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Zalmen Mlotek’s Magical World of Yiddish Song

Performer Yiddish

Zalmen Mlotek’s Magical World of Yiddish Song

“The most-fun musical of the season. The sounds of traditional Jewish klezmer music make a joyful noise, a breath of fresh rhythm on the stage … under the swinging baton of Zalmen Mlotek.”

Jack Kroll – NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE about “Shlemiel the First”

Zalmen Mlotek’s Magical World of Yiddish Song


The theater world is abuzz with the incredible success of the Yiddish language production of Fiddler On the Roof, directed by Joel Grey, Musical direction by Zalmen Mlotek.  The show has been described by many audience members including a large number of theater heavyweights as the most satisfying presentation of the iconic musical they have ever seen.  Aside from his masterful role as musical director, Zalmen Mlotek was in fact the visionary force who made this theatrical “miracle of miracles” come to be. Very early in his lifelong journey as a performer, and preserver of Yiddish music, he discovered the recording of the Israeli production of Fiddler in Yiddish starring Habima star Shmuel Rudensky. A half century later, as the Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, he spearheaded the effort to stage it in New York, and as musical director, he trained a non-Yiddish speaking cast  to sing in Yiddish as though they themselves had been raised in Anatevka.

The world of Yiddish song is indeed magical in its transformational role in Jewish life throughout the past 2 centuries. From lifting the spirits of impoverished masses to inspiring revolutionary movements, from the colorful images of soothing lullabies, to the dark lamentations of Ghetto poets – Yiddish songs have been the window to the Jewish soul.
There is no doubt that Zalmen Mlotek, the world renowned musical and artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is among the world’s greatest resources of knowledge and expertise in the field to which he has devoted his entire life.
His concert, Zalmen Mlotek’s Magical World of Yiddish Song connects the audience with the songwriters, and the communities which embraced their words and melodies as core elements of the Jewish identity.

It’s an enriching, enlightening and highly entertaining program. Audiences invariably become a joyful chorus as they learn and remember songs of love, celebration, courage and survival. And now with the open ended  run of Fiddler Afn Dakh, a new chapter is added to this rich cultural history.

Zalmen Mlotek’s Magical World of Yiddish Song is performed by Mr. Mltek at the piano and 2 to 3 singers, with whom he collaborates and performs.

Recent quotes by audience members from Zalmen Mlotek’s virtual concert at the JCC on the Palisades:

“you may be singing to a blank screen but you are singing directly to our hearts.”

“Wonderful! Thank you for bringing the joyous Yiddish songs!” 

“You are fantastic and making me feel so happy!” 

“It was such a great program and brought back lots of wonderful memories.”



Zalmen Mlotek is an internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music and a leading figure in the Jewish theatre and concert worlds.  Mr. Mlotek was raised in a prominent Yiddish speaking family renowned for its Jewish songbook collections.  His formal training as a classical musician and conductor was at Julliard School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Tanglewood Music Center, Manhattan School of Music and Mannes School of Music.  Among his most notable teachers and mentors was Leonard Bernstein.  Mr. Mlotek also studied conducting with Zubin Mehta, James Levine and other Master of Music and conducting.

Mr. Mlotek’s deep roots in Yiddish culture, his elite musical education and his talent and passion for both have merged into a career that has revitalized the world of Yiddish music and theater.  Mr. Mlotek brought Yiddish- Klezmer music to Broadway and off-Broadway stages as a co-creator, music director, and conductor of Those Were the Days, the first bilingual music honored with a Drama Desk Award and nominated for two Tony Awards. He was co-creator, music director and conductor for the The Golden Land, an off-Broadway hit that toured nationally and was produced in Italy under the sponsorship of Leonard Bernstein.   Mr. Mlotek was the arranger and music director for Robert Brustein’s acclaimed production of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Shlemiel The First at Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun Festival in 1995 that subsequently toured to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston.

He is currently the Artistic Director, Musical Director and Conductor of The National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene (NYTF), America’s oldest Yiddish theater.  When he took over the organization in 1998, he instituted bilingual, simultaneous English and Russian supertitles at all performances.  NYTF is dedicated to bringing quality performances of the spoken and sung Yiddish word, with accessible translation, all year to new audiences around the country.  His vision has propelled classics including NYTF productions of the world premiere of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl (1998) in Yiddish, Di Yam Gazlonim (2006) (The Yiddish Pirates of Penzance) and the 1923 Rumshinky operetta, The Golden Bride (2016), which was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and listed as a New York Times Critics Pick. Other notable productions include On Second Avenue, an historical musical overview of the heyday of the Yiddish Theater, nominated for two Drama Desk awards and performed in Los Angeles in February 2007, Amerike, The Golden Land, nominated for a Drama Desk Award and most recently, the critically acclaimed, Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof – In Yiddish).

In 1995, Mr. Mlotek conceived and was musical director for the first All Star Klezmer Extravaganza at Lincoln Center, filmed by PBS for Great Performances and later released on CD and video as In the Fiddler’s House with Itzhak Perlman.  Mlotek has concertized in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Krakow, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other cities in Europe and Israel and has performed extensively throughout North America.

His many recordings include several made at the request of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  His tribute to wartime Yiddish Theater, Ghetto Tango, which he conceived in collaboration with Adrienne Cooper, is performed all over the world and is available on the Traditional Crossroads label.  Mlotek’s Yiddish choral work can be heard on Mandy Patinkin’s Yiddish language CD Mameloshen on Nonesuch Records.

He has presented master classes in Yiddish art song, folk, and theater music and taught at Columbia University, Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Bar-Ilan University.

As a leading authority on Yiddish folk and theatre music, Mr. Mlotek has taught and performed all over the world, worked with countless singers including Jan Peerce, Theodore Bikel and others. His piano artistry can be heard in over two dozen recordings and films. He is gratefully married to Debra Cohen, a pediatric occupational therapist and is a proud father and zeyde.


“…the emphasis is on the wonderful, tuneful, toe-tapping songs performed by a talented, energetic cast of ten and musically directed by Zalmen Mlotek … our rating, A+!”

Tom Jacobs – THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS about “On Second Avenue”



Soul to Soul


The exciting celebration of a common journey of two cultures is the essence of Soul to Soul which  brings together the African American and the Yiddish American experience in  a deeply stirring musical presentation. Mlotek performs with two African American Broadway  veterans, Tony Perry and Elmore James, and either Magda Fishman or Lisa Fishman, sharing the stage as well as a wonderful Klezmer ensembleSoul to Soul has been performed for enthusiastic audiences from Coast to Coast. Learn more here.









ZALMEN MLOTEK // website

Zalmen Mlotek profiled in Playbill

Zalmen Mlotek on NPR