shows: Love, languate and Ute Lemper
SHE’S German, lives in New York and is coming to Australia to sing in Spanish, French and English the love poems of a great Chilean writer.
Ute Lemper is living testimony to the fact that art knows no national boundaries.
The cabaret star has just finished her latest CD, Ute Lemper Sings Pablo Neruda, which sets her music to 12 love poems penned by the poet who received the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Lemper says she’s looking forward to visiting Australia again for a performance of a song cycle of the love poems, followed by cabaret favourites from her long career, including a show at QPAC as part of the Brisbane Festival.
The 50-year-old’s impressive CV covers roles in musicals including Chicago, Cats and Cabaret and famed interpretations of works by Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf.
Other projects included Ultimo Tango and The Punishing Kiss, featuring songs written by Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello.
Now she has moved on to Neruda, a prolific poet, diplomat and political activist who travelled extensively including time spent in forced exile.
Lemper trawled through his poems, finding his political works too wordy, too complicated and too serious to put into music.
‘‘I didn’t want to find a banal element of music in it, in something that was so profound – an outcry of the oppression he was experiencing in his country,’’ she says. Instead, she selected a dozen love poems. ‘‘I chose the short ones, the ones that are very sensual, the ones that have an immediate melodic rhythm to them, a rhythm to the word.’’
Lemper, who collaborated with bandoneonist and composer Marcelo Nisinman, sings half of them in Spanish, while the other half is in English and French.
She’ll perform with five musicians – violin, bandoneon, guitar, bass and piano – and assures Australian audiences the poetry will be translated into English in the concert program.
Lemper speaks English, French and German fluently, as well as some Spanish and Italian. While growing up in Germany, she learnt very bad schoolgirl English and French and didn’t hone her language skills until she lived in Paris, then moved to the US.
‘‘Learning languages just happened through life, if you want to speak them, you have to dig in.
‘‘I’m now trying to speak fluent Spanish, but I’m a little older now and have problems with that. My brain doesn’t seem to do it any more.’’
Lemper has also written music to the poems of literary outsider Charles Bukowski, a project and performance she describes as ‘‘pretty wild’’.
Ute Lemper sings Pablo Neruda plays the Concert Hall, at QPAC, in Brisbane, tomorrow at 8pm. The Brisbane Festival continues until September 28. Visit brisbanefestival.com.au for the full program.
German cabaret star Ute Lemper