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Late night concert: Farges Mikh Nitt – Yiddish evening

For the Late Night Concert, guest programmer Amihai Grosz not only invited two fantastic female singers, he offers also, as part of the New Generations programme, a podium to the successful Norwegian string quartet Opus13.

Soprano Alma Sadé and mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman present an attractive program together with pianist Mark McNeil. They take us to the world of Yiddish operetta, a genre that was very popular in the period between the First and Second World War. “Farges mikh nit” (“forget me not’) is the title of an entertaining recital that the singers have already performed have performed more often, including at the Komische Oper Berlin where Alma Sadé works as a member of the ensemble. “We are both Jewish and we have a close relationship with Yiddish,” says Alma. Helene’s parents were both survivors of the Holocaust, they spoke Yiddish at home. And I also learned the language know as a child through my great-grandmother who lived with us. With this program we would like to pay attention to a special period in history, when Yiddish was still one living language, unlike now. Because nowadays it is only spoken by small groups of fanatical religious. Yiddish combined diverse languages and cultures, from Hebrew and German to Russian and Polish. It was especially known in New York Yiddish flourished in theaters during the interwar period. They really did everything in Yiddish there, not just musicals and cabaret, but also operas by Wagner! With the collection of Yiddish songs that we are going to sing, a mixture of Yiddish operetta, cabaret and jazz, we want the Utrecht audience likes to hear how all those different cultural traditions came together.”

Some highlights of the program are the songs that the successful Jewish actress Molly Picon (1898–1992) sang in films and in theatrical productions in New York, for example “Ikh zing” (from the film Mamele in which Molly played a leading role), ‘A bis’l libe, un a bisele glik’ (‘just a little love, and some luck’ from the theater production Tzirkus Meyd’l at the Second Avenue Theater) and “Oyg’n (‘eyes’ from the theater production Eyn Mol In Leb’n in the Public theater). Another famous Jewish actress in this New York scene was Bella Meisel (1902–1991). She was one of the first to made the standard ‘Glik’ a success (in the theater production Der Letster Tantz at the Prospect Theater). “Rozhinkes with mandlen” (‘raisins and almonds’) is a touching lullaby from the first Yiddish musical production Shulamith and of course it also sounds famous song ‘Rumania, Rumania!’, one of the theater star’s top hits Aaron Lebedeff (1875–1960). This creates a colorful collection Yiddish songs that carry the listener in rich contrasts emotions, from infectious comedy to touching desperation and deep melancholy.

The Late Night Concert opens with three beautiful Yiddish songs which refer to a different cultural scene: the thriving Jewish one culture in Warsaw during the interwar period. In 2018 Leonid wrote Desyatnikov Yiddish – 5 Lieder für Stimme und Streichquartett in commissioned by the famous Jerusalem Quartet (the quartet that ever was founded by Amihai Grosz). Desyatnikov has five songs selected that deal with the life of the Jewish community the Polish cities, even before the Second World War was in sight. These Polish-Yiddish songs, often with a humorous undertone, were not only dominant in the popular music scene in Poland, but also had great influence on cabaret music throughout Europe. And also on Hollywood film music and Broadway theater music in the United States. Amihai Grosz & friends leave three songs belong to this special composition by Desyatnikov. It song “Varshe (“Warsaw”) is a nostalgic ode to the city Warsaw, ‘Ikh ganve in der nakht’ (‘I steal in the night’) comes from the repertoire of Yiddish “thief songs” that fringe groups reflect the Jewish underworld and is ‘Yosl un Sore-Dvoshe’ a duet between a man, Yosl, and a woman, Sore-Dvoshe, who in living in poverty but dreaming of having a big family and enjoying life in the big city.