Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jacob Kelter

M. was born on 12 December 1880 in Warsaw, Poland, into a well-to-do family. He completed the local conservatory. In 1910 he was taken into the Polish operetta theatre as a soloist. In 1913 he went over to the Yiddish stage. About this, Pesakh Kaplan says:

"In the Spring of 1913, when Peretz Sander had received my convictions from Franz Lehar's 'Chava,' and Gilbert's 'Shoshanah di tsnue (Shoshana the Chaste'?). He still has not been able to think about performing these operas, because he did not have the proper artist for the main role of the moment. There was then a certain Yiddish actor with a large, beautiful voice, who used to excel in performing the roles of 'Absalom'  ('Shulamis'), and 'Bar kokhba,' but he is only able -- complaining to Sandler -- in a paper crown, not in a European costume. How does one find an intellectual artist who is a tasteful singer and can even wear a suit and be a modest performer on the stage? Finally, he met K., who had played in the Polish operetta in the lead role of 'Sanders' in the operetta, 'Chava.'

Kelter on the Polish scene was not any first-rate artist, After all, such would not have happened on the Yiddish scene. His great virtue, however, was that he had European salon manners. he felt good dressed up in a peacoat with pressed pants and felt good going out with his lady friend.

Kelter possessed a fine ideal lyric tenor voice, had his solo appearances quite energetic, and he was an appropriate partner to Neroslavska. ... Turns out that just like Neroslavska, K. for the


first time, it was not possible to read Yiddish text, and it had to be transferred -- to her in Russian ethics [autiut] and to him in Polish.

And although Kelter, besides being a singer without any special artistic abilities that he excelled at, he, however, due to his general intelligence and tactical action, created a respectful relationship in the environment of the actors, and also had a favorable press.

Then the European operetta astonished at the boards of "Eliza" three premieres in one season: "Chava" by Franz Lehar, "Shoshana" from Gilbert, and "Tsigayner libe (Gypsy Love)" from Lehar, all in my opinion, and in the offering of Neroslavska-Kelter in the main role.

Kelter remained on the Yiddish stage. Once caught up in a whirlpool, it couldn't be so quickly turned away from him. However in the "Pintele Yid," and in "Yidishe nehomes (Jewish Souls)," he didn't feel like he was in his skin, and there was unable to hold onto his previous exalted position. Due to his intelligence and idealistic soul, he acquired a great deal of land from the artists, and even for a certain time was chairman of the union. Gradually, however, he became alienated from this profession, and for him he is entirely away from it."

Noakh Prilutski writes about K.'s acting in "Shoshana the Chaste":

"An important win for the Yiddish stage is the intelligent and sympathetic Mr. Kelter. His singing and his acting were very pleasant. He only should pay more attention putting on the hand and foot: He throws in too much with them. This somewhat shatters the impression. The movements of cultural people are always disciplined."

Zygmunt Turkow in his book, "Fragments of My Life," speaks retrospectively about the offering of "Chava" in Yiddish, and puts it this way about K.:

"True, Neroslavska has also contributed to the success of the Yiddish "Eva." The younger operetta singer Jacob Kelter, who then debuted in Yiddish theatre, has brought out freshness, and a new tone in the present, the standard way of playing a 'lover.' Disappeared is the petiteness of word and movement, the employment of 'interrelated' attitudes and 'innate' elements that would have even more emphatically emphasized the primitive vulgarity of the employee. Jacob Kelter was a happy win for the Yiddish theatre, and had with time occupied a prominent position. Alone from an assimilated Warsaw family, he became interested in Yiddish theatre and was kindly received. Also we loved receiving Kelter, feeling in him a good friend, indeed. He was close to our interests and struggles, and he indeed for years later, already in independent Poland, at one time was elected as chairman of Yiddish Artist's Union, which he also helped to establish."

On 12 September 1938 K. passed away in Warsaw.

  • Noakh Prilutski -- "Yiddish Theatre," Bialystok, 1921, Vol, 2. pg. 122.

  • Pesakh Kaplan -- Yakov kelter -- der europeasher artist oyf der yudisher stsene, "Nayer folksblat," Lodz, 19 September 1938.

  • Zygmunt Turkow -- "Fragments of My Life," Buenos Aires, 1951, p. 237.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 4931.

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