Sophia Karp born Sara Segal, she was also known as Sophie Goldstein, Sofia Carp, and Sophie Karp, was a Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...
n-born Jewish actress and soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...
, the first professional Yiddish theater actress.
She was a 16-year old in her native Galaţi
Galați is a city and municipality in Romania, the capital of Galați County. Located in the historical region of Moldavia, in the close vicinity of Brăila, Galați is the largest port and sea port on the Danube River and the second largest Romanian port....
when the theater troupe formed roughly six months earlier by Abraham Goldfaden
Abraham Goldfaden ; was an Russian-born Jewish poet, playwright, stage director and actor in the languages Yiddish and Hebrew, author of some 40 plays.Goldfaden is considered the father of the Jewish modern theatre.In 1876 he founded in...
— at that time, the world's only professional Yiddish language
Yiddish is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages...
theater troupe — arrived in town in the winter of 1876–1877. The troupe consisted of three men (Goldfaden, Israel Grodner
Israel Grodner was one of the founding performers in Yiddish theater. A Lithuanian Jew who moved at the age of 16 to Berdichev, Ukraine, Russian Empire, the Broder singer and actor was in Iaşi, Romania in 1876 when Abraham Goldfaden recruited him as the first actor for what became the first...
, and Sokher Goldstein
Mike Goldstein , first name also spelled Suher, Suray, ukas, or mikey boy, was a singer and actor, one of the founding performers in Yiddish theater...
); they had collaborated with various other actors and musicians in their previous performances in Iaşi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...
Botoșani is the capital city of Botoșani County, in northern Moldavia, Romania. Today, it is best known as the birthplace of many celebrated Romanians, including Mihai Eminescu and Nicolae Iorga.- Origin of the name :...
, but up to this point they had all been men, even for the female roles.
When she played the granddaughter in the Goldfaden troupe's Galaţi premiere, Die Bobe mit'n Enikel (Grandmother and Granddaughter), the young Sara Segal, at that time a seamstress, became the first professional Yiddish theater actress. Her mother, however, after attending that premiere objected to her daughter appearing on a stage. The stagestruck Sara obeyed her mother, but had been thoroughly bitten by the theatrical bug. The only expedient was to marry one of the players, and since Goldfaden and Grodner were both already married, the only expedient was to marry Goldstein (and to change her first name to the more "glamorous" Sophie).
The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) says that she "won distinction in [Goldfaden's] dramas and operas". She would remain in Yiddish theater for the rest of her life, following Goldfaden and Goldstein to Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...
(where she would star at the Mariinsky Theater in 1881) and through Imperial Russia until Yiddish theater was banned in Russia in 1883, then playing in Galicia, in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...
, and in other locations in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
, and then back to Romania, where she settled for a while with a theater company in Iaşi where, after Sokher Goldstein's death (of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...
, according to Rosenfeld) she married another actor, Max Karp; her great fame as a prima donna
Originally used in opera or Commedia dell'arte companies, "prima donna" is Italian for "first lady." The term was used to designate the leading female singer in the opera company, the person to whom the prime roles would be given. The prima donna was normally, but not necessarily, a soprano...
was achieved as Sophia Karp. She was noted for her portrayal of Judith in Karl Gutzkow
Karl Ferdinand Gutzkow was a German writer notable in the Young Germany movement of the mid-19th century.-Life:...
's play Uriel Acosta and of Benvolio in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...
On March 12, 1902, along with Jacob Fischel and playwright Joseph Lateiner
Joseph Lateiner was a playwright in the early years of Yiddish theater, first in Bucharest, Romania and later in New York City, where he was a co-founder in 1903 with Sophia Karp of the Grand Theater, New York's first purpose-built Yiddish language theater building.Lateiner got his start writing...
, she founded the Grand Theater in New York. The city's first purpose-built Yiddish theater, the Grand was typical of Yiddish theaters of the time by being largely artist-managed. Besides Karp and Lateiner, the directors included leading man Morris Finkel, comedian Bernard Bernstein, and composer Louis Friedsell; Fischel and L.S. Gottlieb were the only non-artist directors.
Karp contracted pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...
and died at the age of 42 or 43 in New York.