharoni travelled to Paris. From then, she became famous in the United States, South America, and Europe.
Ofer Naim’s film Viva Espania offers a view into the singer’s life, and explains why she chose to end her illustrious career. It follows her from her teenage years -- when her career took off -- through her adulthood, her childhood, when she chose to end her career, and the present day, in that order. It talks about her progression as a singer, from singing debkas to singing songs with Paul Anka, which opened even more doors for the already internationally-acclaimed singer. From Anka, she went on Carnegie Hall and then to opening at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, what Aharoni calls the “[H]all everyone dreams of getting into in Vegas. Period.”
After the release of “A Taste of Honey,” Aharoni’s first all-English album (which brought her into the American market), she returned to Europe, where she recorded an album with Polydor Records, a British recording company. It was there that she was approached to record the song that she is perhaps most famous for, “Viva Espania.” Recorded originally in German in 1972 to encourage German-speaking tourists to visit Spain, covers have been made in numerous languages, and is described in the film to be “[O]ne of the most popular songs of all time.”
During the course of the film, we take trips to the first recording studio in which Hanna Aharoni recorded, her childhood home, and we meet her children, her husband, her siblings, and her relatives. We see the reasons for ending her career at its zenith, and the intense dedication she has for her family and to her singing.
“Everyone feels when it’s time...to do something on a different level...You know, there are other circles in life.”
--Rosie Barone, Hanna’s niece
Hanna Ahroni sings Eviva Espana in the original German:
Hanna Aharoni sings Zecharia ben Ezra:
For screening information at the JCC in Manhattan, click here.