Release "Eybike Mame"/10th anniversary of Wergo Jewish Music Series
Di Eybike Mame (The Eternal Mother):
Women in Yiddish Theater and Popular Song, 1905-1929
Wergo SM 1625-2
Available August 4, 2003 (U.S. distribution: Harmonia Mundi USA, beginning ca. October 2003)
We are pleased to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Joel Rubin and Rita Ottens' Jewish Music Series for Wergo with "Di Eybike Mame", the first CD anthology of recordings featuring women of the Yiddish stage. This carefully edited production documents the enormous variety of music present during the period 1890-1930, from folksong to music hall and vaudeville, liturgical song to operetta and musical comedy. The booklet includes a detailed essay on Yiddish theater music and the role of women in Yiddish popular song.
Despite prohibitions in traditional Judaism against the singing of women in the presence of men, biblical figures such as Miriam and Deborah stand for a female contribution to music within Jewish history. In the 20th century, singers like Sophie Kurtzer, Shaindele and Batsheva dedicated themselves to the Jewish liturgy. Ironically known as khazntes (lit. "cantors' wives"), they were compelled to practice their art outside of the synagogue on vaudeville stages and remained exceptions to the rule despite a stylistic closeness to the great male cantors such as Yossele Rosenblatt and Gershon Sirota. Yiddish popular songs depicted a great variety of womenıs roles, including not only deceived girls, deserted wives and long-suffering mothers, but also suffragettes, adulteresses and eccentric spinsters. Its stars - often singer, actress, dancer and impresario all rolled up into one - charmed the Jewish world from Warsaw to Buenos Aires and played an important role in the expansion of gender roles. The singer and actress Bertha Kalish from Lemberg was compared favorably to the great actress Sarah Bernhardt, and Regina Pragerıs voice could have held its own with that of a Wagnerian heroine. Isa Kremer set new standards with her art song interpretations of Yiddish folksongs, the tomboyish Molly Picon wrote her own lyrics, and melodramatic Jennie Goldstein managed her own theater at the age of 16. Even today one encounters the odd 80 year-old retiree who is still enraptured by the sex appeal of Nellie Casman.