The Thousand and One Lives of Ute Lemper

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: A Trilingual Portrait
CATALOGUE NO: 100 166

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Hard to categorise as a performer — she runs the gamut from Brecht and Weill to Chicago, from Michael Nyman to Edith Piaf- Ute Lemper comes over in this portrait as thoughtful and articulate, bringing to everything she does energy and commitment. But the results are often variable. She seems most complete in the context of musicals, whereas her homages to Piaf and Dietrich only serve to underline what made them so special and ultimately inimitable.

Her tributes arc self-conscious, rendering her performances of their songs pallid and lacking in spontaneity, while her cabaret numbers are knowing, lacking that sheer sense of the enjoyment of the act of performing that sugars the message in the pill.

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When she sits down to talk the results are revealing. (There are versions of the interviews in three languages, incidentally, which cover much the same ground though not necessarily in quite the same way nor in the same order.) Whereas Lemper seems to feel the need to explain her art, or place it in a political or social context, performers like Dietrich or Piaf or Lenya just got up there and did it — unforgettably. George Hall