Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Yiddish Folks Theatre
189 Second Avenue, New York, NY
This production opened on October 7, 1940.


by Abraham Blum, music by Joseph Rumshinsky


This review was written by L. Fogelman for the Yiddish Forward newspaper, appearing in print on November 1, 1940. Here is the review in English:

"Sunrise," Abraham Blum's "musical romance," with which the Folks Theatre on Second Avenue has opened the current season, is so filled with music that the other sides of the operetta are already, as it were, repelled without a side.

And this is, it seems, the great virtue of the new offering; because after everything, the soul of the operetta nevertheless is in her music, and the other parts are only helpers.

J. Rumshinsky, the musical director of the Folks Theatre, has put in a lot of effort, fantasy and talent to develop the new operetta into a musical achievement; and he is successful. He has created an operetta that is Yiddish and secular at the same time, serious and light, touching and playful.

You can find here at least a half-dozen or a half-dozen melodies that you want to hear over and over again. And the melodies are very eloquent: there are fine solo numbers, and here there are also successful duets and trio numbers; and the general musical tone and accompaniment that accompany the entire operetta, is warmer, milder and heartfelt.


The leitmotif of the  musical operetta is interwoven into the romantic song, "In Love Lies True Happiness"; and the motif penetrates you and accompanies you from beginning to end, until you leave the theatre and even then, outside the theatre.

Romantic and with a sad undertone, the unnecessary song, "Sunrise"; and the song, "Tsirele, My Tsirele"; and side by side sounds like melodies that are imbued with fun, playfulness and even sinful frivolity: for example, such graceful, rhythmic melodies, such as "Yes, He Loves Me, No, He Doesn't Love Me," were motifs that soar through the operetta as a light, blowing wind on a hot summer night.

True, not every motif here is very original or spic-and-span new; some of them we have already heard from Rumshinsky himself, I think, perhaps in a different form; but who cares: pleasant melodies want to be heard over and over again, even when they are known, and most of the time, because they are already well known to us.

Concerning the dramatic content of the operetta, Blum has decided to combine here two various worlds that are far apart from each other, as east and west, the world of a high aristocratic Christian family, with the world of a rabbi; and he also has here tried to connect and tie together various sorts of dramatic play -- melodrama, comedy, vaudeville and even burlesque.

He captures his play in the distant Egypt of Pharaoh's time, where the prologue takes place, a scene in which Pharaoh's daughter finds a Jewish child by the river, who was later transformed into Moses. We initially thought that this would be a historical drama for us; but then it turns out that the prologue has nothing to do with the further actions of the play, which is an average melodrama.                                                                                                 


Ludwig Satz

 The prologue apparently needed to serve as a symbol; and I think that it completely overwhelmed. The operetta would lose nothing if the prologue disappeared. I believe, on the contrary, that it would still benefit from it, because the real prologue plays itself out in the first scene of the first act, with Rabbi Itsikl in the room, where he tells a story, that a count twenty-five years ago entered into an agreement with a rabbi to replace their newborn son; because the countess's child was born a weakling, and the rabbi's child was thriving; and the price of the extraordinary agreement was that there was salvation for Jews: here the rabbi offered a sacrifice for the Jews.

This is the introduction to the drama that is built in its further course on a love between the young count (who is in truth, as we know, the rabbi's son), and the rabbi's niece, Tsirele.

The correct name of the operetta should surely be "Tsirele," because almost everything revolves around her. There are three young people who are in love with her:

The young count (who is in truth still a Jew), the Jewish rabbi's son (who is in truth still a gentile, the count's son).  And a pious young man Dovid'l (the rabbi's second son).

All three of them are deeply in love with the beautiful, young Tsirele, and the worlds are revolving around this.

And their love is varied: the count loves romantically, knightly, and he behaves like a true, elegant operetta lover; the idiot, of course, loves idiotically and in a raw way, with wild outbursts of simple-minded passion: and Dovid'l loves in a quiet, still manner as befits a rabbinical Dovid'l.

But Tsirele is not just anyone: she is not only young and beautiful, but she is also well educated (she even studied in a university); she is thus wise to the world, and she philosophizes so, that even the count stops for a while at a frying pan [fritshmelieter] with his mouth open.

Around all the three loves for Tsirele there are quite a bit of melodramatic and comical scenes, accompanied by singing numbers, as it conducts itself in an operetta. It goes through romantic scenes between the young count and Tsirele, comic scenes between them both and the idiot, and some unrealistic scenes between Dovid'l and Tsirele. But the end is, of course, more or less a happy one: the young count becomes emphatic as a Jew and finally wins his beloved Tsirele for his bride. Dovid'l is pleased with the discovery, and the Jewish idiot becomes transformed into a gentile idiot, and the son of the old count with the countess.

The entire melodramatic, comical and musical moments in the operetta give a good opportunity for the director of the group of the Folks Theatre to create an evening of perfectly comfortable, light entertainment.

The romantic side of the operetta here falls mainly on the shoulders of European guest Edmund Zayenda (in the role of the young count) and Ola Lilith (in the role of Tsirele).

Zayenda is a new force on the American-Yiddish stage and is a winner for the Yiddish operetta, which needs some fresh, young forces. He is young, slim, makes quite a fine, attractive appearance and possesses a pleasant voice with good stage manners. He is well-adapted for lover roles in an operetta.

Ola Lilith's main ability consists of singing a song where it does not require such a voice, as much as the intimacy and character of the expression. She introduces a unique tragedy or light undertone into a song, and she also has an intelligent approach to the content and spirit of what she sings. But in the role of a prima donna in an operetta, she is not entirely heimish: this is not her genre, not her vocation. Her "Tsirele" is elegant and pleasant, but it is not any true Tsirele of a musical drama.

Both Zayenda and Lilith perform, it seems, the most important musical numbers.

Ludwig Satz plays the role of the Count's weakling son, the idiot who lives in the rabbi's house. It is needless to say, it seems, what he should not play; he puts into it his unique talent and grace. Here he is at times comical, at times tragic, and mostly tragi-comical. His tragic song, "Who Am I?" here is a genuine Satz-like product, which touches the audience. Therefore, however, Satz can only not free himself here from such "burlesque songs," such as "When She Leaves," which evokes a wider taste.

Tillie Rabinowitz as the rabbi's maid is comical and amusing. As always she shows here temperament, humor and stage experience. By her no words, no opportunity is missed, and she often makes something out of nothing.

Charlotte Goldstein in the role of the young countess' Christian bride is impressive. The pair of dramatic scenes she performs in here she does so with temperament and power.

Paula Klida makes a pleasant impression as Fifige, the frivolous gentile. She is entirely touching and playful, but she has to say some risky words here.


Edmund Zayenda

Seymour Rechtzeit as Dovid'l is quite successful. He sings fine, in a touching way, the song, "Tsirele, My Tsirele," and also plays quite well.

The rabbi is played by Irving Honigman, according to the usual pattern of rabbis in an operetta.

In the role of the rabbi's sexton, Abraham Lax is amusing, with his comical features; he feels a sense of rhythm in his playing, singing and dancing.

The role of the old count and his wife are played with weirdness by Boris Auerbach and Rose Greenfield.

Esther Field here is a rabbi's wife, a Jewish mother. Her song that begs for a "complete recovery" was received sentimentally by the audience.

Special recognition here is due Marietta Alva, for the dance that she arranged. They are held in this style, in the character of the dramatic action. She alone dances, also in all of the numbers, and she stands out from the dancers with her liveliness, flexibility and rhythmicity.

The sets by Michael Saltzman are perfectly passable and pleasing to the eye.

In general the new operetta, "Sunrise," musically is of the better offerings, which we have lately had on the Yiddish stage; it is an operetta at which one may wish to spend an evening in a pleasant manner.





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