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Article

William Y. Elias

Opera in two acts (16 scenes) by Josef Tal to a libretto (in Hebrew) by Israel Eliraz; Hamburg, Städtische Oper, 9 November 1971 (in German).

Inspired by an ancient Talmudic legend, and an allegory about totalitarianism, the opera is set in an idyllic, peaceful country. The King (lyric baritone) hates the Queen (mezzo-soprano), whom he married only to prevent war with her father, and is in love with the Landlady (soprano). In Act 1, the devil Ashmedai (tenor) appears one night to the King and suggests that if he, Ashmedai, could rule as king for a year, he could turn the peace-loving citizens into bloodthirsty savages while the King could live happily with the Landlady. The King has such faith in his people that he agrees to the bet, but as soon as Ashmedai assumes the physical traits of the King and ascends the throne the citizens turn into intolerant, aggressive killers. A terrible war breaks out, causing total destruction. In Act 2, Ashmedai has won his bet, but the real King refuses to reclaim the throne because his faith in his people has been shattered. Ashmedai changes into a rooster and is devoured, unknowingly, by the Queen and her entourage. The King returns to his throne but refuses to continue the war, despite the advice of his Son (tenor), the commander of the army, and is lynched by the furious masses. Ashmedai appears to the people but they refuse to believe the truth. In an apocalyptic scene the physical world disintegrates, leaving only the King’s naked body with his anguished, faithful Daughter (soprano) leaning over him....

Article

Atnaḥ  

Article

Shlomo Hofman

(Yid.)

A master of ceremonies at Jewish weddings or social festivities. Bad ḥanim often improvised poems and composed and performed their own songs. In eastern Europe they were also known as marshaliks or leyzim (sing. leyz) and performed at the almost obligatory traditional Purim celebrations, singing, dancing and acting in A ḥashverosh plays. Thus they were the real forerunners of the Yiddish theatre. These merry-makers, wandering actors and musicians performed in all Jewish towns and congregations. Elyokum Zunser (1840–1913), a bad ḥan from Vilna (now Vilnius), wrote about 600 songs, many of which were very popular and of strong Jewish appeal. Another very popular bad ḥan was Mark Varshavsky (1845–1907), a scholar and lawyer from Kiev; he was much influenced by the Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem, and notated and published some of his own songs. His Alefbet (‘Oyfn pripechok’) is still sung in Jewish schools and homes, and in Hebrew translation in Israeli schools....

Article

Article

John S. Powell

(‘David and Jonathan’)

Sacred opera in five acts by Marc-Antoine Charpentier to a libretto by François Bretonneau; Paris, Collège Louis-le-Grand, 28 February 1688.

The drama is set in the Holy Lands during biblical times. King Saul (bass), on the eve of his battle against the Philistines, consults a Witch (haute-contre), who in turn summons the ghost of Samuel (bass); Samuel predicts defeat. David (haute-contre), banished from the camp of the Israelites by Saul, has joined the Philistine army. In spite of his desire for peace, David is forced to fight against the Israelites and his beloved friend Jonathas [Jonathan] (soprano), son of Saul. When he sees his sons dying and himself about to be captured, Saul falls on his sword. Jonathan, mortally wounded, dies in David’s arms, while the Israelites proclaim David to be Saul’s successor as their king.

David et Jonathas served as a five-part intermède to the spoken tragedy ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Thomas S. Hischak

[Gershvin, Israel]

(b New York, Dec 6, 1896; d Beverly Hills, CA, Aug 17, 1983). American lyricist. He submitted light verse to newspapers and periodicals as a student and while working at various jobs before joining his brother George Gershwin to write songs. Their first song to receive a public hearing was The Real American Folk Song, a salute to ragtime, which was introduced by Nora Bayes in Ladies First (1918). Although Gershwin collaborated with other composers (at first under the pseudonym Arthur Francis to avoid being judged by George’s reputation), his close partnership with his brother extended from 1924, when they wrote their first musical comedy, Lady be Good!, until George’s death in 1937. In addition to more than a dozen Broadway shows, including the first musical comedy to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, Of Thee I Sing (1931), they also contributed songs to a number of films. After George’s death Ira worked with a succession of composers, including Weill (...

Article

Golem  

Andrew Clements

Opera in two parts (Prelude and legend) by John Casken to a libretto by the composer with Pierre Audi; London, Almeida Theatre, 28 June 1989.

The ancient Jewish legend of the Golem describes how a saviour figure is created to protect the innocent when a community is under threat. Casken’s treatment of the legend relates its main action in flashback. In the Prelude the Maharal (baritone) remembers in old age how, many years before, he had created a golem. Accompanied by six ghostly madrigalists (the other members of the cast), he relives in his imagination the events that led to the death of his creation, while Ometh (countertenor) reminds the Maharal of his own role in the tragedy. The Legend then tells that story in five scenes. The young Maharal creates the Golem (bass-baritone) from clay on the banks of a river, although Ometh, a wounded, Promethean figure, questions his motives. As the Golem learns to talk and to perform everyday tasks, he comes into contact with the townspeople, with Stoikus (tenor), mourning the loss of his own son, and Miriam (soprano), the Maharal’s wife, whom the Golem desires. Ometh arrives and confronts the Maharal: together with the Golem he could drive evil out of the world; the Maharal angrily dismisses him. When the townspeople meet to rise up against their oppression, the Golem unwittingly interrupts them; after being taunted he kills Stoikus. He is briefly united with Ometh, but the Maharal intervenes, only to discover the murder and what his creation has done....

Article

Richard Wang

[Benjamin] (David)

(b Chicago, May 30, 1909; d New York, June 13, 1986). American clarinettist, composer and bandleader.

Goodman received rudimentary musical training from 1919 at Chicago’s Kehelah Jacob Synagogue and, more importantly, two years of instruction from the classically trained clarinettist Franz Schoepp. He made his professional début in 1921. During his formative years he absorbed the music of the New Orleans musicians; he was particularly influenced by Leon Roppolo, the clarinettist with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. In summer 1923 he met Bix Beiderbecke whose influence may be heard in Goodman’s on-the-beat attacks, careful choice of notes and across-the-bar phrasing on A Jazz Holiday (1928, Voc.) and Blue (1928, Bruns.) – especially on the latter, where Goodman played solos on both alto and baritone saxophone. In August 1925 Goodman left for Los Angeles to join Ben Pollack. Pollack’s band returned to Chicago in January 1926 and early 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

Thomas L. Gayda

[Will; Williams, Hugh; Milos, André]

(b Vienna, Aug 11, 1894; d New York, Dec 10, 1939). Austrian composer, pianist and conductor. Born into a Jewish family of jewellers, he studied with the operetta composer Richard Heuberger, Robert Fuchs, the musicologist Guido Adler and Franz Schreker. After he left the Vienna Music Academy in 1919, his Zwei phantastische Stücke was given its first performance by the Vienna PO. The following year he received a doctorate in music from Vienna University. While he remained initially faithful to the late-Romantic, Impressionist line, he became the first Austrian composer to introduce jazz idioms into his music. His grotesque ballet-pantomime Baby in der Bar (1928) marked him as one of the prime exponents of the Zeitgeist of the Weimar era.

In 1927 Grosz moved to Berlin and became the artistic director of the new Ultraphon record company, quickly building up its catalogue as a conductor, arranger and pianist. He formed a well-known piano duo with Wilhelm Kauffman and toured Europe as a highly-sought accompanist and conductor. When the National Socialists seized power in ...