Sunday 22 September 2019

My cultural life: Ute Lemper

Ute Lemper
Ute Lemper
Roy Scheider with Jessica Lange in 1979's 'All That Jazz'
Bertolt Brecht in 1927

Ute Lemper is globally recognised as one of the foremost interpreters of the works of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Hailing from Munster in Germany, her breakthrough role was in the original Viennese cast of Cats, followed with a title role in Peter Pan and Marlene Dietrich's Lola in The Blue Angel. In film, her many credits include a stand-out naked, heavily-pregnant appearance in Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter. She was nominated for a 2012 Grammy for her album Paris Days/Berlin Nights.

Film: All That Jazz

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Roy Scheider with Jessica Lange in 1979's 'All That Jazz'

The 1979 musical drama directed by Bob Fosse changed my life. I was intoxicated by the intensity of life so deliciously expressed in Fosse's dance sequences. Roy Scheider (here with Jessica Lange) took us all on a journey inside the crazy mind of Fosse, strangled us with pleasure and temptation and spat us out the other side, leaving us wanting more. I was 14 and ready to take a step into a new world.

Music: Seven Deadly Sins

Bertolt Brecht in 1927

Many musicians have left their mark on me while growing up, from Pink Floyd to Stevie Wonder, but I come from a completely different culture and inherited a taste for poetry in music - an art form that Weill and Brecht (above) uniquely defined through the years of Weimar. Over the last 35 years, I have performed the Seven Deadly Sins many times and it is one of my favourite pieces. I just sang it in Shanghai in their glorious Symphony Hall - it had a rather ironic dimension, keeping in mind the communist history of this country and the social uprising in Hong Kong.

Artwork: Triptych

I find the Triptych, by Otto Dix, one of the most striking artworks defining the time after World War I. The crudeness in colours and shape are overwhelming, and with the images of the wounded next to the vulgar, half-naked women in the arms of saxophone players looking for pleasure and distraction to forget reality, we hear the screams before the Weimar years. I always said that there is a piece of Berlin in everything I do... and I reflect on that painting when defining my artistic consciousness.

Book: The Alchemist

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, has opened a beautiful street of understanding of our journey of life - just as much as the novel Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, has facilitated this understanding. Both novels have given me pleasure, way beyond the reading experience, through many moments in life.

Ute performs as part of the Bertolt Brecht concerts at the National Concert Hall on September 14/15, along with Blixa Bargeld, Cathal Coughlan, Meow Meow, Gavin Friday and Camille O'Sullivan with musical director Terry Edwards.

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