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Project Recalls Yiddish Theater Legends

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Project Recalls Yiddish Theater Legends

Performing Arts

Project Recalls Yiddish Theater Legends

Project Recalls Yiddish Theater Legends

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4601242/4601295" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Web Extra: Boris Thomashefsky singing the Kaddish, from a Columbia recording in 1929.

Only Available in Archive Formats.

Bessie and Boris Thomashefsky were the most popular performers of the Yiddish Theater era. Thomashefsky Project/Michael Tilson Thomas hide caption

toggle caption Thomashefsky Project/Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas, left, with his grandmother, Bessie, and his father, Ted Thomas Thomashefsky Project/Michael Tilson Thomas hide caption

toggle caption Thomashefsky Project/Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas is a superstar in the classical music world. He is the music director of the San Francisco Symphony and artistic director of Miami’s New World Symphony. This weekend, Tilson Thomas is taking a look at the world of his grandparents, who were superstars of another era: Yiddish Theater greats Bessie and Boris Thomashefsky.

Tilson Thomas says that, growing up in Los Angeles, his grandmother Bessie Thomashefsky was a frequent houseguest. He never knew his grandfather, who died in 1939.

The pair, born in Russia, became legends in Yiddish Theater, a genre they helped define. Among Boris Thomashefsky's more ambitious projects was a version of Hamlet that would inspire audiences to explore the original Shakespeare. And Tilson Thomas says he hopes this evening, dedicated to his grandparents, provides similar inspiration.

The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater plays at New York’s Zankel Hall this weekend. It will be repeated at Davies Hall in San Francisco this June.

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