Wanting more

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  December 16, 2009

My heart goes out to the directors in their effort to assemble a student cast of actors and singers who were willing to learn Yiddish. For the title role, they found Texan soprano Grace Field, an attractive young professional with a high-ranging, flute-like, very pretty voice when she was singing on pitch (which was most of the time). Her acting, however, was primitive, her diction was muddy (her Yiddish may be better than her English), and her cue pick-ups were so slow, they added considerable dead time. (I attended the third performance, and it ran an unconscionable three hours.) The stock, unsophisticated blocking was no asset. The rest of the cast, a group of game amateurs, seemed to relish what they were doing, but audibility, comprehensibility, and singing in tune were not among their virtues. Russian conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, a scholarship student in conducting at Boston University and an assistant conductor of the Zamir Chorale, probably did as well as she could with the student orchestra. Choreographer Gabrielle Orcha and three other members of her professional dance company were the expressionistic dancers, but their modern style (a friend called it "choreography by Jules Feiffer") seemed anachronistic.

This was my first experience of a Yiddish operetta, and I was so taken with the music, I wanted to hear more. In every sense.

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, the composer Mohammed Fairouz was incorrectly identified as being Egyptian, when he is in fact Anglo-Arabic. The correction has been made above.

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