Publication: Broadway World
By: Sharon Ellman
Date: February 11, 2024

As if a troubadour of old, Ute Lemper takes us on a historical journey through song

Stepping into Carnegie Hall’s presentation of Ute Lemper, WEIMAR BERLIN AND AFTER THE EXODUS on February 9, 2024 was as if leaping into the distant past. The show, part of a festival of Fall of The Weimar Republic: Dancing on the Precipice, delves into the arts and culture of this short yet important period in the world of innovative art and culture. As if a troubadour of old, the star of the show, Ute Lemper took the filled audience on a journey through song.  Theatergoers voyaged through the story of German post World War I economic hardship, coming into the sunshine of freedom, democracy, capitalistic decadence and finally devoured by the darkness of Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Lemper narrates as she moves musically from the economic poverty of the uncontrolled inflation of the German economy in post World War I. Along with her band, Vana Gierig (piano), Matthew Parrish (Bass), Todd Turkisher (Drums) and Cyrus Beroukhim (violin) she enters the stage, immersed within the center of the audience, dressed as impoverished street musicians to begin the story of the poverty and out of control hyperinflation which overwhelmed German lives in 1923.

The audience is then joyfully carried into 1924 when the creation of the Reichsmark stabilizes the inflation and Germans begin a life of fun.  “Divine decadence”, as Sally Bowles declared in Cabaret, was merely the icing on the Weimar cake.  Fun, frolic and morality all vied for the spotlight now. Lemper’s intense and emotionally powerful vocals brought us from the self indulgence of the decade onward with her renditions of “The Ballad of Mack The Knife” and “Life’s a Swindle” to “Pirate Jenny.” Channeling Marlene Dietrich, the songstress oozed the famed seductive screen siren’s androgynous sex appeal that marked a revolution during the Weimar period.  Lemper’s low and sultry English as well German language performances of “Just a Gigolo”, “Sex Appeal” and “Ich bin die fesche Lola” displayed the overtly sexual culture that had evolved in the freedom of society that was the late 20’s and early 30’s in Germany.  She aptly referred to this time as “dancing on the edge of the volcano.”

But by 1933 onward, all civilian rights and the independence of individuals to live their lives as they wished was slowly but surely curtailed by Hitler and the Nazi Party.  Ute Lemper  portrayed the music of those that ran into exile, like composer Hanns Eisler as well as the other composers, artists, singers, poets and writers who despite remaining hopeful were doomed to the ghettos and concentration camps that foretold death.

Throughout the performance, the fair-haired chanteuse changed costume from drab street musician attire, to black gown, jumpsuit, sexy red evening attire and ending with a long black somber covering jacket all while remaining on the stage – unbelievably peeling off one outfit after another.   Her physical transformation was like that of a chameleon adapting to its environment – each time clad in clothing that represented the ensuing change of political and hence cultural attitude.   From her appearance, we saw the Weimar Republic begin its rise from the ashes of the horrors of World War I, peak in cultural and societal openness and then just as swiftly crumbled due to the destruction of the country’s democratic government.

This reviewer was overwhelmed by the emotionally intense performance that was Ute Lemper, WEIMAR BERLIN AND AFTER THE EXODUS.  Using the music of the time as the conduit, Ute Lemperweaved a tale that began in darkness, became a  pinnacle of creative light and then succumbed to the murky depths of destruction nearly a century ago.  This very unusual cabaret production was much an homage to what could have been and what should have been if it had not been destroyed by the Nazis. Ute Lemper, WEIMAR BERLIN AND AFTER THE EXODUS featured the renowned singer Ute Lemper, with her band consisting of Vana Gierig (piano), Matthew Parrish (Bass), Todd Turkisher (Drums) and Cyrus Beroukhim (violin).

Find great shows to see on the Carnegie Hall website HERE.

November 9th, 2019 was the 30 year anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. With that in mind, I am very excited to take you to Berlin on a musical journey through time and history.

Berlin has had so many faces and chapters through the years. In this special program at the Met Museum, I will lead you through the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic, its music, cabaret and political satire, from the ‘Three Penny Opera’ of Brecht/ Weill to the wild ‘Berlin Cabaret Songs’ by Hollaender, Schwabach and Spoliansky. This ‘Dance on a Volcano’ with the Theater Songs ‘Bilbao Songs/ Pirate Jenny/ Salomon Song, and Moritat of Macky Messer’ and Cabaret Songs like ‘Life’s a Swindle/ the Lavender Song/ I am a Vamp, and Liar, Liar’ represented the climax of the Weimar culture, but was utterly shattered after 1933 as the Nazis censured and eliminated every creative and progressive force. After 1933 Eisler and Brecht had created a ‘Cabaret in the Exile’, that existed only in the not Nazi occupied territories and only for a very brief time. After 1938 everything was shut down and most of the artists were in exile or had been incarcerated in the ghettos and camps. The ‘Cabaret in the Exile’ presented a collection of highly political songs, including the ‘Water Wheel’ and ‘The Ballad of Marie Sanders’.

Following the timeline of history, I include some songs written in the Ghettos, especially Theresienstadt that incarcerated the Jewish composers and poets.

The next chapter is equally haunting, as it brings us to the utterly destroyed Berlin of 1946, with songs written for the movie ‘A Foreign Affair’. It was filmed in the ruins of Berlin. Marlene Dietrich sang these songs written by Friedrich Hollaender in this very movie directed by Billy Wilder.

I often thought that if the Nazis would not have shattered the Culture of Weimar after 1933, the 60’s would have happened already in the 40’s and right there in Berlin!

Click here for more info and to buy tickets.

Ute Lemper and Gavin Friday

Publication: Hot Press
Date: 18 September 2019
By: Colm Kelly

Gavin Friday, Camille O’Sullivan, Ute Lemper, Meow Meow, Blixa Bargeld, Cathal Coughlan and more re-imagined Bertolt Brecht’s songs and poems in a magical night at The National Concert Hall.

Click here to view the whole gallery of fabulous live pics.

Ute Lemper has several produced several albums of Brecht/Weill songs and is regarded as the duo’s best interpreter

Publication: Irish Times
Date: September 7, 2019
By: Tony Clayton-Lea

Gig of the week: Line-up includes Camille O’Sullivan, Meow Meow and Gavin Friday

Born in Bavaria in 1898, playwright Bertolt Brecht worked principally in what is known as epic theatre, which favours provocative narratives interspersed by debate and analysis. This new dramatic form, essentially a forum for his political beliefs, also included songs/poems that would match the unfolding storylines.

Through works such as 1927’s The Little Mahagonny, 1928’s The Threepenny Opera, 1930’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (all three of which were co-written with Kurt Weill), 1939’s Mother Courage and her Children, and 1941’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Brecht left an indelible mark not only on theatre but also on what musical theatre could achieve. Songs co-written with Weill, Hans Eisler and Paul Dessau that formed a productive connection between the decades include the ballad of Mack the Knife, Pirate Jenny (both from The Threepenny Opera), The Alabama Song, and Surabaya Johnny.

Beloved by musicians that can handle such sharp-edged, politically and emotionally turbulent material, Brecht songs have been covered by Nina Simone, David Bowie, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Lou Reed, Divine Comedy, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello and Mary Margaret O’Hara. It makes sense, therefore, that the man who once enquired, semi-rhetorically, “in the dark times will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times”, should have an evening devoted to his work. Certainly, the line-up for Change the World: Bertolt Brecht Songs and Poems for 2019 is such that the man’s output will be delivered with equal amounts authenticity and invention.

The linchpin of the two concerts (Saturday, September 14th, Sunday, September 15th) is Ute Lemper, the German-born, NYC resident singer and actor whose back catalogue includes several albums of Brecht/Weill songs, and who is regarded as the duo’s best interpreter. Of her continued work to unravel the songs of Brecht/Weill, she has said it is more a mission than anything else. “I feel responsibility about it,” she told the Guardian some years ago, “to bring it back to the new generations, revive the music and take the stigma off the German language.”

Lemper isn’t the only lauded interpreter of the Brecht/Weill canon, of course. Dublin-based Camille O’Sullivan could easily lay claim to being in the same league. Singer and actor O’Sullivan has been a much-vaunted admirer of the Brecht/Weill catalogue for nigh on 20 years, performing their songs when it was neither fashionable nor profitable (initially under the mentorship of Dublin-based German singer Agnes Bernelle, who with her 1977 debut album, Bernelle on Brecht And…, introduced Brecht/Weill to Ireland’s punk rock community).

Two of the very same native punk contingent that were listening were imaginative Dublin-based troublemaker Gavin Friday and Co Cork dissenter Cathal Coughlan. It is no surprise to see both of these musicians on the line-up. Between them, they have the Brecht/Weill aesthetic down to a tee. From Friday’s mid-’80s Blue Jaysus Cabaret on the Dublin docks and his 2001 Tivoli Theatre tribute show, Ich Liebe Dich (staged later in that decade as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival) to Coughlan’s insider knowledge of inventive dark arts, one can only imagine the layered quality of homage we have here.

Also featuring Meow Meow (aka Melissa Madden Gray) and German singer/actor Blixa Bargeld, the show’s musical director is Terry Edwards, and is produced by National Concert Hall’s head of programme planning Gary Sheehan.

Change the World: Bertolt Brecht Songs and Poems for 2019, National Concert Hall, Dublin, Saturday, September 14th and Sunday, September 15th.

Click here to read the article online.