Bente Kahan Sings Mordechai Gebirtig
A dramatic concert, Bente Kahan depicts, through her musical interpretation, the characters Gebirtig recreated in his songs. She is accompanied by Dariusz Swinoga, accordion, and Miroslaw Kuzniak, violin.
The concert premiered in Warsaw, Poland in 1992, and since then has been shown more that 200 times on stages in many European countries, the USA and Israel.
Mordechai Gebiritg is one of the most important names linked to Yiddish folk-song tradition.
With simplicity, humour and warmth, the carpenter from Cracow has created through his songs a documentary of the people of Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter in Cracow, with its poverty, despair and misery, as well as love, happiness and hope. The Jewish world of Kazimierz disappeared with the Holocaust. Mordechai Gebirtig suffered its fate. In 1942 he was shot by the Nazis in Cracow ghetto, as he was being deported to Belzec death camp.
Extract from reviews:
In Bente Kahan’s interpretation this world comes to life. It sparkles with folk-humour, it moves with lyricism and warmth, and it makes one pounder over the death of its philosophy and wisdom. The actress sings in Yiddish, but the truth of the poems reaches everybody. Each song is a carefully prepared thought through creation, original in its dramatic and vocal presentation.
Zycie Warszawy, Poland, 1992
“Bente Kahan, through her very different and radiant artistry, has restored the surviving memories of Cracow’s once vibrant Jewish life.”
The Jewish Advocate, MA, USA, 1998
A touching journey in time and space and back again, into the deapths of the soul and heart, where all languages melt into one we can all understand.”
Arbejderen, Copenhagen, 1993
“This is Jewish theatre for everyone! Gebirtig’s songs were conveyed with the fantastic warmth and enormous dramatic talent of the Norwegian-Jewish actress Bente Kahan.”
Berlingske Tidende, Copenhagen, 1993
“This was more than a concert. It was true art which managed to express the deepest and most profound in the drama of life itself.”
Lindesnes, Norway, 1993
“It’s burning, brothers! It’s burning!”
“. . . Bente Kahan turns (post-World War II soul-searching) into art, although without simply allowing us to escape into sweet-sounding music. . .In her program of songs written by the carpenter (Mordechai) Gebirtig, she doesn’t simply impose on us the horrors (of the war). There are enough songs which result in hearty laughter. . .Her emotional scale is so enormous as to recreate the ordinary bloke to the piqued governess – and all with deliciously plastic facial expression. But what remains branded on the brain is the moment when the (music) aspires to. . .transform a face into a death mask. And then it comes: “It’s burning, brothers! It’s burning!” Her tears could not put out the fire – and they were not theatrical tears either.
Waiblinger Kreiszeitung, 10 November 01.
“This is Bente Kahan’s tribute to Mordechai Gebirtig. (With) considerable confidence and aplomb. . . Bente Kahan delivers her repertoire with onot the slightest hint of sensationalism. Her voice is powerful and she moves with apparent ease from laughter to tears, is sad and quick to exude happiness. This is an expressive performer who draws a full house. (Accompanying her are). . . two marvelous musicians. Miroslaw Kuzniak is an exceptionally wonderful violinist and Dariusz Swinoga a superb accordionist.
Schwäbisches Tagesblatt, November 1995.
“Bente Kahan makes her music soar above the stage, like a blue bird of love.”
Expressen, Stockholm March 1994.
“‘Farewell Cracow’ is a touching and richly varied musical theatre. It is more than sad memories of a time gone by. It is also a part of a living tradition which has lots more to tell us.”
Ekstra Bladet, Copenhagen September 1993.
“. . .more than a concert. What we saw was true art which manages to express the deepest and most profound drama of life itself. Bente Kahan is a musician (and). . . a human being who dares to expose her vulnerability and convictions through an enormous range of emotions.”
Lindesnes, October 1993.
“‘Farewell Cracow’ addresses everyone. . .and, sadly, the message it contains remains relevant. It is a reminder of, and a warning against, Nazism and racism. ‘Farewell Cracow’ is an important performance for all of us to see.”
Asker & Baerum Budstikke, March 1993.
“The actress Bente Kahan made her pain that of the audience’s, her joy became their joy. . . The fates she portrays (through the songs) are timeless and universal.”
Westmar, March 1993.
“Bente Kahan’s interpretation (of Gebirtig’s music) sparkles with folksy humor, lyricism and warmth. The actress sings in Yiddish but the truth in the poems reaches everyone. Her interpretation is original and her vocal presentation is dramatic.”
Zycie Warszawy, Warsaw, May 1995.
“When Bente Kahan invites you to a concert with a Jewish soul, you can be certain it won’t be a dusty. . .rehash of musical folklore from a dying culture. In her hands, the music lives and pulsates. . .she paints her picture with all the vibrant colors of the palette.”
Vart Land, November 1992.