Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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Rolland Theatre
1768 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, NY

This production opened on December 22, 1933.

(The Rabbi's Temptation)

by Shlomo Steinberg, music by Sholom Secunda.
review by Lazar Fogelman, published on December 29, 1933.


In the Rolland Theatre Aaron Lebedeff is not playing in Shlomo Steinberg's operetta with the name of "The Rabbi's Temptation," with music by Sholom Secunda.

From the name itself, one can easily guess that we are dealing with a Hasidic world, which is not painted with too-light colors and which is not sung with special praise songs. When they speak about a rabbi's "temptation," they don't mean his desire to learn, or of the next world, but they mean his sinful desire, his simple desire for this world.

An old Hasidic rabbi, R' Nisele, a gray-green widower, is looking forward to marrying in his old age, with Tsirele, the young, beautiful daughter of Gedaliah the tailor. The same girl, however, is very much in love with the rabbi's son, a tsadik, who escaped secretly from the yeshiva and became a helper for Gedaliah the tailor, of course, all because of Tsirele.

In the time when the rabbi, the Olam Haza'nik, prepares to test his marriage with the tailor's daughter, and when he dreams after that about the happy moments that he will experience with her, his clever son Itzik works out a bitter plan, how to destroy his father's delayed love dreams. He includes the swearing against the father, the rabbi's gabai and the bride herself, and together with them he destroys the father's wedding on the very day of the wedding ceremony.

He thinks of a libel, that the bride must first become a mother; and the rabbi loves his "temptation"; he barely shakes off the sinful girl with whom Itzik alone then marries, to the rabbi's great surprise.

About the content of the operetta, one can see that it has in it quite a bit of peppery moments; but the author and the director have made such sharp moments and scenes even more peppery. People keep talking about the rabbi's delayed and impotent desire for the young girl; people make fun of it. The sinful rabbi pours out sweat every time he approaches the girl. They don't make various hints, they wink too mischievously with their eyes on the rabbi. And a strange, unhealthy mood is created in the theatre momentarily, a mood that is often felt in a burlesque theatre.

But at the same time we see for ourselves in the new operetta interesting scenes and images that could be turned into artistic scenes, when they are carried out in the right way. 

There is, for example, an interesting scene where the Hasidim renew the moon. If the scene would have been performed in half-dark lighting, with quiet singing, with the necessary movements, it would have created a good mood in the theatre. However, it was staged with a sharp, cutting movements and with screams, and the effect is lost.

The same is also with the first interesting scene, where the tailor-apprentices are working and by the way singing folk songs. Also here too, the right mood was not created, which could have been created if the light effects and the necessary lighting were used correctly.

The general furnishings of the operetta is not bad at all, and there are some quite impressive images and scenes.

Secunda's music here is a guess; he generally has a feeling for folk-motifs, and he weaves them together in a successful way in the operetta.

Several melodies, although far from original, are very pleasing, and they are easily remembered, for example, the songs "Forget Me Not," and "Vi a khoylem vi a feyl fun boygen" have in them a melodic charm.

Israel Rosenberg's lyrics here are better than the average lyrics of an operetta.

And the acting of one participant is better this time than when it is different.

Jacob Zanger, as if exaggerating is not in his performance, has created here with sharp strokes a comic type of an alert, temperamental high gabbai, in whom the soul does not rest. He often falls into a burlesque tone, a farce, but when can such a type be taken seriously in an operetta? It's just a fun, light act, no more, and he's quite restrained in his light playfulness.

A little lighter is Abraham Lax in the role of the shemash, but also he shows here humor and fun.

Lucy Levine here, perhaps, she is a bit too spoiled to be the daughter of a tailor; but every time it is pleasant to see and to hear her on the stage, even when the type that she portrays, does not mean as much as we may imagine.

The rabbi's outward appearance gives Leon Blank, his handsome, dignified appearance, his haughty face, but it is too spiritual for his clumsy, earthly passion. And his movements are a bit too lively, too much for such an old Hasidic rabbi.

Aaron Lebedeff plays, you see, the young Itzik, the rabbi's son. Here he is the same smart happy young guy as in other such young roles that he has played. And entirely touching is Bertha Hart in the role of the presiding maid, the rabbi's niece.

Henrietta Jacobon here doesn't have much to play, but in the few moments she is lively and cheerful, and she amuses the audience.

The audience accepts the rabbi's "temptation" very warmly; they laugh for the rabbi; they laugh from the jokes and words; people still follow the exciting scenes with interest and the sentimental religious melodies.

And when the curtain falls, the romantic song still rings in the ears: "Forget Me Not! Forget Me Not!"





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