Oygn 04:02

Liner Notes

Ellstein’s romantic song Oygn (Eyes), with lyrics by Molly Picon, is from his and Anshel Schorr’s 1934 musical comedy Eyns un a rekhts, or One in a Million. The show opened at New York’s Second Avenue Theater and starred Molly Picon (who introduced the song) as well as an all-star cast that included Muni Serebrov.

The story takes place in New York and concerns a wealthy banker, Joseph Hershberg, who has run into such a severe financial crisis that he has had to summon his youngest daughter, Lillie, home from boarding school. Lillie (played by Molly Picon), who is unaware of her father’s difficulties, has fallen in love with Henry Orenstein (played by Muni), a younger generation financier with a reputation as a ladies’ man, from whom Hershberg seeks financial assistance.

Lillie met Orenstein while she was away at school, when he came to visit his own daughter there. He has invited her to his flat on a wager, and she has decided to accept that challenge, somehow intuiting that she could trust him. Meanwhile, her father has swallowed his pride in deciding to request Orenstein’s assistance, because he has always had contempt for the man as a onetime waiter who was now an upstart in the banking world.  Lillie proceeds to Orenstein’s home and begins drinking to calm her fears and restore her courage. In her intoxicated state, all reticence evaporated, she sings tenderly to him—in Oygn—of her heartfelt love and the magical effect his dark eyes have on her.

By then inebriated, Lillie ends up spending the night at Orenstein’s place, but presumably “innocently,” and is brought home late the next morning. After a farcical set of misunderstandings among the various characters, Orenstein decides to assist Hershberg because he is truly in love with Lillie. As the plot synopsis in the program booklet states, “all ends happily.”

By: Neil W. Levin



Lyrics by Molly Picon

It’s a dark night, and I sit and think that
my life is worthless.
It’s empty and hollow, my aspiration for naught.
There’s no luck in my cards….

But suddenly a ray of light, a bright source:
I caught sight of two eyes.
I soon felt that my heart was lost,
but I was happy.

Eyes …
for your dark eyes …
before them the bright sun
bows down.

Eyes …
for your dark eyes …
they pulled my heart to you, and I
became enslaved for life,
captured and amazed.…
And I will aspire
to fulfill all their desires.

Eyes …
for your dark eyes …
the world will no longer have any worth
without your dark eyes.

Lyrics by Molly Picon

s’iz a finstere nakht un ikh zits mir un trakht
mayn lebn hot gornisht keyn vert.
s’iz leydik un pust, mayn shtrebn umzist;
keyn mazl iz mir nisht bashert.

nor plutsem a shtral, a likhtiker kval:
tsvey oygn hob ikh derzen.
ikh hob bald derfilt, mayn harts iz farshpilt,
nor ikh bin tsufridn geven.

oygn …
far dayne shvartse oygn …
far zey shteyt ayngeboygn
di likhtike zun.

oygn …
far dayne shvartse oygn …
zey hobn tsugetsoygn mayn harts,
un ikh bin farshklaft gevon af mayn gants lebn,
fargaft gevorn …
un ikh vel shtrebn
ales zey tsu gebn.

far dayne shvartse oygn...
di velt vet mer nisht toygn
on dayne shvartse oygn.



Composer: Abraham Ellstein

Length: 04:02
Genre: Yiddish Theater

Performers: Elli Jaffe, Conductor;  Elizabeth Shammash, Mezzo-soprano;  Vienna Chamber Orchestra

Date Recorded: 10/01/2001
Venue: Baumgartner Casino (A), Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Hughes, Campbell
Assistant Engineer: Hamza, Andreas
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Music Sales Corp.
Arranger/Orchestrator: Jon Kull
Yiddish Translations/Transliterations: Eliyahu Mishulovin & Adam J. Levitin
Arrangement © Milken Family Foundation


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