Blank was a ruler, a commander on the
stage. They never were able to understand Blank in the role of a
servant, or a nebekhel (a nobody), but just the opposite, a
Jew, a reh-zoger, an evil person, a strict father, and yet,
rarely has an actor been able to cry of sorrow like Blank, cry like
a people of thousands of years of weeping, wailing and praying.
Blank was a specific Yiddish actor.
Playing such as Blank's played was rarely seen on a world stage, and
indeed this was Blank's greatest virtue when he imagined the
authentically specific Yiddish-Jewish father, rabbi, shames and
It is remarkable that the actor, who
used to so artistically understand the aforementioned specific
Jewish types, was in his private life very interested in American
sports, especially with baseball.
He was a "baseball fan." He knew the
yikhes of each baseball player, and he kept count of how many
home runs, or how much progress the player had made, and how much he
will miss him later this year [?].
It was as interesting as the rabbi and
shames that he used to play. In a baseball park, he used to shout: "Oy,
veh iz mir! Almost, almost a home run, or: "Jews, I will tell
myself a story -- they have lost the game! And he used to sing a
Gemara melody when they -- "The Giants" -- would win. "I'm
fine, I feel good, my boys (meaning the players) today were in
shape (in good order)."
"Shabes, Yom-Tov un Rosh-Chodesh
Ven Ikh Mir Far Zikh Aleyn (Sabbath, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh
... I Pray For Myself)." This is a song from "Shulamis," which Mrs.
Prager often used to sing. The words of the song are well-adapted
for the place in life, in the person of Mrs. Prager. But more
well-adapted was when she would sing: "Sabbath, Yom Tov, Tog un
Nakht, Lekh ikh mir far zikh aleyn," because this theatre life,
this noisy night life, the women mades, even the theatre politics,
the popularity of the cafe gezogekhts and talk, and the love
intrigues have not affected Mrs. Prager.
Before her eyes were tragedies,
murders, weddings, legal and illegal loves. She noticed it all as
nothing. Better said, she did this more than noticeably, but it had
no effect on her and it made no impression. She was, by nature, very
God-fearing, but she did not attack anyone with piety or humility.
"God! Do not embarrass me! I beg of
you, dear God, you should not embarrass me!" This is the prayer,
this is the plea that she used to say in her every performance on
the stage. With the words: "God, do not embarrass me," she lived on
the stage for some thirty years.
In the Russian operetta, and in the
opera, I often used to see similar scenes. Many prima donnas and
soubrettes rarely used to go out on the stage before they had a good
iberge'tslm't. This, however, was hypocritical, because in
their private lives they were not saints at all. They used to
mention the words, "What to God is to God, and what to people is to
Entirely opposite was the case of Mrs.
Prager, She acted according to her feelings, according to what she
believed, is how she behaved.
I am sure that her modestly restrained
nature hindered her from being one of the greatest opera and concert
singers. She would positively stand in the ranks of a Patti,
Sembrich, Tetrazzini; her voice was rich in color,
strong, sonorous, and she had from her nature a geshulten
tone, as is the case with all of the great opera singers. Her voice
was dramatic and at the same time flexible, like a true lyric
soprano -- After her singing number, the theatre used to hear
screams and applause, but she used to go into her room to sit and
look at a book, or do something for her home. She
refused to play on Rosh Hashanah, and when she could not help
herself and continued to play, one had to wait until the next
performance before she came home from the synagogue, which she had become accustomed to and
where she prayed earnestly to God.
For my eyes the transition in Mrs.
Prager's career -- from the lover-prima donna roles to the singing
mother roles. I was the cause of this, and it's a shame that she was
a little brusque to me at first. Being an actor, and especially an
actress, she did not want to recognize so quickly that it already
was time for her to play older roles. And even a withdrawn person like Mrs. Prager, for the first time also
she did not want such light recognition.
For several years she sat idle, not engaged in
any theatre. Her first singing mother role was the "chazante"
for Boris Thomashefsky with my music -- especially written for her.
The holy patriarchal figure of the
"chazante," she adapted to very well. She used the pious words of
the prose, and the cantorial melodies, to speak and sing from her
heart and soul.
"God, do not embarrass me!" With the
words she played almost an entire season of "Di chazante."
The words of Goldfaden's "Shulamis" reflected Mrs. Prager's life.
On the Sabbath, Yom-Tov and Rosh
Hashanah, I pray for myself.