A former star of the Russian Imperial Opera, Isa Kremer insisted on singing Yiddish songs to instill pride in Jewish audiences despite rampant anti-Semitism. Kremer wrote revolutionary poems as a teenager and sent them to Israel Heifetz, editor of the Odessa News, who invited her to Odessa and then underwrote her musical education in Milan. She debuted as Mimi in La Boheme in 1911, then toured Russia as a member of the Petrograd Imperial Opera. She married Heifetz in 1912 and joined his circle of Jewish writers and activists, who sparked her interest in Yiddish folk songs. After her husband was imprisoned during the Russian Revolution, Kremer bribed officials for his release, though the couple divorced once out of the country. Kremer continued to perform throughout Europe despite death threats and demonstrations, and when limited to Jewish audiences by anti-Semitic edicts, she sang Yiddish folk songs alongside her classical repertoire. After immigrating to the US in 1924, she performed live and recorded albums, went on world tours, and inspired composers to write Yiddish songs in her honor. In 1938 she married and resettled in Argentina, where she sang benefit concerts for Nazi victims and striking workers.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Isa Kremer." (Viewed on March 24, 2018) <https://jwa.org/people/kremer-isa>.