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Thursday 10 December 2015

The Golden Bride (Di Goldene Kale), Operetta, Music by Joseph Rumshinsky, lyrics by Louis Gilrod and a book by Frieda Freiman, National Yiddish Theater – Folksbiene, New York, 8* out of 10

Goldele (Rachel Policar) is being brought up by a foster family in a Russian Village. One day her uncle and his son Jerome (Glenn Seven Allen) from America turn up and inform everyone that her father who had left for America leaving her behind has died and left her a great fortune. Her uncle who is himself wealthy wants to take her back to America to live with him. Misha (Cameron Johnson), the son of her foster parents who has been in love with Goldele when she was poor, now finds that he must compete for her with suitors attracted to Goldele by her nouveau riche state.

The National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene now in its 101st season, is a theatre established as entertainment for the Jewish immigrants from Russia and Ukraine that arrived in large numbers between 1885 and 1922, when legislation hostile to accepting immigrants abruptly ended this chapter in the history of immigration from Europe to America. They lived and worked mainly in the textile industry in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side looking for freedom from pogroms and the opportunity to better themselves economically.

The Golden Bride was written and composed in the New York of the 1920’s, the high point of Yiddish theatre in New York with more than 20 Yiddish theatres on 2nd Avenue, as a light-hearted operetta. 

It was first performed at the Folksbiene in 1923 and fell into oblivion; but parts of the original score and libretto have recently been found and made this revival possible.

This gives audiences in 2015 an immersive treat as they enter into the world of this immigrant community; in particular, The Golden Bride speaks of their dreams hopes for economic and social advancement.  But it also gives us a glimpse of their humour, of their nostalgia for their home-country, of the customs of their Jewish religion and even of their hopes that the October Revolution would make Russia a dynamic modern country with equal rights for workers of all backgrounds and religions. 

At key moments the protagonists switch from Yiddish to Russian. and the operetta form and its tunes reminiscent of of the central European masters of the genre Johann Strauss or Franz Lehar, was the equivalent at that time what would be the Musical today. 

But quite apart from its historical interest, The Golden Bride, is an enjoyable and funny musical romp. The ensemble of the Folksbiene enthusiastically performs in more or less authentic Yiddish with some Russian bits. English and Russian surtitles are provided for the audience. The singing and the live orchestra conducted by Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek are of good quality and the direction  and set make “Di Goldene Kale” a highly enjoyable treat and a fun show.

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