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Broder Singers


BRODER SINGERS , generic name for small groups of itinerant male Yiddish singers who from the 1850s entertained on weekdays (as distinct from Sabbaths and festivals) on improvised stages in wine cellars and restaurant gardens in Galicia, Romania, and southern Russia. The name designates a kind of cabaret tradition, its style and repertoire, rather than a specific group or individual. The impact of this tradition on the Yiddish poetic imagination may be gauged in *Peretz' drama Baynakht oyfn Altn Mark, and in the works of Itzik *Manger.

The Broder Singers are important in the prehistory of the modern Yiddish theater. They were essentially vocalists (many were former badḥanim (see *Badḥan) and choirboys) who gradually added costume, mimicry, and dance to songs which to begin with were generally dramatic monologues. Solo performance gave way to dramatized duet and subsequently to the musical sketch, with prose recitative linking the songs. The Broder Singers were a source for the first Yiddish stage professionals – Yisroel Gradner, regarded as the first "regular" Yiddish actor, was a Broder Singer before joining *Goldfaden. The reputed "father" of the Broder Singers was Berl *Broder. Though Broder's date and place of birth are disputed, it is almost certain that his association in the years before the Crimean War with the Galician commercial center, Brody (from which he took his name), accounts for the name Broder Singers. Broder composed songs, some of which are extant, but the repertoire was mainly appropriated from the folk poets Eliakum *Zunser and Velvel Zbarazher (Benjamin *Ehrenkranz), from I.J. *Linetzky and the dramatist *Goldfaden, all four of whom were closely linked to the Broder Singers. The repertoire was serious as well as satiric and comic. The prevalence of anti-ḥasidic songs does not justify the often expressed view that the Broder Singers were the poor man's Haskalah, for the principal emphasis was always on entertainment.


Teplitski, in: yivo Bleter, 23 (March–April 1944), 284–7 (contemporary accounts); N.M. Gelber, Aus zwei Jahrhunderten (1924), 70–101; Z. Zylbercweig, Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater, 1 (1931), 216–36, 508–15; S. Prizament, Broder Zinger (1960); D. Sadan, Avnei Miftan (1962), 9–17; M. Weinreich and Z. Rejzen, in: Arkhiv fardi Geshikhte fun Yidishn Teater un Drame, 1 (1930), 455.

[Leonard Prager]

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