Zalmen Mlotek is an internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music and a leading figure in the Jewish theatre and concert worlds. Mr. Mlotek was raised in a prominent Yiddish-speaking family renowned for its Jewish songbook collections. His formal training as a classical musician and conductor was at Julliard School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Tanglewood Music Center, Manhattan School of Music and Mannes School of Music. Among his most notable teachers and mentors was Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Mlotek also studied conducting with Zubin Mehta, James Levine and other masters of music and conducting. Mr. Mlotek's deep roots in Yiddish culture, his elite musical education, his talent and passion for both have merged into a career that has revitalized the world of Yiddish music and theater.
Mr. Mlotek brought Yiddish-Klezmer music to Broadway and off-Broadway stages as a co-creator, music director, and conductor of Those Were the Days, the first bilingual music honored with a Drama Desk Award and nominated for two Tony Awards. He was co-creator, music director and conductor for the The Golden Land, an off-Broadway hit that toured nationally and was produced in Italy under the sponsorship of Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Mlotek was the arranger and music director for Isaac Bashevis Singer and Robert Brustein's acclaimed production of Shlemiel The First at Lincoln Center's Serious Fun Festival in 1995 that subsequently toured to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, and recently performed in Washington DC .
He is the Artistic Director of The National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene, America's only Yiddish theater. He instituted bi-lingual simultaneous English supertitles at all performances and this year Russian supertitles as well. The National Yiddish Theater - Folksbiene (www.folksbiene.org) is dedicated to bringing quality performances of the spoken and sung Yiddish word, with accessible translation, to new audiences around the country. Their recent smash hit, On Second Avenue, an historical musical overview of the heyday of the Yiddish Theater recently nominated for two Drama Desk awards, will open in Los Angeles in February 2007, starring Mike Burstyn.
In 1995 Mr. Mlotek conceived and was musical director for the first All Star Klezmer Extravaganza at Lincoln Center, filmed by PBS for Great Performances and later released on CD and video as In The Fiddler's House with Itzhak Perlman. Mlotek has concertized in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Krakow, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and other cities in Europe and Israel, and has performed extensively throughout North America.
Mr. Mlotek's many recordings include several made at the request of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. His tribute to wartime Yiddish Theater, which he conceived in collaboration with Adrienne Cooper, is performed all over the world and is available on the Traditional Crossroads label. In addition, his Yiddish choral work can be heard on Mandy Patinkin's Yiddish language CD, Mameloshen, on Nonesuch Records. Mr. Mlotek is the conductor of the New Yiddish Chorale.
Mr. Mlotek has presented master classes in Yiddish art songs, folk, and theater music, and taught at Columbia University, Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Bar Ilan University.
100 Years of Jewish Theater Music:
From the Yiddish Stage to the Klezmer Revival
Zalmen Mlotek and Daniella Rabbani
Hailed as the "runaway hit" of the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival, this elegant piece by Zalmen Mlotek celebrates the Jewish musical accent in American theater. Beginning with the origins of the Yiddish theater in the wine cellars of Rumania, you hear operetta arias, humorous vaudeville ballads, backstage renditions of Fiddler on the Roof, the origins of Klezmer music and a special Yiddish-English version of Gilbert and Sullivan. University, community center and music festival audiences are especially fascinated as Mlotek transforms Yiddish melodies into Gershwin, Berlin and Cab Calloway jazz numbers and uncovers Jewish melodies in contemporary film music, (such as Mary Poppins, written, surprisingly, by the sons of cantors). Performed by Mr. Mlotek at the piano.
Inspired by Yiddish - Zalmen Mlotek on the BBC
Watch a short segment of a recent Zalmen Mlotek presentation for Yiddishkayt LA in Los Angeles - click here
Daniella Rabbani performing in Zalmen Mlotek's "100 Years of Yiddish Theater Music"
most-fun musical of the season. The sounds of traditional Jewish
klezmer music make a joyful noise, a breath of fresh rhythm on
the stage ... under the swinging baton of Zalmen Mlotek."
Kroll - NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE about "Shlemiel the First"
has the drama of the exodus of the Jews from Eastern Europe been
given so entertaining and vibrant a treatment as in THE GOLDEN
LAND. Zalmen Mlotek is responsible for the musical direction,
and he also conducts the Golden Land Orchestra, which is the backbone
of the production, This highly talented musician deserves at least
three cheers. His work is both fresh and true to its Yiddish sources."
Lester - THE NEW YORK POST about "The Golden Land"
emphasis is on the wonderful, tuneful, toe-tapping songs performed
by a talented, energetic cast of ten and musically directed by
Zalmen Mlotek ... our rating, A+!"
Jacobs - THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS about "On Second Avenue"
humdinger of a hum-along ... a practically self-translating effusion
of song and dance ... an orchestra equipped to play anything ...
a musical mitzvah!"
Shepard - THE NEW YORK TIMES about "Those were the Days"
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Congregation Bnei Brith, Santa Barbara
"Zalmen and Daniella gave our community a great gift. Their presentation brought tears, smiles, and nods of familiarity. It was as if we were on a guided tour led by passionate experts. Daniella's voice was beautiful, powerful, colorful and authentic. Zalmen began with a bang, got everyone (young and old) singing along in Yiddish, gave us rich visual images, familiar tunes and lost treasures, and after almost 90 minutes, ended too soon. I hope to bring them back to Santa Barbara very soon."
Cantor Mark Childs, Congregation Bnai Brith.
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February 1, 2009
We can't thank you enough for the wonderful presentation on The Musical History of the Yiddish Theater, that you performed for us at the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center on January 18th.
The multi-media edu-tainment was by turns moving, funny, informative and thoroughly entertaining. We were especially thrilled by how the overflow crowd enthusiastically sang along with both the familiar and previously undiscovered gems to which you introduced us. Even the self proclaimed mavens among us came away enriched and with a deeper appreciation of our wonderful heritage and its impact on American and world culture.
The event was a fabulous success for our organization and the Center, and we eagerly look forward to the next time we get to present your artistry in Southern California.
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Dan Opatoshu, Special Projects, Yiddishkayt
3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1000, Los Angeles, CA 90010
213.389.8880 - www.yiddishkayt.org
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Praise from a grateful Cohen
November 27, 2008
Dear Professor Mlotek,
I have just watched your lovely piece on the BBC World Service website, and was absolutely overjoyed. My grandfather, Isidore Cohen (by dint of Ellis Island; otherwise Itzahk Kogan, or Itziz Kahan, depending on whose manifest you discover), came to America from Dvinsk (now Daugavpils) via Hamburg some time around 1912. He came to have a small tailor shop on Rivington Street, selling notions, what-not, and the odd junk lot. If there was ever a song he must have sung to himself while working, it must have been "Ot Azoy Neyt A Shnayder".
His only son, my Dad, Arnold Cohen is now 81, still working as a psychiatrist in White Plains, though he just had open-heart surgery at
NY-Presbyterian, and is recovering at Burke Rehab in White Plains. Tomorrow, when I go down to NY to visit, I am bringing my laptop to show him this lovely video that has been uploaded to news.bbc.co.uk: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7739968.stm
I am sure it will bring a smile to his face. Last weekend on my visit, I brought with me Grandpa Cohen's old brass folding tailor's rule, still in its same leatherette pouch, which my Dad gave to me many years ago. When I showed it to him, he was overjoyed.
You dear man, thank you so very much for keeping the lamps burning. May you live long and have many joyous experiences. You've warmed my heart.
Gary J. Cohen, ESL teacher, Boston
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JAAMM Festival, Denver CO
January 5, 2010
Dear Moishe and Donna,
Zalmen’s presentation about Yiddish folk and theatre music was well prepared, very professional and extremely informative. The length of his presentation was perfect. Zalmen is a wonderful musician with a good personality and sense of humor. He was truly a pleasure to work with. The incredible theatre photos were an added bonus. Our large audience thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the performance. Zalmen’s event was one of the highlights of our 2nd annual JAAMM Festival (Jewish Arts, Authors, Movies and Music Festival). Highly recommended!
Director of JAAMM Festival - Denver CO
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Photos by John Bruno