Bas Sheva by Moishe Broderzon

Among Yale Library’s extensive collection of sheet music is the Yiddish opera, Bas ShevaMus_miscms_530 The opera in Yale’s possession is in manuscript form. The lyrics are romanized, probably because musical notes can only be written from left to right, whereas Yiddish is read from right to left. The title page can be considered a work of art in itself, and in all probability Broderzon is the illustrator. Sometimes called Dovid and Bas-Sheva¸ this opera premiered in Warsaw’s prestigious Kaminski Theater on May 14, 1924. It is not known if it was ever performed again. Moishe Broderzon (1890-1956), the librettist, was born in Moscow but made his home in Lodz, Poland, where he did his most important artistic work. He was involved in just about every aspect of Yiddish culture and art. A poet and a playwright, he helped found a literary journal, a puppet theater, and a cabaret theater. He fled to Russia at the outbreak of World War II. Broderzon was arrested by the Soviet authorities in 1950 and died shortly after being released from a Stalinist labor camp. Henekh Kon (1998-1972) was a composer of musical theater and film. He is probably best known as the composer of the musical score for the Yiddish film The Dybbuk, based on S. Ansky;s play. Kon was a major figure in the Polish-Jewish cultural scene of the interwar period. He worked with Broderzon in founding the Chad Gadya marionette theater in Lodz (1922) and the Azazel (1925), Sambatyon (1926), and Ararat (1927) theaters in Warsaw. Kon left Poland before World War II and moved to New York. He thus survived the terrible fate that befell other Yiddish artists and intellectuals who were swept up in the Nazi inferno or the Stalinist persecutions. The Yale Library’s large collection of Yiddish and Hebrew sheet music is housed in the Gilmore Music Library.

Leave a Reply