The day Marlene Dietrich phoned Ute Lemper

Ute Lemper, in a file image. / AFP

Tomorrow. The Victoria Eugenia hosts tomorrow Saturday the tribute show ‘Rendezvous with Marlene’

Juan G. Andrés

Tomorrow the Victoria Eugenia will host ‘Rendezvous with Marlene’, a musical show that the German artist Ute Lemper (Münster, 1963) dedicates to the mythical actress and singer Marlene Dietrich. It is a tribute with a strong theatrical component, since its protagonist transforms into the famous diva to remember her through the story of her life and the interpretation of some of her songs.

During her 35-year career, Ute Lemper has often been compared to Marlene Dietrich, but never before has she devoted an entire show to celebrating her memory. Precisely, ‘Rendezvous with Marlene’ is part of a real conversation that both had on the phone when they lived in Paris in 1988, in the years when the young Lemper was taking her first steps in music and theater. After receiving the Moliére Award for her role in the musical ‘Cabaret’, she sent a letter to Dietrich to apologize for something beyond her control: all the media continually compared her to Dietrich, who was then already a star established for decades. One was 24 and Marlene was 88.

A month later, and to her surprise, Ute Lemper received the call from Dietrich. During three hours of telephone talk that was a true “delight”, he spoke of his life, his work and his history, his love for the poet Rilke, his complicated relationship with Germany, his grief and his fascinations .

«It was a very enriching conversation and also very personal. However, at that time I may not have known where in my luggage to store it because I was very young. I suppose it took me a few decades to digest that experience properly, to consider it personally and figure out how to do something with it, “he said in recent interviews.

Lemper has also explained that lately he has received offers to play Dietrich, both in film and theater. “Now I am an older woman, I have traveled the world, I have an international career, many wonderful memories and a mosaic of cultures within me. I feel a kind of kinship with Marlene because I myself have that feeling of rootlessness like her, who was an expatriate. I also have a complicated relationship with Germany and have fallen in love with many other countries, including the US and France. I thought I was finally ready to put that conversation into an artistic form and put on a one-woman show. It was an opportunity to confront both people, both Marlene and me, and let them talk to each other, “he said.

In 1992, Lemper was in Berlin to participate in ‘The Blue Angel’, a production in which she played Lola, the role that brought Dietrich to stardom in 1928. The veteran actress passed away six days before the premiere in Paris, and after a glamorous funeral at La Madeleine, her body was transferred to Berlin for burial. Ute attended the funeral and laid a rose on the grave.

In tomorrow’s show that dialogue between the two divas is recreated and, in the form of a dramatized conversation, Marlene’s career and her life from the beginning is evoked, in a timeline that finally runs into that of Ute Lemper revealing her stories parallel. The artist sings Marlene’s most fabulous songs and reveals several of her most captivating secrets.

Various melodies will be played in the repertoire, all of them sung by Dietrich on occasion: from signature song classics such as’ Where Have All The Flowers Gone ‘or’ Blowin ‘In The Wind’, by Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, respectively, to samples of German cabaret like ‘Life’s A Swindle’, immortal themes from the German repertoire like ‘Lili Marleen’ or from the French like ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ and, of course, pieces included in the soundtracks of the many films that Dietrich starred in. , among others, ‘The blue angel’ (Josef von Sternberg, 1930), ‘West Berlin’ (Billy Wilder, 1948) or ‘Panic on the scene’ (Alfred Hitchcock, 1950).

Broad curriculum

Ute Lemper studied at the Cologne Higher School of Music and Dance and at the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar Theater Institute in Vienna. At the end of the 80s she made her professional debut in the roles of Grizabella and Bombalurina in the Viennese production of the musical ‘Cats’, she continued with the leading part in ‘Peter Pan’ (Berlin) and played Sally Bowles in the Parisian version of ‘Cabare’ , for which it was awarded. After being Lola in ‘The Blue Angel’, the prestigious choreographer Maurice Béjart created for her the ballet ‘La Mort Subite’. She also performed in many of the Weill Revues with the Pina Bausch dance company, and played Velma Nelly in the London production of the musical ‘Chicago’, for which she was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award.

As a soloist he has toured the world together with the most renowned orchestras. His performances of the Berlin Cabaret Songs, the work of Kurt Weill and the French ‘chanson’, as well as his concerts on Broadway, Paris and London’s West End, have placed him at the pinnacle of international music. In cinema he has worked with Pierre Granier-Deferre, Peter Greenaway, Ivan Dikhovichni and Robert Altman, among other filmmakers. He sang with Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) ‘The Thin Ice’ on the album ‘Live in Berlin’ (1990) and has collaborated with other rock figures such as Nick Cave or Elvis Costello.