Yiddish Theatre Forum [YTF]
Joel Berkowitz, Editor 
Contents of Vol. 03.006
3 May 2004

1) Translation of Di goldene keyt (Marvin Zuckerman)
2) Anna Guzik (Norman Guzick)
3) Di eybike mame [CD review]  (Nina Warnke)

Date: 12 April 2004
From: Marvin Zuckerman 
Subject: Translation of Di goldene keyt

Regarding YTF 3.005, footnote no. 7, please note the translation of
Peretz's _Di goldene keyt_ in Marvin Zuckerman and Marion Herbst, eds.,
_The Three Great Classic Writers of Modern Yiddish Literature_, Vol. III:
Peretz (Malibu: Joseph Simon/Pangloss Press, 1996), 398-468.

2) ------------------------------------------------------
Date: 15 April 2004
From: Norman Guzick  or 
Subject: Anna Guzik

I have enjoyed reading Mendele and now enjoy the Theatre chat even more. I
have a number of Russian Jewish patients who have noted my surname and said
that there was a famous Yiddish actress in the Moscow Yiddish theatre named
Anna Guzik (the original spelling of my family's name). My daughter is an
actress in Chicago and is very interested in any sources of information on
Anna Guzik. We would appreciate learning if she is living or not and
whether she remains in Russia or has left for Israel as some have told me.
Correspondents who have any such information may reply to either of the
addresses above.

Norman D. Guzick, M.D.

3) ------------------------------------------------------
Date: 15 April 2004
From: Nina Warnke 
Subject: CD Review: _Di Eybike Mame-The Eternal Mother: Women in Yiddish
Theater and Popular Song 1905-1929_ (Schott Wergo SM 1625-2).

In the 1890s, emotions ran high on the galleries of the Lower East Side
theatres as fans fought battles over who of the two young prima donnas,
Regina Prager or Bertha Kalish, was the better singer and actress. If you
wonder what the fuss was about, you now have a chance to hear - and judge -
these two legendary performers for yourselves. Two of their recordings as
well as those of twenty-one other female performers have recently been
released by WERGO. Produced and edited by Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin, _Di
Eybike Mame-The Eternal Mother: Women in Yiddish Theater and Popular Song
1905-1929_, is their tenth production for WERGO's Jewish Music Series.

In recent years, several compilations of historical recordings of American
Yiddish vaudeville and theatre songs have been issued, most concentrating
on later decades than _Di eybike mame_ addresses. What makes the
Ottens/Rubin anthology so unusual, besides its inclusion of a wider variety
of song genres, is the fact that it contains some recordings from Europe
and examples from the early days of recording. This means that even
devotees of Yiddish theatre will recognize fewer of the performers' names
than on the rosters of the American Yiddish vaudeville compilations. After
all, in some cases even Ottens and Rubin know little more than the names of
the singers. But that should not deter us. On the contrary, we should
simply allow ourselves to go on a richly rewarding aural discovery tour
that takes us from Lemberg (today, Lviv in Ukraine) via London to New York
and offers the wide spectrum of musical styles then in vogue in the world
of Yiddish entertainment on both sides of the Atlantic: be it folksong,
operetta, Estrada, vaudeville, or music hall tunes.

The title, _Di eybike mame_, Ottens and Rubin explain, "is an ironic play
on _yidishe mame_ clichés." Although we can find several songs of suffering
mothers such as "Di eybike mame" and "Vu iz mayn kind?" sung with a
heart-rending _krekhts_ by Lucy German and Jennie Goldstein respectively,
the producers chose examples that demonstrate the wide variety of roles and
songs female performers presented on stage. They reflected the joys and
problems associated with love, courtship and betrayal; marriage,
abandonment, and broken homes; motherhood and poverty; and work and
unemployment; and included the traditional religious sphere (such as Helene
Gespass's "Lekht bentshn") as well as newly won political rights ("Ale
vayber megen shtimen," sung by Clara Gold).

Those looking for familiar tunes and names may be gratified to find several
compositions by Goldfaden (among them "Rozhinkes mit mandlen") and
Rumshinsky. Yiddish superstar Molly Picon sings the latter's "Tsipke" and
Lucy Levin, known for her role in Zayn vaybs lubovnik, presents a sassy
rendition of his "Di Primadonna," about a singer who knows how to escape
the unwelcome advances of a manager. Less known today, despite her enormous
popularity in her own time, is the European-based Broder-singer and
vaudeville performer Pepi Littmann, whose anti-hasidic song "Oylom habu" is
included here. Littman, who enjoyed the regard of the Yiddish literary
circles in Odessa, was particularly successful in her cross-dressing role
as a hasid.

It seems to me, however, that the highlights of this CD are Kalish and
Prager, purportedly two of the greatest female voices on the Yiddish stage.
Prager's 1908 rendition of "Aria" from A mentsh zol men zayn reminded me of
Rumshinsky's words that her voice "had a dramatic, even, and rich sound
that could easily change into coloratura and staccato and obtain the
lightness and suppleness of a real lyrical soprano." Kalish made her
recording of "Shabes, yontef, un rosh khoydesh" from Goldfaden's Shulamis
in 1925, twenty years after she left the Yiddish stage to become a dramatic
actress on the English-language stage. Still, her voice was rich and clear
and full of emotion, which leaves me to wonder what it would have sounded
like at the height of her singing career in the 1890s. But equally
important to me was the discovery of Regina Zuckerberg's voice ("Gebet far
der khupe" from _Di poylishe khasene_). Unfortunately, little is known
about this accomplished actress and powerful singer who was Boris
Thomashefsky's stage and life partner for well over two decades (she is not
mentioned in the _Leksikon fun yidishn teater_).

The carefully researched, bi-lingual liner notes (in English and German)
help to contextualize these recordings within the history of Yiddish
theatre and provide brief bios of the singers and summaries of the lyrics.
(For an expanded and updated version of these liner notes, see
http://www.rubin-ottens.com). They also give us a small glimpse into a
vibrant early recording scene. Not only major stars tried to immortalize
their voices but also performers about whom nothing is known today except
for the recordings they left behind. Among them are Estella Schreiner (with
Goldfaden's"Dos fartribene taybele" from Ben Ami), Fanny Schreiber ("A bisl
yoysher"), and Yetta Rubinstein, whose music hall song "Gevald, gevald
Police" will stick in your ear whether you like it or not. Gespass, on the
other hand, was apparently so popular in her day that, as Ottens and Rubin
note, "her 1907 Beka discs had a pink designer label emblazoned with a
facsimile of her autograph on them."

Of the five songs recorded before 1910, three are from Lemberg and one each
is from London and New York - a reminder that the Galician city was a
significant center for Yiddish theatre around the turn of the last century.
Indeed, a third of the performers in this compilation, among them the
future New York stars, Kalish, Prager, Zuckerberg, and Zwiebel-Goldstein
began their careers there, as did Gespass and Weinberg, who would be
mainstays on the Yiddish stages of South-Central Europe.

The secular Jewish performance world that developed toward the end of the
nineteenth century allowed women to leave their traditional gender roles
behind in unprecedented numbers; they combined careers and children, lived
public lives and, in some cases, became managers and directors of their own
theatres or troupes. The biographies of these women - as far as they are
known - also reflect an essential characteristic of Yiddish theatre: the
performers' wide variety of training and career experiences as well as
their enormous geographical and cultural mobility, which more often than
not straddled both continents as well as the Jewish and non-Jewish
performance worlds. Several, like Kalish, Prager, and Zwiebel-Goldstein,
sang in a Polish opera choir before joining the Yiddish theatre and moving
to New York. Isa Kremer, whose rendition of "Dem rebns moyfsim" is included
here, turned to performing Yiddish songs after having trained as an opera
singer in Italy. Many of those who came to the U.S. in their youth or were
born here had their training in vaudeville and moved back and forth between
the English- and Yiddish-language performance scenes: Zwerling and Picon
debuted on the English-language vaudeville stage before joining Yiddish
troupes. Similarly, Annie Lubin and Nellie Casman kept alternating between
English-language and Yiddish performance venues. Most European-based
performers toured extensively on the continent and were regularly joined by
their guest-performing, American-based colleagues who introduced audiences
there to their new repertoire.

These twenty-three recordings offer a rich cross-section of the early
performance scene, and theatre historians and music lovers alike should
welcome this new and important compilation. Thanks to modern technology,
the quality of even the oldest recordings is good enough that the listener
is not distracted by static or scratches. Yet so many important names are
missing. What about Bessie Thomashefsky or Clara Young? Or Dina Feinman and
Esther Neroslavska? I realize, of course, that the space on a CD has its
limitations and that not everyone on my wish list could be included here
(and maybe not all of them recorded?). Rather than as criticism, I mean it
as encouragement. I, for one, simply can't wait for a second compilation.

End of Yiddish Theatre Forum 03.006

Yiddish Theatre Forum

Joel Berkowitz, Editor	

Leonard Prager, Senior Adviser		

	   Editorial Board

Zachary Baker		Barbara Henry 
Miroslawa Bulat		David Mazower
Avrom Greenbaum		Nina Warnke
	      Seth Wolitz

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