Twenty years after first performing in Australia, German born cabaret singer, Ute Lemper, returned to the Thebarton Theatre (“The Thebby”) on Saturday 21 September.
Appearing with her five-piece band, Ms Lemper graced the stage in a crimson dress and style reminiscent of a 1940s jazz club. The Thebby was partially closed off, only the ground floor stalls filled with patrons which created the perfect atmosphere for her performance – not too small to accommodate an accordion, cello, acoustic guitar, violin and piano, but still intimate.
The show itself featured music written by Ms Lemper and Argentinian bandoneonist Marcelo Nisinman to create the delicate and beautiful song cycle utilising the poems of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and was a lifelong activist toward a democratic Chile. It was his love poems however, that featured on Saturday night. Lyrics were in French and Spanish with a spattering of English, but even when unable to understand the words, the music was still powerful. This was thanks mainly to the incredible voice of Ms Lemper which has earned her the reputation as the world’s ultimate cabaret artist.
From the first iteration, Ms Lemper demonstrated her enviable range which extended to high, bell-like notes, to a deep and commanding baritone. Her grace and fluidity as she danced called to mind an ageing ballerina, and it was easy to see how she has impersonated Marlene Dietrich over the years. A vocal imitation of a trumpet towards the end of the first set was most impressive.
Ute Lemper is an artist of the world, and has achieved success in both stage and film. Songs have been composed for her by Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Philip Glass and Nick Cave, and in 1994 she won Billboard Magazine’s Crossover Artist of the Year. Her stage performance in the West End Production of Chicago won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical and her film credits include a portrayal of Marie Antoinette, and she was the singing voice of Ariel in the German version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In 2007 she was a juror in Let’s Dance, Germany’s version of Dancing with the Stars, but these days, she resides in New York. In June this year, she performed for the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, at a private dinner, selected as the artist most representative of American-German relations through music.
If the audience members jiving in their seats were anything to go by, Ute Lemper’s Adelaide performance was another career success. Unfortunately she was here for one night only, but if you’re a cabaret buff, or just love beautiful music of the type not played on commercial radio, you can grab a copy of her CD “Forever: The love Poems of Pablo Nerudu.”
Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Venue: Thebarton Theatre, 112 Henley Beach Road, Torrensville SA]
Season: 21 September 2013
Duration: 2.5 hours