African-American by birth and Jewish by choice, Anthony (Mordechai Tzvi) Russell is a fresh new voice in Yiddish music. Trained as an operatic bass, Anthony made his professional debut in the world premiere of Philip Glass's opera 'Appomattox' (San Francisco Opera). He has more recently discovered in Yiddish art song an ideal canvas for the expression of his own multifaceted identity. Anthony has immersed himself in the recital repertoire of the famed Sidor Belarsky (1898-1975), one of the 20th century’s most celebrated and prolific performers of cantorial music, Chassidic nigunim and Yiddish folk songs. Striving in his interpretations to “embody the aspirations, desires and struggles of one diaspora culture enriched with the colors and experiences of another,” his earnest and heartfelt interpretations reveal the narrative, melodic, and cultural riches of this repertoire, now given refreshing new life by an emerging talent. Recent appearances include performances at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, and the premiere of a new arrangement of four Yiddish art songs by contemporary Israeli composer Matti Kovler of Boston, MA. Future performances include a solo show at the JCC in Manhattan and a collaboration with clarinetist Michael Winograd and composer Anthony Coleman for the JCC in Manhattan's program, "Artists Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr." Anthony is presently working on a new repertoire of pieces that combine Jewish and African-American folk music directly at points of spiritual, musical and textual convergence. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with his partner of five years, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum.
Descriptions of work
Anthony arranges and juxtaposes African-American folk material (Negro spirituals and work songs) with Jewish folk material (Yemenite folksong, Chassidic niggunim and Yiddish folksong), matching musical phrases, texts and themes to create dialogues of loss, spirituality and redemption.
Wade / Hafele Vafele - 2012
Poor Mourners/Mikdash Melekh - 2012
Sometimes/Der Gemore Nign - 2012