Interviews

Tovah Feldshuh on Family and Jewish Music's Legacy 


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Tovah Feldshuh (Source: Artist Website)

From the Broadway stage to the Hollywood screen, Tovah Feldshuh's art and charisma has captivated audiences worldwide for many years. The Emmy-nominated actress reflects upon her Milken Archive recording experience and gives us a preview of what else to expect from her limitless talents.

Since recording for the Milken Archive, what are some of your most memorable experiences, and what are you working on today?

I am happy to report that I had been asked by Hachette to write a book. The COVID outbreak happened soon after, and turned out to be the perfect time to put pedal to the metal and write a memoir about my mother and me. Lillian Kaplan Feldshuh lived ‘til over 103. The spine of the book is the mother/daughter relationship, but the frame of it is as a theatre piece. So instead of a foreword, I have an Overture. Instead of a chapter, I have a Scene. Instead of an acknowledgments section, I have a Cast Party for everyone who has helped me, where they are celebrated as well as listed.

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Cover for Tovah Feldshuh's upcoming book. Available 4/13/2021

The book even has "Exit Music" where I talk about being intertwined with my mother even more strongly now that I can also share the experience of being a grandmother, as she was in her life’s golden years. Toddler Rafael is now 20 months old, and two more granddaughters are coming down the pike before the first of the year! 


“The quarantine has been a very interesting experience where we have the choice every morning to be happy and grateful. I believe these choices to become strong need to be practiced daily. And so I do.”

The first scene is "MAKING AN ENTRANCE"; the last is "TAKING THE FINAL BOW." Chapters are often related to a well-known song from the American musical songbook. I submitted the 372-page manuscript to the editor on Monday, August 17th, having worked more diligently than I've ever worked in my life, to not just speak the truth, but to speak the truth in a way that engages the reader. It's my first book and I expect a healthy redline return from my editor next week.

By Tuesday, August 18th, however, my editor must've been pleased enough to unleash the sales team from Hachette, because presales for my book, “LILYVILLE: Mother, Daughter, and Other Roles I've Played,” is now available. I am very excited to have had a higher purpose to fill our days here in the country, and as much as I hate COVID, the quarantine has been a very interesting experience where we have the choice every morning to be happy and grateful. I believe these choices to become strong need to be practiced daily. And so I do.

Please share a favorite memory or story about your experience working with the Milken Archive. How has working with the Archive impacted your career path and/or your connection to Jewish music?

When I was approached by Paul Schwendener to record the Genesis Suite in the fall of 2000, I learned that I would be reunited with my friend Fritz Weaver with whom I had filmed the mini-series Holocaust for NBC that aired in 1978. Now we would be going from the ashes of a Holocaust to the creation of the world. Who could say no? Joining the narrative team was also my dear friend Isaiah Sheffer, for whom I had worked numerous times at Symphony Space in New York with his Short Stories series.

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Tovah Feldshuh as Helena Slomova in the 1978 NBC mini-series, Holocaust (Source)

We recorded the Genesis Suite in December of that year and it was thrilling to be exposed to seven great composers: Arnold Schoenberg, Nathaniel Shilkret (who commissioned the project), Alexandre Tansman, Darius Milhaud, Ernst Toch, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Igor Stravinsky. The project was a rich experience for me, not only because of the depth of beauty of the music, but also because of the import of the event: CREATION. Before I was an actor, I was a classical pianist, and this kind of repertoire brought back memories of my early training. Together, we all embarked on this journey of breathing life into an important piece of lost or forgotten or buried music.


The Genesis Suite features Tovah Feldshuh as a speaker.

How has working with the Archive impacted your career path and/or your connection to Jewish music?


“The Milken Archive serves as our Western Wall of Jewish music.”

The Milken Archive serves as our Western Wall of Jewish music. This extraordinary library also serves as a sanctuary for an astonishing collection of rare Jewish music that may have never found a voice without the Archive. The Archive shows us, time and again, the intertwining of American culture with Jewish music, and vice versa. As the decades roll on, the Milken Archive may serve as our great “Alexandria”—and become one of the largest and most significant libraries of Jewish Music, rare and beautiful, of the modern Western world. 

Clearly, if the Milken Archive continues on its current trajectory, it will further expand and widen its already extraordinary collection of Jewish musical works. 


Explore Further:

Tovah Feldshuh's Artist Profile Genesis Suite

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