Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Nina Talini



She was born in 1901 in Kovno, Lita. Her grandfather was a rabbi. She learned to read Yiddish during her childhood. From her young years she demonstrated a great ability for the stage: She sang, danced, recited. Even as a child of five she performed with a declamation and later fantasized about being an actress. When she completed a Peterburg gymnasium [high school], she arrived in a dramatic school with the Imperial Alexander Theatre, and then played for two seasons in the theatre of Saburov, and in "Theatre of Free Comedy," and at the same time participated in the Peterburg theatre of light genre, "Balagancik." In 1925 she settled in Riga, where she played in Russian drama and then toured with "Blue Bird," under the direction of Yuzhni across Western Europe. She returned to Riga and performed in Russian in Russian drama and in the operetta, where she also sang a Yiddish song.

In 1932 she crossed over to Yiddish theatre. Before she went away she diligently studied Yiddish. About an episode she had with Yiddish, she recalls:

"In Suborov's theatre in Peterburg, where she played, a comedy was going on about Jewish life, 'Di hern toyer,' According to him, she had to say a Yiddish phrase there: 'Well, what did the say?," and the Yiddish prose had such a colossal success that in the span of several months, as long as the play was going on, It became a flying phrase in the city. Everyone everywhere said it. And it can almost be said that part of her popularity was due to her Yiddish phrase.

L. Mirkes (Mark Razumni), who had a talk with her before her moving onto the Yiddish stage, writes:

"For a long time Nina Talini has had an interest in the Yiddish language and for Yiddish theatre, and it was even brought up on us Jews who do not like Yiddish. 'It is simply incomprehensible to me -- she says -- How does a Jew not speak Yiddish and how does a Jewish child learn Yiddish?" It is a pleasure to hear such genuine Yiddish speech by the foreign [goyish] speaker Nina Talini with a golden shock of hair on her head. I cannot free myself from this imprint that here we sit opposite a one hundred percent non-Jewish girl [shikse], and that when she first begins to speak Yiddish, I convince myself that I must be wrong. 'You yourself do not regard me as a goy -- says Mrs. Talini with a guilty smile -- I think, in my childhood years used to constantly hear from my grandfather the rabbi at home, as the rabbi's wife says to the Jews, that what came to him was the 'word of G-d,.' I turned down the phrase, and whoever was coming would say: 'Word of G-d. Be seated,' and often we used to look at the Jews and ask the grandmother: 'See how good the shikse speaks Yiddish.' "

For several years T. played on the Yiddish stage, both in the operetta ("Dos iz zi," "Di amerikanerin," et al.), and in the drama. On 23 September 1933 she performed in the role of "Janus" in "Dovid golder" by Irena Nyemirovska.

Zalmen Zylbercweig, who saw her act in Riga in the Yiddish operetta, writes:

Besides a beautiful voice, which was very appropriate for the prima donna roles, and partly soubrette roles, which she played, she was thought to be extraordinarily elegant, refined and a graceful, who evoked great enthusiasm when they saw her on the stage boards. She was naturally lovely, but the stage added even more beauty to her. She had a good scenic experience, played with temperament, and when not the destruction of World War II had occurred. She has the best look for many years to actually dominate the stage.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, she and her family began to feel scared, that Hitler will capture Latvia. They liquidated their home. Her husband who was a well-to-do merchant in Riga, had together with her and a son immigrated to America. Her husband began to look for a business and did not find one. T. tried to perform in concerts and did not obtain any possibilities. She received a role in a Yiddish film with Michalesko, but her pressing economic condition, it caused her despair and anxiety, that nobody was at home, and on 28 February 1940 she hung herself in her home in New York.

Sh.E. from Zalmen Zylbercweig.

  • L. Mirkes (Mark Razumni) -- Nina Talini -- di "yid. shikse," vos kert zikh um tsum riga yid. teater, 'Batag,' Riga, 16 November 1932.

  • Shoshana G. -- Nina Talini -- gayer "star" in riga yidishn teater, dort, 20 September 1933.

  • [--] -- Flichtling-zingerin fun rusland hengt zikh ven ir man get zuchen a rushav, "Forward," N.Y., 1 March 1940.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 7, page 6193.

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