Articles and news related to the Brecht and Weill program
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).