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May 10 2023

Part 2—New World Negotiations of Old World Jewish Identities: A 3-Session Lecture Series

May 3, 10, and 17 at 11:00 a.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. ET

Session 2 (May 10): Daniela Smolov Levy, “The Nomad and the Actor: Ben Hador and the Cosmopolitan Yiddish Operetta”

“Professor” Moyshe Hurwitz’s historical operetta Ben Hador was an unexpected smash hit with Yiddish-speaking audiences at its 1901 New York premiere, continuing to draw the Jewish public on both sides of the Atlantic for two decades. This presentation considers how this non-Jewish story became a powerful vehicle for dealing with issues of identity and agency that were at the heart of the Jewish experience as immigrant and outsider. More broadly, this analysis reveals that this niche ethnic minority entertainment was in fact a cosmopolitan genre. This presentation thus brings a new perspective to understanding the Yiddish historical operetta by suggesting it was a branch of the mainstream European operetta whose popular performance formulas and theatrical conventions it adapted for a Jewish public.

Daniela Smolov Levy is a musicologist who studies the history of popularly oriented opera in America. She is currently a research fellow (working remotely) at Tel Aviv University as part of a collaborative project that explores early twentieth-century popular Yiddish theater. She is also a research fellow at UCLA, organizing a series of talks leading to up to a conference in 2024 on the topic of Jews and cultural boundaries in music, theater, and film in America. Daniela is currently working on a book about Yiddish speakers’ engagement with opera in early twentieth-century America. She holds a doctorate in Musicology from Stanford University, a Master’s degree in Piano Performance from New York University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature and Music from Princeton University. Her work has been published in the Musical Quarterly, Journal of Synagogue Music, and Wagnerspectrum, and she has given invited talks at UCLA, the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language, and the Jewish Music Forum. In addition, Daniela has taught opera history at Pomona College and courses on music and class in American society as well as the sociology of culture at the University of Southern California.

Session 3 (May 17th, 11 AM PT/2 PM ET): Ross Melnick, “American Showman: Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel, the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, and His Formative Place in American (Jewish) Cultural History”

This program is presented by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

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