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May 19 2024

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Synagogue: Cantors, Opera Singers, and Jewish Performance Culture

classical, lectures-symposia, screenings, talks
UCLA Hillel

A Conference and Program at UCLA
May 19-21, 2024

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Synagogue, Conference Presentations will now be held at UCLA Hillel, 574 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Hillel is across the street from UCLA Parking Structure 2. 

The Ancient Law: A Cine-Concert will now be held at the Milken Institute, home to our Milken Family Foundation at 1250 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401; Santa Monica Parking Structures 1 & 9 are closest to the venue. 

If you have any questions, please email us at infomilkencenter@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu 

We look forward to seeing you!

Going to and from – or even just past – the synagogue has long been a central feature of the Jewish experience. As a moral and aesthetic benchmark, the synagogue with its sounds, texts, and rituals has infiltrated the cultural creations of Jews in many realms, including music, theater, and film. By the same token, mainstream culture – art, popular, and folk alike – has often found its way into the Jewish sacred sphere. The theater itself has frequently functioned as a sacred space, embodying the constant tension between religious impulses and secular realities, particularly in the immigrant context.

Through presentations and musical performances, this conference examines how Jews’ construction and crossings of boundaries of various kinds, both ideological and geographic, reveal their liminal position as people caught between worlds. Cantorial singing, opera, and musical and theatrical performances of all kinds are especially salient arenas that highlight what has been at stake in creating and policing religious and aesthetic boundaries, particularly with respect to conceptions of Jewish, national, social, and racial identities. The conference also explores the delicate balancing act Jews have performed in seeking ways to speak to both mainstream audiences and co-ethnics through their work in radio and film.

A fundamental goal of this conference is to gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the cultural boundaries that Jews have negotiated in their quest to find meaning and stability in a chaotic and sometimes hostile world. The conference thus sheds light on the simultaneously fraught and fruitful engagements with many cultural categories, including the holy and the profane, the art world and popular culture, the ethnic sphere and the mainstream, that have defined the life of Jews in the Old World and the New.

Click here for the full program

Presented by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience and the UCLA Center for Musical Humanities at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

This event is made possible by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

This program is made possible by the Joyce S. and Robert U. Nelson Fund. Robert Uriel Nelson was a revered musicologist and music professor at UCLA, who, together with his wife, established a generous endowment for the university to make programs like this possible.

Co-sponsored by The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and the Natalie Limonick Program on Jewish Civilization in memory of Miriam Nissell Rose, and the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts.

Like most of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s programs, this event is FREE! Register in advance for this event via the link below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event.  Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Early arrival is recommended. Registrants receive priority up until 15 minutes before the event.

While Inside the Venue:

No Food or Drink allowed in the building.