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Natan Shahar

(b Yekatrinoslav [now Dnepropetrovsk], Dec 5, 1894; d Tel-Aviv, April 2, 1982). Israeli composer and singer. He emigrated to Palestine from the Ukraine in 1906. He studied at the Teacher's Seminary in Jerusalem where his teachers included Abraham Zvi Idelsohn. During World War I he moved to Egypt and enlisted in the British Army. After the war he returned to Palestine and, while earning his living as an accountant, took singing lessons with Jehuda Har-Melaḥ. A countertenor with a phenomenal ability to improvise, he travelled to the USA in 1923 to further his singing studies; there he specialized in improvisation and distinctive vibrato singing, similar in style to Arab-Bedouin singing or ululation. Commissioned to write an orchestral accompaniment for songs improvised in a Bedouin style, he enlisted the compositional assistance of Lazar Seminski, who encouraged him to continue to compose. His first songs, Ya leil (‘Oh night’) and ...

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Leonidas Economou

(b 1938; d London, England, April 2, 1989). Greek Roma singer. He was born in a caravan between the cities of Kavala and Drama in Greece, orphaned at an early age, and worked hard to make a living for himself and his family. He made his first recordings in 1956 and became widely known in 1958 with the Indian-style song ‘Magala’. In the following years, he cooperated with some of the best laiko creators, had many hits, performed in the best nightclubs, and appeared in numerous films. His bass but tender voice and his highly ornamented vocal styles, his repertory of orientalist songs and socially sensitive texts, and his bold public assertion of his ethnic and social identity, were warmly received by working-class audiences. He became a social hero for the Roma and one of the most popular laiko singers of the late 1950s and the 1960s. From the late 1960s his career declined, due to the general change of commercial policies, the political environment, and popular taste, but he continued to cooperate with important creators and to record hits like ‘...

Article

[Conn, Catherine ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Sept 3, 1910; d New York, NY, April 17, 2007). American popular singer and actress of German Jewish heritage. She trained as a singer and actress in Europe and New York and began her career with appearances in Broadway musicals in the early 1930s. While continuing to perform on the stage, she starred in a number of Hollywood movies in the 1930s, famously alongside the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (1935). She also acted and sang with Bing Crosby in two movies. Carlisle married the playwright and theater director moss Hart in 1946. After taking some time off to raise her two children, Carlisle established a second career in television in the 1950s. She regularly appeared on the popular TV show “To Tell the Truth” between 1957 and 1978. Her career as a singer continued with her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Johann Strauss’s ...

Article

Pier Paolo Scattolin

(b Bologna, between 1536 and 1539; d Bologna, probably on Dec 22, 1613). Italian composer and singer. He was a Minorite and was of Jewish origin. He is first heard of at Padua, where documents (in I-Pca ) show that on 2 May 1567 he was employed by the Cappella del Santo as a singer; this appointment was reconfirmed on 7 May 1569. He then moved to Bologna as maestro di cappella at the church of S Francesco and lived in the monastery attached to it. His presence there is sporadically documented between 1573 and 1590. A document dated 30 November 1591 registers his discharge from the monastery because ‘he had taken no pleasure in his service’. It also states that during his absences from Bologna he was active at Iesi, Faenza and Ripatransone (near S Benedetto del Tronto). By 26 October 1594 he was back at Bologna, but only in ...

Article

[Sarah, Sarra]

(b 1592; d Venice, 1641). Italian poet and amateur singer. In 1614 she married Jacob Sullam, son of the Jewish Mantuan banker Moses Sullam, who, along with his parents, was Salamone Rossi’s benefactor. With her husband and parents, she aided Leon Modena, a relative, in his publications (Modena was the moving spirit behind Rossi’s collection of Hebrew works, Hashirim asher lish’lomo, 1622/3). Copio hosted a literary salon in her home, where she served as patron to aspiring young writers, among them the Christians Giovanni Basadonna, Baldassare Bonifacio and Numidio Paluzzi. After reading Ansaldo Cebà's epic poem Ester (1615–6), she exchanged letters with the author during the years 1618–22; Cebà broke off the correspondence when he realized that he was making little progress in his attempt to convert Sara to Catholicism. Cebà published 53 of his own letters, omitting Sara’s, in 1623. In one, he refers to the pleasure of listening to Sara sing the heroic lament of Andromache from his epic, saying that old age and infirmity prevented him from leaving his native Genoa to hear her. Sara seems to have accompanied herself, on what may have been a Spanish guitar; in this she belongs to the Renaissance tradition of female poets who sang and played, with one difference: she is the only known Jewish female poet to have done so in her own time. Of her own poems, a handful were published among Cebà's letters and 14, some with noticeable musical imagery, were edited in ...

Article

Winton Dean

[Mrs Mozeen; first name unknown]

(fl 1737–53). English soprano and actress. A pupil or protégée of Kitty Clive, she appeared first as a child in a pantomime at Drury Lane (1737) and was principally associated with that theatre until 1748. She had two seasons with Handel: 1740–41 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where she created the parts of Clomiris in Imeneo, and Achilles in Deidamia, and sang in revivals of L’Allegro, il Penseroso, Acis and Galatea and Saul; and 1743 at Covent Garden, where she played one of the Philistine and Israelite Women at the première of Samson and sang ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ in the first London performance of Messiah. The parts Handel composed for her indicate a flexible light soprano with a compass of d′ to b″.

Miss Edwards was very active in London theatres, especially in works by Arne and Samuel Howard, and in pantomimes and songs between acts; she also acted in straight plays, including Shakespeare; like Mrs Clive, she sometimes included specially composed songs. About ...

Article

Dafni Tragaki

[Sarah Skinazi]

(b Constantinople, 1897?; d Athens, 1980). Greek singer of Jewish origin, famous for her recordings of smyrneiko (urban popular song from Smyrna) and rebetiko song. Eskenazy came from a poor family who moved to Thessaloniki around 1900, where she started performing as a dancer until she got married to a wealthy man and gave birth to a son, Paraschos. A few years after her marriage, her husband died and Roza moved to Athens, where she launched her successful career as a musician. In Athens her voice was discovered by the famous rebetiko composer and recordings’ supervisor for the local Columbia record company, Panagiotis Tountas, who promoted Roza as a performer of the cosmopolitan repertoire of the café-aman. As a singer born in the late Ottoman empire, Roza could fluently sing urban popular songs of the Eastern Mediterranean (smyrneiko, i.e. from Smyrna, and politiko, i.e. from Constantinople), rebetiko...

Article

Winton Dean

(b c1741; d after 1779).?English mezzo-soprano and harpsichordist. She may have been the daughter of a Mrs Frederica who sang in the pasticcio opera L’incostanza delusa at the New Theatre in the Haymarket early in 1745. Cassandra was an infant prodigy as a harpsichordist; she played Handel keyboard concertos for her own benefit at the New Haymarket on 10 April 1749 at the reputed age of five and a half, and at Hickford’s Room on 29 April 1750. She and her mother gave two concerts at Amsterdam in July 1750. She studied singing under Paradies, and was engaged by Handel for his oratorio season of 1758, when she appeared in revivals of The Triumph of Time and Truth (Deceit), Belshazzar (Daniel), Jephtha (Storgè), Judas Maccabaeus (Israelite Man) and Messiah. On the last day of 1757 Lord Shaftesbury wrote that Handel ‘has just finished the composing of several new songs for Frederica his new singer, from whom he has great expectations’. These were the five additional songs (adapted from opera arias) first sung in ...

Article

Winton Dean

(b ?Cremona, c1723; d Chelsea, Dec 23, 1804). Italian mezzo-soprano. After singing in Bergamo in 1742, she was engaged for the 1742–3 Italian opera season in London, appearing at the King’s Theatre in Brivio’s Mandane, Galuppi’s Enrico and Sirbace and Porpora’s Temistocle (she took male parts in all four operas). In 1745 she was in a pasticcio, L’incostanza delusa, at the New Haymarket Theatre, but she made her name in Handel’s Covent Garden oratorio seasons from 1747 to 1754. She appeared first in revivals of the Occasional Oratorio and Joseph. On 1 April, 1747 she sang the Israelite Man and Second Israelite Woman at the première of Judas Maccabaeus and made such a hit in the air ‘’Tis liberty alone’ that, according to Burney, ‘she was not only encored in it every night, but became an important personage, among singers, for a considerable time afterwards’. Handel composed parts for her in ...

Article

Winton Dean

(b London, Sept 7, 1731; d London, Feb 9, 1765). Soprano and composer of Italian descent. She was a daughter of Charles Gambarini, counsellor to the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel. She took the second soprano part at the first performance of Handel’s Occasional Oratorio in 1746, and in the Covent Garden revival a year later assumed most of Duparc’s role as well. She created the Israelite Woman in Judas Maccabaeus in 1747, and probably sang Asenath in Joseph and his Brethren the same year. Her name appears in the performing scores of Samson and Messiah, but it is not certain when she sang in these works. Her voice seems to have been a mezzo with a regular compass of d′ to g″, extended occasionally down to b and up to a″. About 1748–50 she published some harpsichord pieces and songs in Italian and English, including a setting of ‘Honour, riches, marriage-blessing’ from ...

Article

Michael Dubiaga Jr

(Antonio)

(b Verona, Dec 30, 1741; d Verona, Jan 4, 1809). Italian composer and singer. He entered the choir school at Verona Cathedral in March 1755 where, in addition to the academic curriculum, he studied plainsong and counterpoint under the maestro di cappella Daniel dal Barba. After his ordination he joined the chapter choir as cappellano and from 1775 was a bass in the cathedral choir. In addition to clerical duties at a local church, he probably served as apprentice to Dal Barba. In December 1779 Giacometti assumed full teaching responsibilities at the choir school and was accorded rights of succession to the cathedral position on Dal Barba’s death. From 1789 he was the leading composer at the cathedral, where he continued in service until the end of his life.

Of special interest among Giacometti’s compositions are an expressive Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel and the virtuoso lectiones for Holy Week in which simple recitative sections alternate with florid solo passages. A small instrumental complement of two violas and violone is often used in his choral music; full orchestral ensembles were used only in pontifical celebrations. A facile declamatory style with little melodic inventiveness prevails in many works, especially his responsories, but occasionally contrasts of key and metre create striking effects. Giacometti’s compositions retained popularity into the 19th century; in Spagnolo’s opinion he ‘was justly considered the most skilful composer of his time’....

Article

Eliyahu Schleifer

(b Kiev, June 1, 1898; d Tel-Aviv, Jan 27, 1964). Israeli cantor and composer of Ukrainian birth. Born into a family of cantors (both of his grandfathers were cantors, as was his father), he made his cantorial début in Kiev at the age of eight. At the age of 14 he became the choir director at his father's synagogue, where he helped to introduce the 19th-century polyphonic repertory. He studied the piano and theory at the Totovsky Conservatory and later counterpoint and composition with Glière. In 1920 he moved to Chişinău, now in Moldova, where he served as cantor and continued his studies with Abraham Berkowitsch (known as Kalechnik), an authority on cantorial recitatives. After emigrating to the USA in 1926 he served as cantor for congregations in New York and Los Angeles. His extensive recordings with Asch and RCA Victor made him famous in Ashkenazi Jewish communities. In ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Bucharest, c 1952). Israeli soprano of Romanian birth . She studied in Tel-Aviv and in Zürich, where she made her début in 1977 as the Queen of Night; in 1978 she sang the same role at Glyndebourne. Engaged with the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, from 1980, she has also sung in Hamburg, Munich, Vienna and Cologne and at La Scala. In ...

Article

Edith Gerson-Kiwi

revised by Israel J. Katz

(b Filzburg, nr Libau [now Liepāja, Latvia], June 11, 1882; d Johannesburg, Aug 15, 1938). Jewish cantor and musicologist of Russian birth. Raised in a traditional German Jewish environment, he trained as a cantor in Libau; he also studied briefly at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) where he met Eduard Birnbaum. Later he studied at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin and at the conservatory and university in Leipzig; his claim to have studied at both institutions with Kretzschmar (history), Zöllner (composition) and Jadassohn (harmony) remains unsubstantiated. He served as cantor at the Adat Jeshurun congregation, Leipzig (1902). From 1903 to 1905 he was a cantor at Regensburg and then after a year in Johannesburg he was persuaded by the president of the Zionist movement, David Wolffsohn, to emigrate to Jerusalem, where he lived from 1906 to 1921. These were decisive years for Idelsohn's research into the diverse musical traditions of the Sephardi and ‘Oriental’ Jewish communities and Muslim and Christian sects. Although his plans in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(b Vienna, March 23, 1895; d New York, 15 Dec. 1974). Austrian soprano . She studied in Vienna and made her début at Frankfurt in 1917, appearing in small roles and achieving a first notable success in Il barbiere. After a season at Darmstadt she sang at the Volksoper in Berlin where her parts included Konstanze in Die Entführung and Violetta in La traviata. In 1926 she became principal soprano in Munich at the Bavarian Staatsoper. She enjoyed a spectacular success at Monaco as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and also became a favourite at Salzburg. Guest appearances at the Vienna Staatsoper in the 1930s seemed about to lead to a substantial career but as a Jew she found her way blocked, and after a heroic period with the Jewish Theatre in Berlin left Europe for America, where she married the writer Jack Siegel and gave up her public career. A delicately clear and beautiful voice combined with remarkable agility and an imaginative style help to place her few recordings among the most delightful of the period....

Article

Harold Rosenthal

(b Jarosław, March 28, 1890; d London, Sept 1, 1957). Polish mezzo-soprano. She studied in Vienna and made her début at the Volksoper in 1911. From 1915 to 1935 she was engaged at Hamburg, and was especially successful in Verdi and Wagner, and as Delilah, Gluck's Orpheus, Fidès (Le prophète) and Marina (Boris Godunov). Being Jewish, she had to leave Germany in 1935; she settled in London, where she sang with much success at Covent Garden, 1935–9, as Ortrud (the role of her début there), Fricka, Waltraute, Brangäne, Herodias (Salome) and Háta (The Bartered Bride). From 1939 she sang in concert and recital and taught in London. She had a warm, beautiful voice and strong dramatic ability. She made few recordings, among them Brangäne in a complete 1936 Tristan with Melchior and Flagstad.

S. Wulf: ‘Sabine Kalter: eine jüdische Altistin, bis 1935 auf einer deutschen Staatsoperbühne’, ...

Article

Mikaela Minga

( b Leskovik, Kolonjë, Albania, ? 1885; d Istanbul, Turkey, ? 1965). Albanian singer of Romani origins . Both her father and brother were saze musicians, a typical ensemble in south Albania, consisting usually of a clarinet, violin, laouto, baglama, and frame drum. Her activity is primarily related to her birthplace, Leskovik, considered a core place for saze performance in the first half of the 20th century. She sang and played the violin with the group. The performances with her brother Selim Leskoviku (singer and clarinettist), recorded for the Odeon label’s 78 rpm recordings, are well known. Their two-part singing is based on the multipart singing practices characteristic of the rural areas of south-eastern Albania. Their saze group was family based. They had their own tavern but were also hired to play in different places nearby. Leskoviku has been described as having a very large vocal range, of up to three octaves. It has been said that she used to dress like a man and cut her hair short, attitudes that attributed her a special status among the ...

Article

Don Harrán

( b Venice, 1571; d Venice, 1648). Italian rabbi, cantor and scholar . He was a cantor in the Scuola italiana (Italian synagogue), Venice, from 1607 until his death. He appears to have introduced some form of polyphony, probably improvised, into the synagogue at Ferrara in 1604. Erudite in Jewish and humanist studies, Modena composed more than 40 writings, on subjects as diverse as Hebrew language and grammar, lexicography, Jewish rites and customs, Kabbalah, alchemy and gambling, as well as various plays, prefaces and rabbinical authorizations, translations, editions, almost 400 poems, and a highly personal autobiography. Music occupied a central place in his life and thought. Among his extended responses to questions put to him in his capacity as a religious authority, he wrote two essays on music, specifically polyphony: the first (1605) legitimizes its use in Jewish prayer services and celebrations, as well as for study; the second (from later years) addresses the issue of whether it is permitted to repeat the name of God (in a single voice or between voices)....

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(d Kensington, London, bur. Aug 28, 1784). English soprano, actress and dancer. The daughter of a Jewish merchant (or tavern keeper) she made her début as Polly in The Beggar’s Opera at the newly opened Covent Garden Theatre in December 1732, with a run of 20 nights in succession. She played Deidamia in Gay’s posthumous ...

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Trena Jordanoska and Dimitrije Bužarovski

(b Skopje, Aug 8, 1943). Macedonian singer of Roma ethnicity . She is identified by her radiant voice, her vivacious, rhythmical, and virtuoso ornamentation, and her charismatic appearance. In her teens, her talent was noticed by the Macedonian accordionist, arranger, and composer of Macedonian traditional music, Stevo Teodosievski (b Kočani, 16 April 1924; d Skopje, 9 April 1997). He mentored her as leading soloist of the Ensemble Teodosievski, established in 1953 and consisting of accordion, clarinet, two trumpets, and tarabuka. The ensemble was later renamed The Esma Ensemble Teodosievski and recorded 108 singles, 20 LPs, 32 cassette tapes, 6 video tapes, and 12 TV programmes. Redžepova and Teodosievski’s partnership resulted in marriage in 1968.

She was one of the first Yugoslav TV celebrities, and a favourite of Josip Broz Tito, receiving the state honours The October Prize of Yugoslavia, A Silver and A Gold Medal from Josip Broz Tito, and the title Remarkable Entertainer of Yugoslavia. The ensemble was also present at the first World Festival of Roma Music and Culture held in the city of Chandigarh, Punjab in ...