New Yiddish Song Book

New Yiddish Songbook 

African-American by birth and Jewish by choice, operatic Bass Anthony Russell is a fresh and powerful voice in Jewish Music. Having deeply immersed in the Yiddish repertoire of the famed Sidor Belarsky, Anthony has collaborated with composer Matti Kovler to present new provocative arrangements of songs from Belarsky’s repertoire and beyond.


Program Note

«…Yiddish art song — a combination of Western classical and traditional Jewish music — turned out to be an ideal creative outlet for Russell because it allows him to explore various points of view in a single song. As a black man who is Jewish by choice (he recently converted to Judaism), he relates to the multiplicity of voices. “I have a deep connection to the music,” he says. “It’s a perennial issue for minority artists trying to navigate how their own experience informs their artistic output. So, when I embarked on this project I had to ask myself, how much of myself can I put into this to make it feel authentic to my own personal experience? “It’s a part of my calling — such a grand word! — as a singer to reveal that to my audiences,” he says. “When they see me, I don’t think they think, This person is going to get up and sing Yiddish.” “When I’m singing Yiddish art song I feel like I’m living in two distinct worlds at once,” he says. “It feels like something to be celebrated.”»

–Kevin Ritchie on the rare and astounding talent that is Anthony Russell


Hailed as “The Paul Robeson of the Yiddish Song,” Anthony Russell, bass, has sung with various opera companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and the New York Metro area over the past ten years. He made his professional début with the San Francisco Opera Company in the world premiere of Philip Glass’s opera Appomattox. Recently, Anthony has devoted himself to performing the Yiddish art song repertoire of the Ukranian operatic bass Sidor Belarsky (1898-1975), most recently performing at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, North America’s largest international Jewish music festival. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with his partner of five years, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum.

Matti Kovler’s music has been described as “part mystical, part comical” (Grade A Entrepreneurs) and praised for its “emotive potency” (New York Times) and “bold colors of orchestration” (The Boston Globe). Called by the New York Times “a potentially estimable operatic composer in the making,” Matti wrote his first opera at the age of 17. His works have since been performed worldwide in venues ranging from an underground cave in Moscow to New York’s Carnegie Hall. A passionate advocate for advancing Jewish Music Theater beyond its fiddler-on-the-roof stereotype, in 2012 Matti founded JMT, a performance company specializing in creating and promoting new works in the genre. Presently operating from the New Center for Arts and Culture in Boston, one of JMT’s primary goals is to identify and support the most original upcoming performing artists in the Jewish Music field. Matti’s recent collaboration with the outstanding bass Anthony Russell (USA) reflects this objective.