POST: 'The Golden Bride' - these words were my roots
What's it about?
The Golden Bride is a 1920s Yiddish operetta and romantic comedy told almost entirely in song. The story follows the beautiful Goldele, and her hilarious and heartbreaking struggles in finding a suitable husband after inheriting a substantial sum of money from her late father.
What'd I experience?
When I heard about The Golden Bride, I jumped at the chance to experience it, over the moon at the prospect of seeing a show that combined operatic music and the Yiddish language. As both a singer who has studied Opera and a Jew, it seemed like I couldn't have found a more perfect fit.
I had always thought of myself as someone who knew her fair share of Yiddish terms. I'd heard a lot of them in my 21 plus years, and frequently enough to give me the impression that they had become fully integrated into the daily vocabulary of the average New Yorker. Below is just a small sampling of the Yiddish words I know and use, as defined by The Yiddish Glossary:
ESSEN, meaning Eat.
GELT, meaning Money.
KLUTZ, meaning Ungraceful, awkward, clumsy person.
KOSHER, meaning Food prepared according to Jewish dietary laws based on "cleanliness". Also referring to the legitimacy of a situation.
K'VETSH, meaning Whine, complain; whiner, a complainer.
MAZEL TOV, meaning Good Luck and generally used to convey "congratulations".
NUDJE, meaning Annoying person, badgerer
NOSH, meaning Snack
OY VEY, meaning "Oh, woe is me".
SHLEP, meaning Drag, carry or haul, particularly unnecessary things, parcels or baggage; to go somewhere unwillingly or where you may be unwanted.
SHMOOZ, meaning Chat, talk.
TCHOTCHKES, meaning Little playthings, ornaments, bric-a-brac, toys.
But despite my enthusiasm for the production, its language, music, and all - there was something bittersweet about the show playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which is labeled "A Living Memorial to the Holocaust". The first time I visited was in 2008 with my 8th grade humanities class, where I vividly remember meeting a Holocaust survivor. And to be heading to the same place eight years later to see a... romantic comedy? It felt... strange.
Even so, I raced downtown from my office in Columbus Circle, only just making the start of the show. The set was colorful and intricate, and the cushioned seats were as comfortable as a person would want them to be. I spotted a backdrop just transparent enough to allow a partial view of the live orchestra behind it, featuring, among others, a conductor rocking a yarmulke.
I came into the theatre not having seen many live musical performances both written and performed in a different language. The subtitles, both in English and Russian, were projected directly above the stage. It was difficult at first for my eyes to constantly shift from where the subtitles were printed to the stage. I had no other choice if I wanted to follow along with the text whilst also seeing the show.
I was surprised by how beautiful I found the music to be. For some reason, I had never thought of Yiddish as an attractive language. And aside from my basic understanding of a handful of Americanized Yiddish words, I was as far removed from Yiddish as a person could be. Yiddish, the same language my grandparents and great grandparents spoke... These words were my roots. And Jewish culture was my culture, including both the dark and the light of the past and present. It made me smile to be surrounded by such positivity within the Jewish community. For yes, we should never forget the past and the horrors the Jewish people went through, but we should also never allow those tragedies to block out creativity, innovation, and benevolence.
And when Goldele - newly reunited with her mother and engaged to the person she had loved since she was a child - lived out her happy ending, it became clear to me how important it was for people to associate good, laughter, and beauty with the Jewish people. I suddenly knew that this sort of representation was crucial, especially in a Holocaust museum, which is generally thought of as a somber space. During the bows, the cast encouraged us audience members to sing with them as the lyrics to Mayn Goldele (My Goldele) were projected overhead, and I stood and craned my neck to see because I didn't want to miss a word.
Want to see it?
:( Sorry. This show is not currently showing.