Publication: Record Collector Magazine
By: Paul Davies
Date: 27/4/24

Review of Time Traveler – A Retrospective of Ute’s Life and Music
London, St Martin’s In The Field Church

A bewitching artiste with spellbinding stagecraft, Lemper confirmed her star status in autobiographical storytelling encompassing the arc of her storied career.

Sharing personal Marlene Dietrich anecdotes and recounting the toll that Chicago took, her tales were punctuated by piano and double-bass on sophisticated jazz from the Weimar Republic to the West End, plus her current Time Traveller. Oozing sassy star quality and class, she commanded the venue with her startling vocal range, passionate delivery and magnetic presence, saluting her ecstatic fans on exiting to fervent applause.

By: Andrew Kay
Date: April 26, 2024

To witness the brilliance of perhaps the greatest living chanteuse in the world in the intimate surroundings of The Old Market in Hove will remain one of my most cherished experiences of all time. First aware of her work back in my early twenties when I was fascinated by the arts of the Weimar Republic and in particular Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, I came across her voice on CDs. Little did I know that her early recordings of those songs would spark wider public interest in them, but I was soon to find out far more about how those recordings and her career.

The Time Traveller is far more than a simple concert, it is a theatrical journey, Lemper’s life in both theatre and in song, and it is a lavish tale told with passion and with skill. Her early life, her home life, her student days and her travels.Travel is the key that the evening is sung in, looking down, with some disdain, from her seat in economy, at the waves in the ocean below and comparing them to the wrinkles on the back of her hands, she is constantly on the move, from ancient Europe to new Europe and modern Europe before finally returning to her adopted Manhattan home.

The journey take in her time in Paris playing Peter Pan and the joy of flying on stage, then Sally Bowles in Cabaret, a role she does not dwell on or sing more than a few bars of. Then on to being cast as Velma Kelly in Kander and Ebb’s brilliant Chicago. Here she does pause and sing, and tells how the rigours of Bob Fosse’s choreography have impacted on her physical well-being. Lemper can deliver humour with a wry smile and do it well.

There’s a fabulous section devoted to Weill and Brecht and to my total joy a long passage from Die Dreigroschenoper, where she slides from English to guttural German with great dramatic effect. And drama is the second key in which she delivers the evening, she is without doubt a great actress.

A passage dedicated to a previous show, Rendezvous With Marlene, is both fascinating and hilarious, a conversation, three hours by telephone with Dietrich is recounted, in short, and to great effect. And with equal openness she talks of her failed relationship with her mother and about her own attitude to motherhood and her much loved family.

She is also a woman fired by passion and politics, stories of feeling isolated while living in West Berlin and of course her work in creating songs from the poetry of concentration camp victims and survivors. The songs she delivers from her Songs For Eternity project are deeply moving but equally so are her more contemporary compositions from her new album. And in researching her life and work there are few composers she has not worked with or sung, it is a catalogue so catholic in it’s breadth that it is hard to imaging how she has fitted it all in, but she has, clearly a very dedicated performer.

So finally on to the voice, yes a long time in coming but so much more to this woman than simply song. The voice is extraordinary, the range vast, the tone even wider, slipping with ease from gentle and soothing, sweet even, to rasping and filled with anger and perhaps venom. There is abundant evidence of the classical but it is interlaced with jazz. Few singers can really deliver that scat phenomenon, but Ute scatters the stage with notes, soaring riffs and scales, blasts of horns, searing trills, it’s a universe of sound but one that never ever loses touch with the original melody, the heart of a song.

Lemper is accompanied throughout by the brilliant pianist Vana Gierig and bassist Giuseppe Bassi who not only deliver the songs but delicately colour the narrative.

I was lucky enough to see her play Velma Kelly in the West End, but luckier still to have now seen and heard the true expanse of this sensational woman’s talent.

Andrew Kay

The Old Market
26 April


Click here to read the review on The Latest.

Publication: The Guardian
By: Rian Evans
Date: 25 April, 2024

Theatricality and chemistry … Ute Lemper. Photograph: Sonja Horsman
Theatricality and chemistry … Ute Lemper. Photograph: Sonja Horsman

St George’s Bristol
The German chanteuse enters her seventh decade with her velvet voice and characteristic wit intact

Time Traveler is the title of the indefatigable Ute Lemper’s current short UK tour and also that of the new album of songs she herself has written. Lemper is mostly labelled a chanteuse, but she has always been multifaceted: singer, actor, dancer – for whom Maurice Béjart choreographed a ballet – an exhibited painter in her native Germany, cabaret artist, and now composer, too.

Seemingly prompted by a “big birthday” – her 60th – last year, a period of musing on life, loves, hopes and glories, was set in train. Songs emerged naturally, reflected particularly in the title song Time Traveler and also At the Reservoir, a favourite place in New York, long since her home. Yet Lemper also pointedly invoked Germany’s history; a potent moment came when listing the iniquities of 1924 Weimar – with whose music Lemper is particularly associated – and the suggestion that, a century on, things are actually still the same. Reaching the final line of Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? there was real anguish: When will they ever learn? Lemper whispers: “Never!”

Implicit theatricality: Ute Lemper in her dressing room at St George's in Bristol. Photograph: Sonja Horsman
Implicit theatricality: Ute Lemper in her dressing room at St George’s in Bristol. Photograph: Sonja Horsman

Singing in different languages – English words sometimes an indecipherable drawl, the German carrying the frisson of authenticity – Lemper delivered her best-known numbers – the Weill/Brecht Surabaya-Johnny and Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose – with her characteristic mix of sleek slinkiness of voice, velvety in the lower range. With self-deprecation rather than self pity, she wittily made All That Jazz and the whiplash factor of Velma Kelly’s dancing in Chicago (whom she played in both London and New York) the long legacy of back problems, and displayed another extraordinary facet of her artistry, voicing the sound of a muted trumpet.

In between the songs was intimate, breathy and confessional soliloquising. The story of how Marlene Dietrich, on learning that Lemper was being labelled “la nouvelle Marlene”, phoned the then 24-year-old to talk, was mesmerising.

Lemper’s implicit theatricality was matched by chemistry with her musicians – brilliant pianist Vana Gierig and bassist Giuseppe Bassi. She may channel the likes of Dietrich and Piaf, with a strong sense of Jean Ross (on whom Christopher Isherwood based Sally Bowles), but Lemper is still very much her own woman.

Publication: Financial Times US
By: Arwa Haider
DAte: 9 Apr 2024

Ute Lemper is touring with a show that reflects on her stellar career as a singer, performer and cabaret icon. She talks to Arwa Haider

In the twilight haze of New York’s 54 Below club, it’s hard to tell what time it is. Onstage, the German singer, performer and cabaret icon Ute Lemper is sound-checking Rendezvous With Marlene, a show based on her late-1980s encounter with an octogenarian Marlene Dietrich. The story is unusual; the scene feels especially surreal, because I’m watching via a transatlantic video call to Lemper’s mobile — but it’s enchanting to witness her channel the elegant yet embittered Dietrich, singing classics including “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”. At the same time, she sounds unmistakably Lemper: wry, alluring, icy yet incandescent.“

“I always wanted to use singing, performing and telling a story as a profound identification with my feeling of life, my own outrage, hurt, hope, happiness,” says Lemper, now offstage. “I never wanted to imitate anyone; I was way too full of my own passions.”

Lemper, 60, grew up in Münster, Germany, in what she describes as a conservative home (her parents were musical but prioritised their “normal jobs”). By her teens, Lemper was singing in a jazz-rock group before studying dance in Cologne, then drama at Vienna’s Max Reinhardt Seminary. In Paris in 1987, her lead performance in Cabaret won major accolades, with many reviewers likening Lemper to Dietrich. The rising star wrote to the reclusive grande dame, apologising for these bold comparisons; unexpectedly, Dietrich phoned Lemper and they spoke at length.

“It inspired this work about human contact: between the inexperienced youth and the old experienced woman who was jaded yet had so much to say,” explains Lemper.

In the decades since Dietrich’s call, Lemper’s career has encompassed Weimar-era cabaret as the eminent modern interpreter of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s songbook, musical theatre, including her award-winning role in the London and Broadway productions of Chicago, movies (she was a heavily pregnant fashionista in Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter), and more. She has been both maverick and muse; her 2000 album Punishing Kiss featured songs written for her by the likes of Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Scott Walker. Her delivery remains deliciously sharp, but her approach has become more reflective, and her upcoming Time Traveller tour highlights her creative range.

Time Traveller shares its name with Lemper’s latest album, as well as her autobiography (an English translation is planned). Both the record and the book draw from her archives; she found herself updating early compositions and revisiting a memoir she’d been commissioned to write in her twenties.
“The first 10 years of my career were overwhelmingly intense,” she says. “I was still a nomad, running from city to city, under the pressure of this enormous career. And there was the backdrop of extreme metamorphosis in Germany, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the new Europe breaking open…”

While Lemper has been settled in New York for some years, Berlin has never left her: “There was a rebel in me that could very much be inspired by this place that was torn into two halves in the middle of East Germany — the Berlin of this anarchic, rebellious spirit, where I really had a wake-up call as a young German, an artist and a woman.”

It sounds as if Lemper has always been punk at heart. She smiles: “I didn’t need the piercings and tattoos… but I felt like kind of an outcast. I had my music to escape — and the families I found in the theatres: exotic people, paradise birds who made the night the realm of fulfilment. This piece of Berlin stayed with me, always this realism and expressionism, when I was Sally Bowles [in Cabaret] in Paris, when I was Velma Kelly [in Chicago] in London or on Broadway.”

Berlin also endures in Lemper’s fantastically vivid interpretations of the Weimar-era collaborations of Brecht and Weill, including cabaret songs from The Threepenny Opera and Happy End. Her versions have been celebrated since her debut solo album, Ute Lemper Singt Kurt Weill (apparently Dietrich was quite proprietorial about this during their call), and she has proved a modern champion for this material.

Still, she says, “In the beginning, the Weill Foundation was a bit of a bummer because they put so many limitations on things. We called them the Weill Police. In 1987 in Berlin, I was recording in the studio, and there was a member of the Kurt Weill Foundation in the singing booth with me, their finger on the score saying: ‘Do not speak this. This has to be sung.’ I’d still put intention into the singing. But obviously, I didn’t like the authoritarian control.”

Why does Lemper think contemporary artists and audiences are still attracted to cabaret? “This original material from Weimar was so important: these repertoires about homosexuality, freedom of [female] emancipation, freedom of choice, political corruption… Cabaret is light entertainment, but it taps into all the social taboos. People love to go out for dinner and drinks, and to watch this form that pushes boundaries. Cabaret can go much further than musical theatre can.”

Musical theatre blockbusters hold little appeal for Lemper nowadays. “Sometimes I had issues working with directors, when I had to obey something that I didn’t feel,” she says. “I even struggled with Chicago, because I found the part of Velma like a slapstick caricature of what I was supposed to be. Although I loved the really strong athletic dancing of the Bob Fosse theatre.”

It has always been extraordinary to watch Lemper’s powerfully slinky take on classic Fosse moves. “I don’t know; right now, I need a new hip,” she laughs ruefully. “It demanded such physical strength to do these eight shows a week.”

Lemper’s tour and album allow her to revisit all these parts of her career, taking inspiration from decades of experience and unexpected connections, creating work that she describes as “a labour of love”. “I was not ever planning my future,” she says. “I was not even expecting a future. It took me a while to find my world.”

Ute Lemper’s UK tour begins on April 24 at Bristol St George’s. ‘Time Traveller’ is out now,

Publication: Stage and Screen
Date: OCTOBER 18, 2023

Ute Lemper’s Time Traveler, which plays Joe’s Pub one more time on October 22, highlights pivotal events in the German-born chanteuse’s life. These events include her move to Berlin forty years ago when she became part of a Kurt Weill show; her 1987 move to Paris to play Sally Bowles in Cabaretand her first performance at Joe’s Pub twenty-eight years ago, not long after Joseph Papp had inaugurated The Public Theater.

But the time Lemper seems to recall most lovingly was when, after being dubbed in France “La  Nouvelle Marlene,” she wrote Dietrich a letter and was rewarded by a phone call from the iconic star herself. Lemper’s rendering of Deitrich, her heroic stand against the Nazis and the subsequent anger of her fellow-Germans, is both moving and funny. It gave birth to her album, Rendezvous with Marlene.

Lemper seems most comfortable with songs written and performed by the great artists in Berlin cabaret during the days of the Weimar Republic, or songs written in a similar style. Her repertoire included Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Pirate Jenny”; Kurt Schwabach and Mischa Spoliansky’s “The Lavender Song,” with its militant lyrics, “We’re not afraid to be queer and different”; and a medley of songs by Schiffer, Spoliansky and Hollander, all about sexual freedom and social decadence.

As Lemper put it, “We would have had the sixties in the forties if the Nazis had not destroyed it.”

Lemper likes songs with poetic lyrics written by people like Charles Bukowsky (“The Crunch”) and Jacques Prévert. With her deep, smoky voice she can deliver these songs with great feeling. She also knows how to bend a note, imitate musical instruments, and scat, all in the time-honored tradition of jazz.

Lemper performs a heartbreaking version of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” It doesn’t hurt that she can sing in English, French and German. And there are also a few original songs from her newest album Time Traveler.

Ute Lemper travels through time with compassion, a world-weary nod and a wink.

photos by Guido Harari

Time Travelers
Ute Lemper
Joes Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
last show Sunday October 22, 2023, at 8:30pm
for tickets, visit Public/Joe’s Pub
for tour dates and cities, visit Ute Lemper