Academic journal article Notes

Joseph Rumshinsky

Academic journal article Notes

Joseph Rumshinsky

Article excerpt

A YIDDISH OPERETTA FROM THE 1920S

Joseph Rumshinsky. Di goldene kale. Edited by Michael Ochs. Part 1: Introductory Materials and Act 1. (Recent Researches in American Music, 80.) (Music of the United States of America, 27A.) Middleton, WI: Published for the American Musicological Society by A-R Editions, 2017. [Foreword, p. ix; acknowledgments, p. xi-xii; "A Yiddish Operetta Tailored to its Audience: Joseph Rumshinsky's Di goldene kale," p. xiii-lii; 11 plates; cast & instruments, p. 2; score, p. 3-348. ISBN 978-0-89579852-7. $180.]

Joseph Rumshinsky. Di goldene kale. Edited by Michael Ochs. Part 2: Acts 2 and 3. (Recent Researches in American Music, 81.) (Music of the United States of America, 27B.) Middleton, WI: Published for the American Musicological Society by A-R Editions, 2017. [Score, p. 349-594; libretto and translation, p. 595-652; crit. report, p. 653-66; bibliog., p. 667-71. ISBN 978-0-89579-853-4. $160.]

Operetta is nowadays enjoying a renaissance across Europe and the United States in terms of splendid performances, new recordings, dedicated scholarship, and-as is evident here- critical editions. Characterized by glorious singing, exuberant and highly variegated scores, witty dialogue, and sentimental and often nostalgic tales, the European-rooted genre constituted a mainstay of the American musical stage in the first third of the twentieth century, and remained popular for several more decades through film adaptations, studio recordings, and various types of productions. Operettas that played on American stages bridged the Old World with the New, and almost invariably referenced contemporary issues relevant to their audiences. Operettas existed in many languages, and having the opportunity to explore Joseph Rumshinsky's 1923 Yiddish operetta Di goldene kale (The Golden Bride) in a beautifully edited score by Michael Ochs expands our understanding of the genre as a whole. It also illuminates our knowledge of musical works created expressly for the American stage in languages other than English.

Di goldene kale delighted audiences when it opened at Kessler's Second Avenue Theater in New York City on 9 February 1923. The show ran for eighteen weeks before touring various cities. Its success was not limited to American shores, for it also appeared in Buenos Aires and Manchester, England. The work fell into obscurity, due in no small measure to immigration quotas placed on Eastern Europeans to the United States in the 1920s.

The present edition of Di goldene kale had its genesis when Ochs prepared a special exhibit at Harvard University in 1984 that included a manuscript short score of the work. From this perhaps inauspicious beginning emerged not only the first critical edition of a Yiddish operetta but also the first performances of the captivating work in nearly seventyfive years. Since the manuscript short score included only a relatively scant amount of performance information, Ochs had to locate and draw together other surviving materials, including orchestral parts and librettos, in order to create a full score that includes not only the musical numbers but also the spoken dialogue.

Once the score and libretto were restored, Di goldene kale was ready for its return to the live stage. After concert performances in 2014 and 2015, the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene presented a fully staged production with orchestra at the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage. The highly acclaimed run lasted from 2 December 2015 to 3 January 2016, and the production was reprised from 4 July to 28 August 2016. Di goldene kale received two Drama Desk Award nominations, one for outstanding revival of a musical and the other for outstanding director of a musical, and excellent reviews. The present edition was the basis for these well-received performances.

The plot of the libretto (by Frieda Freiman) concerns Golde, a supposed orphan who has been raised in a Russian shtetl (a largely Jewish town) by the innkeeper, Pinkhes, and his wife, Tobye. …

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