Ute Lemper is an exemplar of a singing style with a long European pedigree. Every song demands an artifice of total vocal, physical and emotional involvement in the tradition of masters like Lotte Lenya, Martha Schlamme and even to an extent, Edith Piaf. Lemper is not afraid to turn herself inside out in the service of her music, in this case, music she has composed—with contributions by Marcelo Nisinman—to the words of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
She chose eleven love poems that range from sexual worship ("Tus manos"), to despair ("The Saddest Poem/No. 20"). In "Allianza" ("Sonata") she used quick-changing tempos to express the poem's images smashing into each other. "El Sueño" found the flamenco within her allowing her to unfurl long moaning phrases. "Oda con un lamento," a shout of despair, was accompanied by counter-intuitively quirky rhythms.
She pulled out all the stops, however, in the final song to "The Saddest Poem," in which she growled, purred and grimaced, using her voice like a muted trumpet, improvising like a jazz pro, to express the deep heartbreak of the poem.
- Joel Benjamin
'Lemper's backing – bandoneon, piano, double bass, guitar, violin and percussion – was close to the classic tango line-up, and the music had tango's ability to sweep up into emotion or fall away and highlight the tiniest detail.'
- Financial times
'As ever, Lemper pulls surprises: the intensely erotic poem "La noche en la Isla" catches the listener unaware by being sung in French, evoking the spirits of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel, two of the singers whose shadows loom ever-present over Lemper's work in cabaret.
The statuesque Lemper is a strong physical presence - she prowls the stage, sits or stretches on a stool, sidles up to her band members, sits back-to-back with her pianist...
In the end, it's about the music, which is pleasant, superbly played, and creates many moods. "It's through music that it all flows; music is my tool of making contact, my medium of expression," says Lemper.'
- The Arts Desk
The album saw a September release in Australia with a November release in Germany and surrounding territories. This is the tracklisting:
1. La nuit dans l'ile (French adaptions)
2. Madrigal Escrito en Invierno
3. If You Forget Me (English adaptation)
4. Tus Manos
5. El viento en la Isla
6. Allianza/ Sonata (partly English adaptation)
8. Always (English adaptation)
9. Ausencia (partly French adaptation)
10. El Sueño
11. Oda con un Lamento
12. The Saddest Poem /Nr.20 (English adaptation)
Download a pdf of the Tour Program from Australia with all the lyrics here, or download the CD booklet here.
Above: "The Saddest Poem/N.20" from Ute's performance at the Palau de le Musica in Barcelona, Spain.
Above: Trailer and interview with Ute Lemper about the project
Above: Excerpt from "The Saddest Poem/N.20", music by Ute Lemper
Ute Lemper's newest creation is a song cycle to the love poems of Pablo Neruda.
This very delicate and beautiful songbook is presented mainly in Spanish, but also has adaptations in French and English. It is a fantastic celebration of these especially sensual poems by Neruda who had written them on the Chilean Isla Negra after years in exile.
Born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto in 1904, Pablo Neruda took his pen name after the Czech poet Jan Neruda.
Neruda became known as a poet in his teens, and wrote in a variety of styles from surrealist to overtly political tones, as well as erotically-charged love poems. These poems are what Ute's Neruda Song Cycle is based on.
Because of his politically charged activities and writings, when President González Videla outlawed communism in Chile in 1948, Neruda was forced into exile. In 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Neruda also collaborated with Picasso on highly politically inspired works, and Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."
In 1973, around the time of the Augusto Pinochet coup d'état, Neruda was diagnosed with cancer and died the same year. Pinochet had
denied permission to transform Neruda's funeral into a public event, however, his legendary status prompted thousands of grieving Chileans to disobey the curfew and crowd the streets.
Touring the Neruda Love Poems show:
Ute performed this program at the Rumors Festival in Verona on 21 June 2013. In September, she will tour Australia, then a couple of October dates in Mexico and Brazil. In January 2014 she will perform in Mexico and Chile, followed by a European tour later in 2014.
"The Love Poems of Pablo Neruda" is the first half of the performance and her greatest hits is the second half. Please review the tour dates on the main website for details.