Monday, November 12, 2012

Ute Lemper Quotes

1. I was very critical of my own background - with the way I grew up - and I did not find my surroundings open or tolerant enough. My spirit couldn't run free. I was uptight in that place and I found a vaster freedom abroad. (on her native Germany)

2. I'm a world citizen, and I'm inspired by many different traditions and cultures and music. But it all comes back to me, and to the way I interpret the songs and the poems and the music. That's really a personal interpretation - But there is a little piece of Berlin in everything I do.

3. I used to do recitals devoted to Kurt Weill in the early years of my career: the late '80s/early '90s. But I have not done something like this for a very long time. I call the show "A Walk On The Weill Side" and I start at the end of World War I, when Weill came to Berlin in 1918, and explore what happened to Germany in those early post-war years, as well as talk about his education, his collaborations, his first compositions and his first meeting with Bertolt Brecht. Then I look at the way he dealt with his humiliations at the hands of the Nazis, his subsequent years as an exile in France, and his compositions while there. And, finally, I look at his American compositions. So it's a very specific evening dedicated to his life and his incredible journey through various times and threats.

4. The year 2000 I saw a big Kurt Weill celebration here in New York as it was his centennial year as well as marking the 50th anniversary of his death. I know that during the centennial celebration, John Mauceri, who was the conductor for my two Kurt Weill albums, researched The Eternal Road and performed the whole show at the Brooklyn Academy, so maybe it was recorded.

5. When I was seventeen and still in high school I did a big summer seminar in Salzburg, Austria. It was six weeks long, which was the extent of summer vacations from school in Germany at the time, and in it I learned all about Weill's compositions and was set on fire by them, especially his German repertoire as I barely spoke English at the time. It was just so fresh and revolutionary, provocative, full of spirit, aggressive and powerful, as were the characters he created with Brecht. I just loved it. 

6. After high school, I went to drama school and kept going back to the Kurt Weill repertoire. After I got out of drama school - I was twenty or twenty-one - I conceived for myself a recital of Weill's music that I would perform in gymnasiums. People would be sitting on benches and I would be performing in my leather pants, a t-shirt and no make up. I would just go out there and sing the songs in order to educate the people about what happened to Kurt Weill as a German Jewish composer during the days of the Weimar Republic and how he was treated by the Nazis. I used to read quotes from the Nazi papers that trashed Weill's music, his character and personality, calling him a monkey and a Negro, and all these other racist remarks that Jews were heaped upon during that time.

7. I took this to be a mission for my life - to bring this information to a different generation of Germans. Because my generation - I was born in 1963 - we, obviously grew up with a good education about what happened under Hitler, but not on a personal level of grief. It was treated as "history" and even though it was close history, it was just something that wasn't spoken about too deeply with parents or teachers, because you would stump them with questions about "responsibility" or "collective guilt" - about being a soldier in the war and knowledge about what was happening to the Jews. There were all these questions but somehow a vacuum of answers.
8. As a result, I read as much as I could about this time. My identity as a German was really twisted and sorrowful as I didn't know how to deal with it. For example, during my first trip to America in the early '80s, I would meet a young man at a cafι and we would start talking ... hooking up a little. He would say: "You have an accent ... where do you come from?" I would say: "Germany" and that was the end of the discussion. People were brought up with very simplistic visions on both sides of the ocean. For him, as an American Jewish man, it was the simplistic vision that all Germans are bad. For me, it was a vision that my parents didn't know what was happening, end of story. These were two simplistic ways to get out of a very complicated situation. So for me, reiterating Kurt Weill's fate as well as his fabulous compositions, was a mission to help clarify the simplistic visions. 

9. I started recording all the works of Weill very early in my career and after I did that, I wanted to move on. I reached the point where I wanted to explore other music: the whole Berlin cabaret universe that didn't involve Weill, the French repertoire...Plus, I didn't want to get stuck in a production for half a year and only play that one part. I was never that much intrigued by that, and whenever I slipped into a musical part where I had to play the same thing night after night, it was very difficult for me to handle.

10. I like to be able to change material on a whim and play with a far larger scale of personalities in the songs, from comedic, to dark, to angry to philosophical...I like to have a far larger arc of expression. 

11. I was under contract with Universal/Decca in London since 1985 and recorded two Kurt Weill albums for them, plus a recording of "The Seven Deadly Sins", which I will be performing, by the way, at the Brooklyn Academy on March 26th. At the time, classical music labels were still booming and they wanted to record the entire catalogue of "degenerate music" - the music that was banned by the Nazis. So, in addition to classical works, like those by Schoenberg and Goldberg, they did a double CD of Berlin Cabaret songs from the Weimar Republic - basically the world of the musical Cabaret. We fished out from the archives hundreds of songs, many of which had never been recorded, and chose eighteen of the best. They were incredible to sing, as the songs are highly political and satirical. 

12. In 1989 you still had a lot of direct immigrants from Germany and Austria who at least spoke Yiddish and could understand German. That generation probably doesn't exist now, but it was amazing how at ease it was. It felt wonderful. Later on I was invited to perform a Kurt Weill evening with the Israel Philharmonic in Tel Aviv.

13. The Weill and Berlin songs were my root repertoire. That led to my exploration of the French chanson universe while I was living in France, and then I went to London and started performing minimalist music by Michael Nyman (who wrote the music for Peter Greenaway's Propero's Books, which featured Ute as Cerces). And when I moved to New York I started exploring contemporary songwriters like Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Elvis Costello. In Blood and Feathers, I do a "moon medley" that features songs by Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Sting - songs I have always wanted to sing but thought it would be silly to do so since they would be "covers." But to put them in a medley with a certain symbolism linking them together - the moon and temptation - then I could do them. 

14. There was a big renaissance after the fall of the Wall - after 1989. Suddenly all these clubs sprang up like mushrooms in both the East and the West. But it wasn't like what Americans think of as cabaret: there were acrobats, vertical rope performers, belly dancers, political satirists, singers, clowns, pantomimes, jugglers - just like how it was in the '20s. Unfortunately, it became a commercial item for about ten years and is running down right now.

15. The French have their own issues with the occupation and collaboration with the Nazis, and the way they delivered the Jews to the Nazis…they have their own aspect of guilt. And for the French to see this production…it was very terrible to see and a lot of people had to leave, especially those who had lived through the years of Nazi occupation.

16. I do keep in shape! I still do my dance training every day in my living room, which is a great way to stay limber and strong.

17. I'm not sure how I would be performing it in English. I would have to think about it. Manhattan Theater Club asked me to audition for a play they are putting up: A Picasso. It's a two person play. But I can't do it! It opens in April and I'm booked until the late fall doing concerts and I can't break those contracts. I don't know how actors do it. They get a call to audition for something that starts in a life is booked through 2006 right now! I would need to be bought out of these contracts, which would only work for a movie not a play.

What do you think of Ute Lemper's quotes?


Feel free to comment and share this blog post if you find it interesting!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.