Publication: JazzPodium
Date: October 2020
By: RAINER BRATFISCH 

UTE LEMPER
RENDEZVOUS WITH MARLENE
(Jazzhaus)

Nachdem Ute Lemper 1987 einen Moliere, den nationalen Theaterpreis Frankreichs, als beste Nachwuchsdarstellerin in der Pariser Version des Musi­cals »Cabaret« fur ihre Rolle der Sally Bowles erhalten hatte, schrieb sie eine Postkarte an Marlene Dietrich und entschul­digte sich bei dieser dafür, dass die Medien sie immer wieder mit ihr verglichen und sie als »junge Marlene« feierten. Später tele­fonierten die beiden drei Stun­den lang über Gott und die Welt – lnitialzündung und Basis fur ihre Show »Rendezvous mit Marlene« und auch fur diese CD. Sie enthält Songs aus alien Lebensabschnitten der Dietrich, van den Berliner Kabarettjahren bis zu ihrer Zusammenarbeit mit Burt Bacharach. Ute Lem­per ist in dieser Hommage wesentlich dichter am Jazz als Marlene Dietrich. Aber man sollte nicht das stimmliche Po­tenzial der beiden vergleichen – zu verschieden sind die beiden Persönlichkeiten. Lemper hat sich längst ins Spitzenfeld der grossen Entertainerinnen gesun­gen und ist unbestritten einer der wenigen deutschen Welt­stars. Aber diese ganz spezielle »fesche Lola« singt hier und heute, jenseits oiler Nostalgien. Natürlich hat sie noch einen Koffer in Berlin. Und natürlich erweist sie ouch Edith Piaf ihre Reverenz. Aber es ist und bleibt eines der besten und jazzigsten Alben der Lemper. Cole Porters »The Laziest Gal in Town« und »When the World Was Young« aus dem Repertoire von Frank Sinatra sind vielleicht die Höhe­punkte, aber auch »Wenn ich mir was wunschen durfte« und »Falling in Love Again« verkör­pern perfekt dieses ganz spezielle und zeitlose »Heimweh nach der Traurigkeit« jenseits aller tagesaktuellen Befindlich­keiten. 

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Publication: New Jersey Jazz Society
Reviewer: Joe Lang
Date: June 29, 2020

When she received much acclaim for her 1988 performance in the Paris staging of Cabaret, including some comparisons to Marlene Dietrich, German actress/singer UTE LEMPER felt embarrassed by this, and wrote a note to Dietrich apologizing for the comparison.  She received a phone call from Dietrich in return, and during their lengthy conversation, Dietrich recalled much of what had occurred in her life.  It was an occasion of great significance for Lemper.  A few years ago, Lemper created Rendezvous With Marlene (Jazzhaus – 184). This show, originally done as a cabaret performance, provided an overview of Dietrich’s life and career, with Lemper performing 20 songs associated with Dietrich.  I saw the show at the York Theater last year and greatly enjoyed it.  Lemper does an effective job of capturing the Dietrich persona, but also brings much of her own performing personality to the production.  She is an accomplished actress and singer, who moves easily between being herself and channeling Dietrich.  The recording contains only the musical portion of the show, but stands nicely on its own.  (utelemper.com)

Click here for the original online review.

KINDRED SPIRITS
Ute Lemper Channels Dietrich on Rendezvous with Marlene

It takes a kind of fearlessness to address the mythical talent of superstar Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich’s stardom is legendary; her story a picaresque of adventure, fantasy, imagination, and coveted reality. Yet, if anyone can begin to touch Dietrich’s transcendent nature, to tell her story, it would have to be Berlin-born, New York-based Ute Lemper.

Lemper, a multi-talented musical theater and cabaret star, has lit up stages—acting, singing, dancing, writing, even painting—since the early ’80s. She began with Chekhov and Weill, among others, making a name for herself as an outsized talent.

But it was as a songstress, particularly as an exponent of the music of the Weimar Republic, that Lemper made her most lasting impact. She brings immense theatricality to her music, along with irony, sexuality, satire, and humor. She received a tremendous amount of attention for her dramatic cabaret-style performances and was heralded as the New Dietrich.” In 1988, after receiving a Moliére Award for her performance in “Cabaret” in Paris, Ute sent a note to Dietrich, essentially apologizing for all the comparisons. I explained to her that I was just starting my career and that the comparisons were inappropriate,” said Lemper. I thanked her for inspiring me to become a performer and mentioned how much I admired her many achievements on stage and screen.”

A month later, Dietrich, then in her late 80s, called Lemper. Dietrich was a recluse by that time and had not left her Paris home for many years. But she and Lemper connected and the discussion was incredibly rich and profound. She told me everything about her life–emotional and historical—and I was very overwhelmed by it all,” said Lemper. It took me thirty years to think about it and finally be ready to put it into a show.” The three-hour conversation the two had discussing Dietrich’s fascinating life, forms the foundation of Rendezvous with Marlene, a lavish, lovable homage to the great performer. It began as a performance, and is now a spectacular recording of the same name.

Ute sings to us Marlenes story, fabulous songs from all the chapters of her life, from the Berlin cabaret years to her Burt Bacharach collaborations, with whom Dietrich toured for 15 years. Lemper puts her own spin on the material, injects them with modern drama, melodrama, and unfiltered flourishes of Dietrich’s sensuality.

Rendezvous with Marlene is a story that makes no attempt to gloss over or ignore the rise to power of Hitler and the German Nazi Party … It is clear that Ute is both following in Marlenes footsteps, and the very traditions of German cabaret itself, to constantly challenge those in authority and hold them accountable for their actions,” says Tom King of Edinburgh’s Southside Advertiser.

Essentially, Rendezvous with Marlene is the sound of one enormous talent passing her story along to another. And while we don’t know what motivated Dietrich to transfer her life story to Lemper, she most certainly sensed they were kindred spirits. You don’t have to listen long to the many lush tracks on Rendezvous with Marlene to understand that the two possess a simpatico life, sharing a kind of distinct versatility, attitude, humor, and multi-faceted approach to art. One critic raved: A superb tribute to one astonishing woman from another, fascinating, enlightening, intense, often moving, and always entertaining.” (Northern Soul)

“What a gift it was to hear Marlene talk about her life,” says Lemper. “This recording is my personal tribute to her. She was sexy, tough, and funny and her comic timing was ever-present, even in her singing,” said Lemper. She was a free spirit,” Lemper recalls. She was politically and morally outspoken and courageous. She was ladylike and bossy. She had class but loved whiskey, dirty jokes, and a good smoke. I tell her story through my eyes and sing her songs with my voice. She is using my body and voice to speak.”

Successfully. Says a critic writing for Gay UK, “By a huge margin the finest act of sustained, emotional intensity and fearless self-revelation Ive ever seen. Ute – like Bowie, Callas and Garland before her – is in an unprecedented class of her own.”


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Click here (and scroll down slightly) to view the archive of the livestream performance and program from Ute’s living room, which was part of the Carnegie Hall Live Streaming series, honoring the 75th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps with songs of rebellion, hope, defiance, and life-affirming resilience written during the Holocaust.

Accompanying Ute for this live performance of excerpts from Songs for Eternity, were Vana Gierig on Piano and Max Lemper on guitar, and the program featured a live conversation on Zoom with Orly Beigel in Mexico City (whose mother survived Bergen Belsen by being on the Death Train at Farsleben) and others.