The play "Freylekhs" about a Jewish wedding was written in 1943 by Zalman Okun (Shneur) specifically for the Moscow State Jewish Theater (GOSET). This unique theater was founded in 1920 and the only language actors spoke during performances was Yiddish. "Freylekhs" was the last premiere performed by GOSET. It was marked by festive extravagance and delighted the audience with joyful music and dances, memorable, colorful characters and a balanced mixture of comedy and drama.
The theater met a tragic fate . In 1948 their director Solomon Michoels was murdered in an assassination attempt ordered by Stalin. A year later his friend and stage partner, Veniamin Zuskin, who had directed the theater after Michoels' death, was arrested and died in custody. The GOSET lost its funding, and visitors were so frightened that the theater could no longer find an audience and soon closed .
My master's project connects the play “Freylekhs” to the history of the theater itself . It explores what Moscow Jewish theater was like and finds inspiration for the present by delving into the past. The play, which is pantomimic, evolves from a theater rehearsal as a creative process and an attempt to stage a wedding celebration. The play is directed by two badchens, a kind of wedding masters of ceremonies and at the same time traditional comedians, that guide the musicians.
The music of the performance "Freylekhs" consists of various elements, which can be divided into those of the past and of the present. The past is evoked with the noise of a vinyl record, the scraping of the needle. These sounds open the performance, and they appear at different moments, their sources alternating between small portable speakers and the speakers above the stage, the sound enveloping the entire space. Old recordings, with the voices of actors of the GOSET Theater and music captured from the original production became part of the score. One of the scenes in the play is built as a dialogue between the violin on stage and the sound of the old violin from the speaker.
Another important sound of the past is represented with folk songs. The music of the wedding dances uses original folk tunes, and in the bride's scene the violin part is based on the two lamentations of the bride, a Russian and a Jewish one.
The present is highlighted using my original score, which serves to tie the story together. The themes of my music are linked by a shared interval and modal solution. The Ukrainian Dorian mode, traditional to Jewish music, serves as a recurring element throughout the score. As the number 7 is symbolic to the story, the minor 7th interval serves as a unifying thematic element appearing in both dances and lyrical scenes.
Both elements are complemented by the sounds of live electronics, which I performed myself during the play. At times it is sharply opposed to the sounds of acoustic instruments, interrupting their performance, when at others it’s designed to imperceptibly penetrate into the score, merging with the live sounds on stage.
The instrumental theater play about a Jewish wedding and the history of the Moscow State Jewish Theater.