Jewish and Muslim artists unite at Sydney Opera House

Soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal and pianist/composer Benjamin Martin are sharing a stage at the Sydney Opera House - and a message of peace.

Shanal is Muslim while Martin is Jewish, and when Hamas attacked Israel in October, leading to the latest conflict in Gaza, they each looked to Australia's artists for a measured and thoughtful response.

Instead, they found the nation's arts community increasingly divided by the conflict, with taboos and a fear of being labelled stifling any sort of dialogue.

So the two friends decided to present a concert in the hope their music could spread a message of unity, moderation and peace.

The program includes masterpieces such as Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and Ravel’s Sheherazade, which celebrates the Silk Road and the Middle East, as well as his Hebrew Melodies.

One of Martin's compositions is also on the bill, part of a suite titled Songs of Wartime.

The name is apt - in the era of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Trump administration, the COVID-19 pandemic and the failed Voice referendum, it's all too easy for petty differences to dredge up past conflicts, Martin said.

"At the moment people are afraid to speak for any number of reasons, so the conversation breaks down," he said.

In an era of extreme positions, even moderation can provoke hostility according to Martin, while Shanal worries that people seem to be losing their sense of shared humanity.

"We have to be very, very responsible as the arts community and not reckless with our position, ever," she told AAP.

"It does not matter what opinion you hold."

Shanal promises the audience will experience something real, truthful and beautiful at the Opera House.

The friends joked the concert was initially going to be called Rebels for Peace, but they agreed the business of peace was a serious matter.

"Those who love peace must learn to organise as effectively as those who love war," Shanal said.

Artists for Peace is on at the Sydney Opera House on December 23.

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