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DER YIDDISH-VINKL October 31, 2003

Al Grand, whose masterful translations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works returns to Der Vinkl once more with a few of his laugh-provoking translations from his “Yam Gazlonim” (“Pirates of Penzance”). What follows is his submission to our readers, along with an announcement about a forthcoming Folksbiene Yiddish Theater’s “Di Yam Gazlonim.

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” the pirate king learns that the captured major general is just a lonely orphan. He tells the general that although pirates steal, they are nevertheless kindhearted and will therefore release him. What’s more, they are sensitive to the beauty of poetry:

Although our dark career sometimes involves the crime of stealing

We rather think that we’re not altogether void of feeling

Although we live by strife, we’re always sorry to begin it

For what, we ask, is life without a touch of poetry in it?

The king’s statement is followed by the chorus’s rousing hymn to poetry:

Hail, Poetry, thou heav’n-born maid!

Thou gildest e’en the pirate’s trade.

Hail, flowing fount of sentiment

All hail, all hail, divine emollient!

In Grand’s Yiddish version of “Pirates,” the pirates are all Jewish. The pirate king is “Der Groyser Gazlen.” He sings about how, despite the fact that their livelihood entails combat and plunder, on their days off they are totally devoted to yidishkayt:

Fun tsayt tsu tsayt a ganef rut zikh op fun zayn ganeyve,

Er hot amol rakhmones un er tut amol a teyve,

Mir shlogn zikh a sakh un shtendik hobn mir kharote,

Un undzer yidishkayt torn mir nit varfn in der blote.

This statement is followed by the chorus singing a resplendent and overpowering hymn to Yiddish with a devout wish for Israel to last forever:

Shray, hoykh un klor, far yidishkayt!!

Mit shtolts in harts zol klingen vayt

Shray tale, “Am Yis-ro-el Khay!”

Zol undzer folk lang lebn shtark un fray!

For readers interested in attending the performance of the “Gazlonim,” Grand informs us that it will take place in May of 2004 at Manhattan’s Temple Shaaray Tefila. Zalmen Mlotek will conduct the New Yiddish Chorale for the performance. Although the performance is many months off, Grand cautions that buyers are already gobbling up tickets (which may be purchased by calling the Folksbiene at 212-213-2120).

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