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Feb. 8, 9 & 13: Lyric Fest Presents Yiddishe Nightingale, a Short History of the American Yiddish Theater

December 16, 2021 | By Katy Salomon
Account Director, Morahan Arts and Media


 Katy Salomon | Morahan Arts and Media
katy@morahanartsandmedia.com | (863) 660-2214

Lyric Fest Presents Yiddishe Nightingale,
a Short History of the American Yiddish Theater

Featuring Zalmen Mlotek, Cantor Elizabeth Shammash,
and Cantor Thom King

February 8 – Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, PA
February 9 – Adath Israel in Merion Station, PA
February 13 – Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, MD

“An irresistible mix of high art and humane feeling…
as entertaining as a well-managed party.” — Broad Street Review


Philadelphia, PA (December 16, 2021) — Lyric Fest presents three performances of Yiddishe Nightingale, a special concert on the history of the American Yiddish Theater, on Tuesday, February 8, 2022 at 7:00pm at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, PA; Wednesday, February 9, 2022 at 7:00pm at Adath Israel in Merion Station, PA; and Sunday, February 13, 2022 at 4:00pm at Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, MD.

Featured in this unique hour-long program is a showcase of fascinating repertoire that hails from the Ashkenazi traditions of many Central European countries—all kept alive and re-envisioned here in America. Zalmen Mlotek, Artistic Director of the award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in New York City, will host from the piano, while mezzo-soprano and Cantor Elizabeth Shammash and baritone and Cantor Thom King share in song and story. Supertitles with song translations will be displayed during the performances.

“Lyric Fest is excited to return again to our shorter weekday concert offerings, designed to get a little music into the work week. This one is brimming with fun and history,” says Artistic Director Suzanne DuPlantis. “Yiddish song for some is a part of their family traditions, and for others this world of song will be completely new. We’re expecting this concert to delight both these groups, with its old-world flair and modern twists!”

Lyric Fest’s 2021-22 season continues with The Song Catcher on April 9 and 10, 2022 at 3:00pm, featuring Cree CarricoDevony SmithJean Bernard CerinSteven BrennfleckLaura WardCharlotte Blake Alston, and instrumentalists from Orchestra 2001Anything Goes on May 17 and 18, 2022 at 7:00pm, featuring Randall ScarlataSuzanne DuPlantis, and Laura Ward; and The Art of Song on June 3, 2022 at 7:30pm, featuring Justine AronsonGilda LyonsElisa SutherlandMeg BragleJames ReeseSteven EddyLaura Ward, and Michael Brofman.

Concert Information
Yiddishe Nightingale
Tuesday, February 8, 2022 at 7:00pm
The Academy of Vocal Arts | 1920 Spruce St | Philadelphia, PA 19103
Link: https://lyricfest.org/tickets/

Yiddishe Nightingale
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 at 7:00pm
Adath Israel | 250 N Highland Ave | Merion Station, PA 19066
Link: https://lyricfest.org/tickets/

Yiddishe Nightingale
Sunday, February 13, 2022 at 4:00pm
Beth El Congregation | 8101 Park Heights Ave | Baltimore, MD 21208
Link: https://lyricfest.org/tickets/

Nign Rumshinsky
     Zalmen Mlotek, narrator throughout

The Genesis of Yiddish theater
     O Brider gist arayn (Z couple of phrases)

Abraham Goldfaden
     Rozhinkes mit Mandlen 
     Gekumen iz di Tzayt from Bar Kochba

The Dream of America
     Shlof mayn Kind, Sholom Aleichem lullaby 
     Amerike Hurrah far unkl Sem 
     Lebn zol Columbus 
     O Ellis Island 
     Lozt Arayn
     Vatch Your Step 
     Elimelekh/Alexanders Ragtime Band
     Shloymele Malkele

The Pains of Leave-taking
     A Brivele der Mamen

     Ikh vel Vartn Oyf Dir 
     Mayn Yiddishe Maydele
     Makh tzu dayn Eygelekh

     Du Shaynst vi di Zin
     If I Were a Rich Man
     Bay Mir Bistu Shayn

Zalmen Mlotek, host and piano
Cantor Elizabeth Shammash, mezzo-soprano
Cantor Thom King, baritone

About Lyric Fest
Lyric Fest has been hailed in the press as “An irresistible mix of high art and humane feeling… As entertaining as a well-managed party” (Broad Street Review). Founded in 2003 with the goal of celebrating and revitalizing the art song tradition, it is the only performing arts organization in the Mid-Atlantic region with a primary focus on song in all its varied expression.

Lyric Fest has produced and presented over 100 distinctly crafted and curated concert programs. Each has featured multiple artists of national and international stature sharing song through theme and story, together with the spoken word. The organization has defined commissioning new works as an integral part of its mission and programming philosophy. To date, Lyric Fest has commissioned an impressive body of more than 200 new American songs from many of the nation’s preeminent composers.

Lyric Fest is run by two of its founders, artistic directors Suzanne DuPlantis and Laura Ward. Known for their excellence and innovation in creating rich, thematic, accessible concerts, Lyric Fest performs throughout the Philadelphia region, and has brought programs to Washington DC; Moorestown, NJ; Wilmington, DE; New Orleans, LA; Pittsburgh, PA; Brooklyn and New York City, NY; and San Jose, CA. Learn more about Lyric Fest at lyricfest.org.

About Suzanne DuPlantis
Suzanne DuPlantis is Founder and Artistic Director of Lyric Fest. With a passionate commitment to song, and a belief in its power to reach all listeners, Suzanne enjoys sharing this vision with Lyric Fest audiences in novel and dynamic ways in creative program building; in writing scripts and program notes; through graphic design and by creating innovative song videos. Noted for her moving renditions of songs and her intimate way with an audience, “DuPlantis deeply imprints the music with her personality with great emotional underpinning” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). She made her New York debut at Alice Tully Hall with Musica Sacra and her Kimmel Center debut in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Orchestra 2001. Her career in opera has spanned debuts with companies across America in roles from Rossini’s heroines Rosina and Isabella, Carmen to Waltraute. In oratorio, chamber music and song, Suzanne has appeared with many of Philadelphia’s premiere music organizations including The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Philadelphia Chamber Ensemble, Bucks County Choral Society, Singing City, The Wister Quartet, and Orchestra 2001. She has premiered new works written for her, including by Kile Smith, Andrea Clearfield, Robert Maggio, Roxanna Panufnik, Logan Skelton, Allen Krantz and Benjamin C.S. Boyle. She has recorded Brian Gaber’s Ancestral Waters for mezzo, orchestra and jazz trio, and has recently released a CD of American Songbook Standards, Lazy Afternoon – Songs of Love and the South.

About Laura Ward
Laura Ward is pianist and Artistic Director of Lyric Fest, www.lyricfest.org, a unique vocal recital series in Philadelphia. As a distinguished collaborative pianist she is known for both her technical ability and vast knowledge of repertoire and styles. Concert engagements have taken her to Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Spoleto Festival (Italy) and the Colmar International Music Festival and Saint Denis Festival in France. She has served on the faculty of The CoOPERAtive Program at Westminster Choir College, The Academy of Vocal Arts, Temple University, Ravinia Festival Stean’s Institute, Washington Opera, University of Maryland and The Music Academy of the West. Laura’s discography includes Lineage with Grammy-nominated baritone Randall Scarlata, In This Blue RoomLyric Fest performs Songs of Kile SmithDaron Hagen 21st Century Song Cycles and most recently Hat er mir Rosen Gebracht, Songs of Joseph Marx, with Kendra Colton, soprano. Laura is also a recording artist and editor of song accompaniments for publisher Hal Leonard having co-edited: Richard Strauss: 40 SongsGabriel Fauré: 50 Songs, and Johannes Brahms: 75 Songs and recorded over 2000 song accompaniments for Hal Leonard Publishing. These volumes help countless singers and pianists experience, learn and enjoy the art song repertoire and also help introduce a world of art song to many who have had little exposure to classical song. A native of Texas, Laura received her Bachelor in Music degree from Baylor University, holds a Masters in Collaborative Piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and a Doctorate In Collaborative Piano from the University of Michigan where she was a student of Martin Katz.

About Zalmen Mlotek
Zalmen Mlotek (Yiddish: ??????†???†????†¨† born June 15, 1951 in the Bronx, NY) is an American conductor, pianist, musical arranger, accompanist, composer, and the Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF), the longest continuous running Yiddish theatre in the world. He is an internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music and a leading figure in the Jewish theatre and concert worlds. As the Artistic Director of the NYTF for the past twenty years, Mlotek helped revive Yiddish classics, and brought leading creative artists of television, theatre and film, such as Itzhak Perlman, Mandy Patinkin, Sheldon Harnick, Theo Bikel, Ron Rifkin, and Joel Grey, to the Yiddish stage. His vision has propelled classics including NYTF productions of the world premiere of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl in Yiddish (1998), Di Yam Gazlonim (The Yiddish Pirates of Penzance, 2006) and the 1923 Rumshinky operetta, The Golden Bride (2016), which was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and listed as a New York Times Critics Pick. During his tenure at the NYTF, the theatre company has been nominated for over ten Drama Desk Awards, four Lucille Lortel Awards, and has been nominated for three Tony Awards. In 2015, he was listed as one of the Forward 50 by The Forward, which features American Jews who have had a profound impact on the American Jewish community.

Mlotek received his formal training as a classical conductor at the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied under Leonard Bernstein; he also studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Mannes School of Music. He has studied under Zubin Mehta and James Levine. Mlotek received his BA from City College and his MFA in Opera and Conducting from Purchase College in 1982.

He has presented master classes in Yiddish art song, folk, and theater music and taught at Columbia University, Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Bar-Ilan University.

About Cantor Elizabeth Shammash
The daughter of a mother with roots in Latvian Jewry and a Baghdad-born father of Babylonian Jewish tradition who emigrated to America in 1947, Cantor Elizabeth Shammash feels the proud inheritance of two rich Jewish lineages. She recently joined the clergy staff at Adath Israel in Philadelphia, after serving Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell, PA from 2007-2020. In addition, she works with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, mentoring rabbis and cantors in Jewish mindfulness practices.

Prior to entering Jewish Theological Seminary in 2004, her career in opera and concert took her to work with companies including New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Palm Beach Opera,  Sarasota Opera, Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, and the Beijing Music Festival and symphonic appearances including the Israel Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, Los Angeles Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. The 2018-19 season highlight was a Yiddish Liederabend at YIVO in New York City, and 2019-20 included a Leonard Bernstein 100th birthday concert at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, presented jointly by Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and Lyric Fest, with Jamie Bernstein as narrator, as well as a Hebrew Liederabend at YIVO, featuring the arts song of Israeli composers.

Cantor Shammash has recorded extensively for the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music. She holds degrees from Brown University, Manhattan School of Music, Boston University Opera Institute, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is a longtime yoga practitioner and makes her home in Philadelphia with her husband, David Reed, and their rescue dog, Lenny. Learn more at elizabethshammash.com.

About Cantor Thom King
“Thom King is a cantor, but he’s neither old nor bearded, nor a thin tenor. He’s a trained opera singer with a career outside the temple: He has sung baritone roles such as Figaro, Escamillo (“Carmen”) and the villainous Baron Scarpia (“Tosca”). And he likes new music for the Sabbath as much as he likes its familiar melodies.” (The Baltimore Sun)

Cantor Thom King is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Hart School of Music in Hartford Connecticut, where he studied voice and hazzanut under the tutelage of renowned Cantor Arthur Koret. He is a commissioned member of the Cantors Assembly. He has performed internationally in cantorial concerts, recitals, symphony concerts, and opera, and has appearances at Carnegie Hall in NY, and at El Palacio De Las Bella Artes in Mexico. City. Cantor King can be heard on “Thom King Sings Michael Isaacson”, a CD of contemporary Jewish music. He has been our cantor since 1997. He is a founder and director of Beth El Congregation’s adult and junior choirs.

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