“Marlene Dietrich and I are alike in the ‘outsider’ spirit” “

The German singer and actress Ute Lemper had to have returned to the Barcelona International Jazz Festival in this recently completed edition, but the coronavirus made it impossible. I was going to do it with a fascinating show entitled Rendezvous with Marlene, where he revives and pays tribute to the songs but above all to the person of Marlene Dietrich.

The tour has now been resumed after a fifteen-month hiatus, and tomorrow it will be heard in a single Spanish concert at the Granada International Festival. But there, exceptionally, the teacher of the cabaret song will offer a different program called Midnight in Granada. She was telling it, expansive as always, a few days ago from her home in New York, where she has lived for a few years.

The German actress, at one point in the show ‘Rendezvous with Marlene’

Ute Lemper

The wait to return to the stage is over. The pandemic practically caught him in one, right?

My last concert was in March of last year. This summer tour that I have just started is really going to be my return to the stage after a long time. My last concert was in Brussels on March 9, 2020, before a small audience and an orchestra. And the next morning I had to cancel the rest of the tour Rendezvous with  Marlene and catch a plane to return urgently to New York. I arrived with absolute uncertainty, not knowing if I could get the tour back soon, in ten days, three weeks or two months. And none of that. In the end I have been able to take it back after a year and almost four months.

And how have you personally coped?

Well, it has been a very interesting year, being at home, taking care of the children. It has been like living in an alternate universe to the one I was used to, because I have had time to do things that I had never been able to do because I did not have it. For me personally it has been a very rich and very profitable time, even on a physical level because every day I went out for a walk with my daughter, the children, my husband. I have loved it, it has been a marvel because I have discovered how a new way to enjoy the life that was parked there, not to say an unknown life.

Ute Lemper

Ute Lemper, at the Menéndez Pelayo International University


But it sure did not disconnect from the music.

Of course not. I have done many live streams; In fact, shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, in April 2020 I made a spectacular one at Carnegie Hall via Skype, to raise funds for those affected by the coronavirus. And I would also highlight the filming that was done at the Cummings Club in the East Village of Rendezvous with Marlene that it had to be turning then and that now I have been able to resume. A footage that could be seen on many platforms and on television networks.

Did you learn anything from that long period of confinement, so to speak?

Of course. I have realized that I work too much, my life until now has been too closely linked to my artistic and work activity. I have always pushed myself the maximum, working to the maximum: sometimes for the money, I have four children, their education, and also a company. I’ve learned that sometimes it pays to stop; I’m going to spin less, be more at home. And work more things on video, streaming or YouTube, because you can reach a lot of people on the Internet; is something magical that I have now verified with my own eyes: in a conventional concert they see me 1,000 and for streaming for example they see and hear you 85,000. But the most important thing that I have learned is that I have to find a better balance between my work and my family.

Exception on the tour

Tomorrow at the Granada International Festival he will offer a night trip based on magical songs by Brel, Dylan, Neruda, Trenet or Weill

You are resuming your tour of Marlene in Europe, but at the Granada International Festival tomorrow Friday you will make an exception and offer an evening entitled Midnight in Granada [en la web del festival explicada como ‘músicas para noches de estío].

The festival director, Antonio Moral, told me that what he wanted was a different concert, and he told me that he wanted midnight songs. And I said yes.

What do you propose on that night trip?

A tour creating an atmosphere full of magical songs, without percussion, with a violin and a lot of piano. Night songs, which speak of life and which form a mixture, which surround you with a not very high sound. They are compositions of all kinds by Brel, Kurt Weill, Trenet …

They are very different authors, in the repertoire there are also Pablo Neruda, Bob Dylan, Joseph Kosma or Pete Seeger. What unites them?

Are my life. I did a complete project of Pablo Neruda, I will also talk about the things and authors that inspire me … it will be like a book of my life.

Ute Lemper

A picture of the show

Ute Lemper

How did the project on Marlene Dietrich come about? [que casi seguro se podrá disfrutar en el próximo Festival de Jazz barcelonés]

It is a great show of about three hours, about an incredible and very brave woman, but also a tragic story of a woman who was accused at her time as a traitor in her country decades after having faced the Nazis. He received many decorations and medals and rejected them. And he lived a lot and very intensely in the personal, the artistic, the sentimental

What is the knot of the show?

A call that I received in 1987 when I was working in Paris; It was her and she was talking to me very personally for three hours or so. He was in the last years of his life, he was 89 and living a reclusive life in Paris, and he was telling all this to me, to a young German artist who was beginning her career. He told me many things, some of them I don’t exactly remember, but his tone, his melancholy, struck me; he also recited poems to me. The focus of the play, then, is an old lady who is telling a young woman a long story. And now, more than thirty years later, that young woman he called tells that story.

Ute Lemper

Album cover with songs from the show about Dietrich’s work and person


Was Marlene Dietrich a reference for you?

She was not an idol, because I am very different from how she was in style, music and vibrations, but I am very similar in that spirit of outsider despite being an international star. And also in being an inspiration for many other artists to be themselves above fashions and what they will say. And in his case, for several generations.

Do you see any similar person currently?

There are many female artists who act and are committed, like Angelina Jolie, or singers, like myself, I don’t know. But Marlene Dietrich was extraordinarily unusual for the time and environment in which she lived.