Biography / German Biography / Ofarim Today / Abi solo

Esther Ofarim (* June 13,1941 as Esther Zaied) was born in Safed in the Galilee to a very old family (HaLevy), which has been in Palestine for seven generations. When Esther was two years old, they moved to Haifa. At the age of 13 Esther performed for the first time in a play and studied drama with Peter Fry. With 16 she met Abraham Reichstat (born October 5,.1937 in Zafed, died as Abi Ofarim May 4, 2018 in Munich), who taught dance at the time. At the end of the 1950s she joined the IDF and a romantic relationship was established between her and Abi, who married after a few months, and Esther was thus released from military service.

After the marriage Esther and Abi Ofarim moved in her mother-in-law's apartment. Esther also joined the "Ofarim" group, founded by Abi Reichstadt and Shmulik Kraus in 1958. After joining the band, the group changed its name to the "Ofarim Trio" and performed in the Haifa area. Due to disagreements about the distribution of profits, Kraus left the band shortly.

At the end of the 1950s, the American director Otto Preminger wrote Esther Ofarim for a secondary role in the film Exodus, which was screened in 1960. In this year Esther participated in the play "The Legend of Three and Four" at the Habima Theatre in the role of Katzia. Through the dancer and mime player Sammy Molcho, Abi Ofarim managed to allow the couple to perform at the Omar Khayyam nightclub in Jaffa. Reuven Sheffer, a member of the Theater Club Quartet, helped the couple perform as warmers at the Tel Aviv Theater Club and shortly thereafter led their own performance, "Moris Adin", directed by Uri Zohar. The Ofarims gave many concerts in small locations in Israel, for ex. in Herzliya, 1960.
In the years 1960 - 1961, they recorded two albums, the first one was called "HaOfarim" and the other "Foibles and Fables". The albums were very successful and many of the songs, including those of Aryeh Levanon, Dan Almagor, Meir Noy and Berman Berman, were frequently played by the Kol Israel radio.

Esther Ofarim's success began to skyrocket in 1961, when she participated in the second Israeli song festival in 1961 and won the first two places in her song "Sa'eini bemachol", written by Pnina Avni and composed and adapted by Zvi Avni and "Na'ama" written by Avraham Bar-Oz , composed by Shlomo Biderman) and was adapted by Shimon Cohen. Esther recorded her first two solo albums, "Children's songs" and "Hayu Leilot", whose theme song was a popular hit even though it was written and performed in the 1940s by Shelly Sharona from the "All the Winds" theatre, but since the release of the album was well identified with the character of Esther Ofarim. Both albums were arranged and directed by Shimon Cohen. With her success, Esther was invited to join Frank Sinatra in his performances in Israel. 

In 1962, the Kol Israel radio decided to send Esther to the festival in Sopot, Poland, with the song "Stav"  by Moshe Wilensky and Shimshon Halfi. At the festival she came in second place with 10 points from the first place and the song was the most popular song in Israel that year. The couple settled in Geneva, Switzerland, where they recorded many songs in French, Italian, Hebrew and English for the local radio station "Radio Suisse Romande". Some of the songs finally have been released in 2012. In 1963 Esther participated for Switzerland in the festival "Chansons sur mesure" in Canada, where she performed "Saint amour".

Switzerland sent Esther Ofarim to represent it at the Eurovision Song Contest held in London in 1963. There she sang the song "T'en va pas" in French and almost won first place if Norway did not change its last-minute vote in favor of the Danish song due to a mistake in reading and re-reading the winning songs. "T'en va pas" was a great success and translated into German and Italian. The Ofarims signed a recording contract with Dutch company Philips and succeeded in Holland with the English version of "One More Dance". The duo recorded his first album in the United States "Songs der Welt," ("Songs of the world") which includes "Layla Layla" and "Adama Adamati" by Mordechai Zeira.

1963 Esther had a starring role in German's movie "Es war mir ein Vergnügen", directed by Imo Moszkowicz.

Esther & Abi Ofarim
The Ofarims live in Holland, 1963
Esther & Abi Ofarim - Hullabaloo, 1963
Their first duo performance in Britain, 1963

Over the next few years, the Ofarims appeared in Europe and the United States (they for ex. toured with the Smothers Brothers), while Esther's singing career also rose as a soloist. In 1964 she appeared on the Dutch televison program "The Robinson Robinson Crusoe Show" in Split Personality. The program won the Silver Rose of Montreux Prize in Switzerland and in 1965 received the Hudson Award in the Netherlands and recorded an album of musical songs, called "Is it really me!" in the United States with a large orchestra arranged and directed by Bobby Scott.

Article of the Israeli press from 1965

In 1966 the Ofarims had their first hit in Germany with  "Noch einen Tanz", German version of "One More Dance".
Esther Ofarim, known as the "Nightingale of Haifa" in the German press, was chosen as the singer of the year in Germany in 1966 and won two gold records for her album "That's Our Song" and "Sing Hallelujah" and in Paris her solo French album won the prestigious Grand Prix International du Disques Academy Charles Cross. In 1967 the couple moved from Munich to London. There they met Adi Semel, an Israeli, who became their artistic director. In the same year she recorded a solo album of children's songs from all over the world called "Esther im Kinderland" ("Esther in the Land of Children"), including the classic songs of Goethe, Heine and others. The other side of the album was dedicated entirely to lullabies, including "Sh'chav beni" by Emmanuel the Russian and Brahms lullaby.
In 1967 the Ofarims recorded the album "2 in 3" of which their greatest success in Germany was "Morning of my life",  written by the Bee Gees.

The Ofarims appeared in a television program in England with the song "Cinderella Rockefella" in 1968, and were a huge success. The song came first in the British hit parade. The single "Cinderella Rockefeller" was printed in many countries, including Israel, Australia, England, France, Germany , the United States and many others. The Ofarims received a regular BBC programme and even performed at the Royal Albert Hall and were presented to Queen Elizabeth II. The duo was invited to appear in the first color broadcast in Germany. "Cinderella Rockefeller", which was popular among music consumers, was not initially heard in Israel following a boycott of the couple's songs because of their activities in Germany and their comments there. Haim Topol finally managed to broadcast the favorite and old songs that were loved by the audience over the airwaves and stop the boycott.

Later they recorded a new album, named "Up to date", which - beside traditional songs - also  included some disco style material. Esther Ofarim always sang songs she loved, both as a soloist and with her partner, but did not want to compromise on the songs she sang. Abi was attracted to the disco style, which was very popular at the time, and to a humorous material such as "Cinderella Rockefeller", while Esther disapproved. During their world tour in 1969 they held a last concert in Cologne in March. Afterward, the two parted. Later Esther appeared in Berlin on a television program and produced her own solo album with Philips. The album shows the singer's desire for it. There were no hit parades, and instead there were Ladino songs and songs by poets such as Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire" and Renaissance songs. The album also included many songs that will be remembered as hits, such as "Shecharchoret", which comes from a Ladino song ("Morenica"). The album was not as successful as the duo's albums and Esther said, she takes it as a compliment.
In 1969 she had a small role as a singer Miriam in the three-part Herbert Reinecker television thriller "11 Uhr 20" next to Joachim Fuchsberger and Götz George. In the same year she sang the title theme of John Huston's rogue comedy "Sinful Davey", composed by Ken Thorne.
The Ofarim couple
divorced in November 1970.
Esther got her first personality show "Esther Color" in 1970, which was directed by Bob Rooyens and she had some guest appearances in several European tv shows.

Esther Ofarim on the Young Generation tv show, 1970 Esther Ofarim - live in Berlin, 1969

Esther Ofarim in the film "11 Uhr 20", 1970

Esther Ofarim in the tv show "Esther Color", 1970 Esther Ofarim - This is Tom Jones, 1969          Esther Ofarim - Einer wird gewinnen, 1969

Esther performed for the first time since her return to her country in 1970 at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, on the eve of Independence Day. Her second appearance was only in 1971, during Passover. She said then to the newspapers: "Someone shouted 'Hebrew!', I am terrified.” 
The 1971 concert was recorded and broadcasted by the Israeli Radio. Esther was trembling on the stage. She was very excited and gave a superb performance. This time, Esther could not get out of the stage. People were standing and cheering for a long time. People standing in front of the stage were picking the carnations that were decorating it and were throwing the flowers at Esther, who sang "Shirat hanoded" once more, shining with happiness.

In 1972 she recorded two new albums. In the first  Esther did many Ladino songs, renaissance songs and three songs by Mordechai Zeira and two songs by Leonard Cohen and others.  
Ofarim performed as a guest in the Israel Oriental song festival and started a big tour in Israel with Adi Shapirovitz on the orchestra entitled "Old and New". From this tour the album Live in Tel Aviv was made (but just from the Hebrew songs of it). Esther also started a comeback tour in Germany.
And she was filmed for "Esther in Israel", a television show on the background of the country's landscapes for German television directed by Imo Moszkowicz and performed a tour in Israel.
In October 1973,  Esther enlisted in the Yom Kippur War and appeared before wounded soldiers and IDF bases.

In 1975 Esther cooperated with the Jazz group  The Platina. Not many jazz songs were done – except  "Empty pockets blues and "God Bless the child",  but she sang many old songs in a new performance of her own, including "Hinach Yafa" by Noam Sheriff, originally sung by the folk singer Shuli Harold, "He Chalil", "Shney Shoshanim" by Yitzhak Elia Navon,"Machmad Levavi" and "Yad Anuga". 
In 1977 Esther's brother, Noam HaLevy, introduced her to young Israeli musicians:  Yoni Rechter, Shem Tov Levy and Shlomo Yiddov. This produced the 1977 tour. It was the first time that Esther did Israeli contemporary songs. 

After a successful period in Israel,  Esther decided to try to restore her international fame. She moved to Germany, where she for ex. had a guest appearance in "Bio's Bahnhof" in 1979 and in 1982 she recorded the album "Complicated Ladies" in collaboration with Eberhard Schoener, who contributed to the album a touch of electronic music and thus reshaped the musical style of Ofarim for a short time. Esther abandoned this style afterwards. Also in 1982 she married to German Philipp von Sell (then 22), assistant television director. Von Sell was her sub-tenant in Munich. She then performed in New York and recorded "The White Album" for Israeli record company "Hed Arzi". This album features songs by Shlomo Ibn Gvirol, Yonatan Ratosh, Haim Nachman Bialik, Zalman Shneur and more. Her only son, David, was born in New York in 1983, where his parents stayed for father's studies.

Esther Ofarim performed in Berlin in 1984 as Chaja in the play "Ghetto" (in the Vilna Ghetto) by Joshua Sobol and directed by Peter Zadek alongside Giora Feidman. 

In 1988, she returned to Israel and embarked on a new tour. The songs, among others by Eli Mohar and Meir Wieseltier, were finally published in a number of collections. In 1990, Ofarim performed at the Arad Festival in an evening dedicated to Mordechai Zeira, her favorite composer. In 1991 she participated in the Israel Festival in the evening of poet Rachel's songs and in 1995 returned to the Arad Festival in a joint performance with Yehudit Ravitz, with who she toured afterwards.

In 1998 Esther was the guest in the 50th Anniversary Concert of the Jerusalem Symphonic Orchestra celebrations.  
During these years she began to perform again throughout Germany.

In the summer of 1999 she participated in the series "Classic & Different" with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv.

In August 2011 she was a guest of two concerts by Achinoam Nini at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, accompanied by the Haifa Symphony Orchestra. This show was the last in the Mann Auditorium before closing it for renovation and upgrading.

In January 2013, a guest performance was honored as part of the renewed Israeli song festival.

In June 2014, at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, in the framework of the Israel Festival, she performed together with Yehoram Gaon. Ofarim sings some of her classical songs, including the Ladino "Adio Querida".

In May 2015, more than fourty years after her historic appearance, she performed again at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv. The performance was accompanied by Yoni Rechter who also directed it. The show was broadcasted live on Army Radio and was filmed.

Until now Esther Ofarim gives anually concerts in Germany and Israel. See "Esther today" for more info.

Source: English translation of the Hebrew wikipedia (mostly written by Eytan Marva) and other (archived) source, written by Eytan Marva, edited, corrected and completed by me.


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Esther Ofarim - 1969

Esther Ofarim

Esther Ofarim

German  biography

Biography / German Biography / Ofarim Today / Abi solo