Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leon Kornfeld

He writes in his life story, sent to the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," the history of Yiddish theatre in Constantinople, Turkey, where he lived. He remembers that when he was ten years old, there arrived in Constantinople Professor Horowitz with a small group of amateurs in the Galata region, in a cafe house that took in about some one hundred to one hundred and twenty people, without a stage, and without proper sets. They performed "Don Yitskhok Abarbanel," and did some bad business, such that Horowitz simply was hungry.

When K., was a fifteen-year-old, there arrived in Constantinople, Kalmen Juvelier with a troupe of some twelve persons (Juvelier, Rauch, Friedman and wife, Lianski, Motl Goldring, Rosa Friedman) and staged Goldfaden's "Bar kokhba," "Shulamis," "Di kishufmakherin," "Dos kaprize tekhterl," Sheikowitz's "Koketn-dame," "Don Itskhok Abarbanel," "Der yudin in himel," et al. The troupe did very good business. There K. was only an understudy. The troupe played some seven weeks for four times a week, because most of the time the Jews who were Sephardic did not understand Yiddish very well. Four people remained from the troupe, who took to performing as a quartet.

K. traveled to Romania, where he stayed for four years and was called back to Constantinople by his uncle for whom he became a bookkeeper in his clothing business. In the meantime there began in Constantinople a large immigration  of Romanian Jews. K. married a daughter of a Russian Jew, who had a beautiful voice, and he spoke to her about performing with him in "Di bobe mitn eynikl" by Goldfaden for a charitable cause. The This chick (TSHIK) takes a lot out [?]. Then (in the "Concordia" Theatre) lead them on for a charitable cause.=, Goldfaden "the capricious daughter," touching on the AFISHN "direction--Leon Kornfeld), then "Koldunye" (with K. as "Di bobe yakhne"), Shliferstein's "Dora," and Latayner's "Dovids fidele (David's Violin)." K. began to neglect the business and apply himself only to the theatre.

A Yiddish troupe came to Paris under the supervision of Gelis (Gelis, wife and daughter, Yosele Groper, Lerer et al), who played for a month's time "Mishke and Moshke," "Dora," "Der bel-tsuvah." K. got back from the theatre, opened a tailor's shop, then returned to productions with the amateurs, traveled with them on "Der yidisher poritz" by Sheikowitz, in which he participated also with the returning Rose Friedman (Goldfaden's "Frayndele kozak"), and played with them for eight months in various plays. Here from Romania came Aaron Rozenblum with a troupe of some twenty-five people, including Shrage, Vaynstok and his wife, a chorus of fourteen people). K. became a partner with the direction. After playing for three months Solomon Krause came came with a troupe of thirty people (Krause, his wife Krause-Miller, Aaron Lebedeff, Dranov, Boodkin and his wife). Besides operettas the troupe, in a span of three months, also staged no plays. For two years after Constantinople remained without a Yiddish theatre. K. then got a proposal from Avraham Fiszon to come with a troupe of sixty-five people, but K. showed him that the troupe was too big, and again Rozenblat came with his troupe, also among them his uncle Jacob Silbert, who performed in "The Sacrifice of Isaac." Meanwhile another troupe came, and both united. After playing for three months K. was the administrator,. Krause came gain with a troupe (with his new wife Miriam Gurewitz), Lebedeff, the Boodkins and others), who also did "Chasia the Orphan" and "Devorah'le meyukheses" (with Kornfeld as "Samson Eyzenshtol").

After playing for three months, K. began to travel with an Italian Liliput Opera troupe which also came to Romania. He returned to Constantinople, where K. performed with his amateurs the play, "A shtrik oyfn haldz" (with the participation of Friedman and his wife). Then Paul Beitman arrived with Vera Kanievska, with a troupe. In 1914 Leopold Kaner arrived with his wife and daughter, the Friedman brothers from Romania, who did not perform in any plays. Among them "Mirele efros" with Sarah Kaner in the title role,, although the troupe was small, she made the best business. [This is] because the audience was already used to the Yiddish theatre, and because he had played every night, and mostly because then there in Constantinople there were many Ashkenazi Jews.

After the First World War Breitman-Kanievska again came to Constantinople, and K. brought form Vienna an operatic troupe. He wandered off to America, where he settled in Providence.







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 7, page 6297.

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