Ninety-two years after its premiere at Kessler’s Second Avenue Theatre in New York City, the Yiddish operetta Di Goldene Kale (The Golden Bride) returns to the stage during the 2015 Mason Gross Summer Series on August 5 at 7 p.m. at Nicholas Music Center. Presented by the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene and the Mason Gross School of the Arts, the comedy, written by Joseph Rumshinsky, will be performed in Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles, and with a full orchestra for the first time in 70 years. Zalmen Mlotek, artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene, conducts.
A company of singers from New York City’s National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene, accompanied by the Mason Gross Muzikers orchestra, will perform the operetta, which, like many works composed during the heyday of American Yiddish theater of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was aimed at immigrants who had escaped Europe.
Di Goldene Kale tells the story of Golde, abandoned by her parents and raised by local innkeepers somewhere in the Russian Empire. After the town hears that the young lady has inherited her father’s fortune, she draws the attention of many would-be suitors. Golde eventually finds her way to America, bringing various characters from her European shtetl with her, and sets about to find the man she will marry.
The storyline illustrates both the optimism and uncertainty that comes with starting a new life, and “speaks to the whole immigrant experience, that yes people love their new country, but they still have this yearning for the past,” says Michael Ochs, a scholar who came across a manuscript for the operetta 35 years ago while working as the head of the music library at Harvard.
On August 5, Ochs will present a pre-performance lecture at 6 p.m. that includes examples of recordings from the time--some of which were made by the original cast. The lecture is free for ticket-holders.
Di Goldene Kale became a smash hit for Rumshinsky, a prolific composer who was born in 1881 in Lithuania and arrived in the United States in 1904. Ochs has counted more than 140 works that list Rumshinsky as a writer or collaborator.
“He was by far the most important composer of Yiddish operettas and Yiddish musicals,” says Ochs. “This particular work had been performed all over the world, including Buenos Aires, Argentina; Manchester, England; and Omaha, Nebraska.”
“Rumshinsky’s talents as a tunesmith are most evident in Di Goldene Kale,” says George B. Stauffer, dean of the Mason Gross School. “In his prime, he was known as the Yiddish Sigmund Romberg--a composer of majestic, sweeping, romantic melodies.”
“We are proud to present the first performance in modern times of the fully orchestrated score,” continues Stauffer.
The operetta may have been lost to history without the meticulous work done by Ochs, who transliterated the libretto and edited the piano-vocal score, doing the work of a “musical archaeologist,” says Motl Didner, asssociate artistic director and education director of the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene.
Didner says the restoration of Di Goldene Kale is important in cataloging the history of Jewish immigration to America.
“There is a great satisfaction in seeing a work that is a living document of a time and place that informs who we are today, rescued from the worst fate that a creative work can suffer--to be forgotten,” Didner says.
And despite being nearly a century old, the story, Ochs says, is still relevant to today’s audiences.
“People in the audience who themselves aren’t immigrants, they had parents or grandparents or even great-grandparents who came to this country because things were tough where they were coming from,” says Ochs. “They were hoping for a better life, and that’s still true.”
Di Goldene Kale takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5, 2015. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $10 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $5 for students with valid ID. Fees may apply. The Nicholas Music Center is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. Tickets for Di Goldene Kale on sale 10 a.m. July 21, 2015.
This event is co-sponsored by the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene and The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life.
The Mason Gross Summer Series runs from July 15 through August 5. Performances include the Mason Gross Jazz Faculty All-Stars on July 15; Atlantic Brass Quintet on July 22; Summer DancePlus on July 23, and The Bang Group (dance) on July 29. Events are free; no tickets required. For more information about the Mason Gross Summer Series, click here or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.
Posted June 2015