Ute Lemper was born in Münster, Germany, in 1963. Her father
was a banker,
her mother an opera singer. She began piano and taking dance lessons at the age of nine.
After musical training in Salzburg, Cologne and Berlin, she was introduced to classical theatre at
the Max Reinhardt seminary in Vienna.
Ute Lemper started her stage career at the tender age of 15, working in
jazz and piano bars. A year later, she joined the punk group The Panama
Drive Band. She spent two years at the Staatstheater Stuttgart, performing
in plays by Fassbinder and Chekhov. In 1983, Andrew Lloyd Webber offered her a part in the Viennese production of Cats
- I happened to be there with my college class and some of us had access to
seats directly on the stage. For one year, Ute Lemper alternated between the
roles of Grizabella and Bombalurina. In 1985, she played the title
role in the musical comedy Peter Pan in Berlin. The same year, she discovered Kurt Weill.
In 1986, Ute Lemper met Jérôme Savary in Stuttgart. He
invited her to play the role of Sally Bowles in a
production of Cabaret to be performed in Lyon, Düsseldorf, Rosme and Paris. She received the Molière award for her
performance as Sally Bowles in the Paris production at the Théâtre Mogador.
In 1987, Ute Lemper acted and sang in a show based on the life and repertoire of Kurt Weill
in New York. This production brought her engagements on her first world tour
that led her to Milan's Piccolo
Teatro, to Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Jerusalem, London and Barcelona.
Ute Lemper also appeared in a series of films: as Queen Marie-Antoinette in L'Autrichienne by Pierre Granier-Deferre, as
Ceres in Peter Greenaway's
Prospero's Books and in the role of Alberta in Robert Altman's film Prêt á Porter
(she appeared naked in the final scene of the film - while she was pregnant with her son Max,
who was born in
But as often, a star abroad is nobody at home. Her German career
reached its low point in 1992 with her role as Lola in Blue Angel
directed by Zadek in Berlin. She was not considered sexy enough, a cheap
nightclub performer. Deeply hurt, she left Germany for Paris, London and New
York, where she not only found recognition, but also a new home and a family,
founded with her American husband, actor and comedian David Tabatsky. They
have two children, Max and Stella.
Ute Lemper, as a true artist, does not rest on her laurels - she
transforms herself, always open for change. After Kurt Weill came the musicals
Cabaret and Chicago, where she shone as the vamp-murderess
Velma Kelly, which won her the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for Best
Actress in a Musical. Ute Lemper also sang the Nyman-songbook, the repertoire
of Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. She appeared at Milan's La Scala and sang The Seven Deadly Sins
with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano. She performed as
a principal dancer in La Mort Subite, a ballet created for her by
Maurice Béjart. In 1993, she had her paintings exhibited in Paris and Hamburg.
Ute Lemper also wrote articles for Libération, Die Welt and The Guardian. In
1995, her first book, Unzensiert (Uncensored), was published. Although
she had already published a pop album in 1991, Crimes of the Heart,
with her new album, Punishing Kiss, Ute Lemper again heads into new
territory, performing songs written by Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits
and others. The concert tour with her new album brought her back to Germany -
where she at last, at 36, has achieved recognition. She not only performed her new
songs, but e.g. also Jacques Brel's Amsterdam and Ne Me Quittes Pas.
Ute Lemper's album Punishing Kiss
The original title of Ute Lemper's new album Punishing Kiss was Passionate
Fight. The songs tell stories about passion and violence, about losers,
survivors and outcasts (especially the two songs by Tom
Waits). They are
written by some of the best songwriters such as Nick Cave, Elvis Costello,
Philip Glass, Scott Walker, Neil Hannon, Joby Talbot, and, as mentioned, by
Tom Waits. The album, of course, also includes with Tango Ballad or Ballad of Immoral Earnings from
The Threepenny Opera,a reference to Weill and Brecht - but in a
new and fresh look that fits into Punishing Kiss. The year 2000 is the
centenary of Weill's birth and the 50th anniversary of his death. The duet with Neil
Hannon is Ute Lemper's first recording of Weill in a contemporary arrangement.
Much of the credit for the new album goes to Joby Talbot, The Divine
Comedy's orchestrator and pianist, who was the album's
musical director and who arranged the orchestral
pieces. He helped to marry Ute Lemper's classical drama and musical talent
with pop music.
Punishing Kiss is theatrical and passionate. Costello is a crossover
artist, a portraitist and satirist. And in Little Water Song
by Nick Cave and Bruno Pisek, a woman is being
drowned by her lover. She watches his anger and her own life fade
away with serenity, as Ute Lemper explains. The three songs from The
Divine Comedy, a contemporary cabaret group, put the cabaret
universe in a pop concept. Joby Talbot's song Split, sung
by Neil Hannon and Ute Lemper, is about two
people fighting and then breaking up. The title song Punishing Kiss is
very ironic. It is sung by a woman
watching TV and testifies to a "decadent world with neurotic
and sick values" (Ute Lemper). The album released in
Switzerland also includes, on a second CD, French versions of three songs: Maison
Close, L'Affaire Continue and Petite Chanson D'Eau. Among
the English songs, only the last track, Scope J (by N.S. Engel), is not
worth listening to. The others songs are an original mix of pop, chanson and
drama, especially Streets of Berlin and You Where Meant For Me.
Ute Lemper's discography, a selection:
- Cats (German original recording)
Polydor (Germany), 1983
- Ute Lemper Singt Kurt Weill.
Ute Lemper, Jürgen Knieper,
Bayer Records (Germany), 1987
- Starlight Express (German original recording),
CBS (Germany), 1988
- I Dreamed a Dream,
- Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill.
Ute Lemper, RIAS Kammerensemble under the direction of John Mauceri, 1989. Get
the CD from Amazon.com
- Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera,
Ute Lemper, RIAS Berlin Sinfonietta, RIAS Berlin Kammerchor, John Mauceri,
- Ute Lemper Performs Kurt Weill, Milan (USA), 1991
- Ute Lemper Chante/Sings Kurt Weill, Milan (France), 1991
- Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill Vol. 2, Ute Lemper, RIAS Sinfonietta Berlin, John Mauceri, Jeff Cohen, London Voices,
- City of Strangers: Songs by Sondheim, Prévert...,
Ute Lemper, Bruno Fontaine, 1995
- Die Eisprinzessin,
Tony Carey, Ute Lemper,
BMG (Germany), 1995
- Birds in Cages,
Tony Carey, Ute Lemper,
BMG Ariola (Germany), 1995
- Berlin Cabaret Songs (in German,
Ute Lemper, Matrix Ensemble, Robert Ziegler, Jeff Cohen, 1996
- Berlin Cabaret Songs (in English),
Ute Lemper, Matrix Ensemble, Robert Ziegler, Jeff Cohen, 1997
- Nuits Étranges,
Ute Lemper, Philippe Delettrez,
Polydor (France), 1997. Get it from Amazon.fr
- Chicago (London Cast Recording),
BMG RCA Victor, 1998
- Ute Lemper Chante/Sings Kurt Weill, Editions Milan Music (France), 1998
- Life is a Cabaret.
Ute Lemper, Randy Kerber,
Columbia (Germany), 1998
- All That Jazz: The Best of Ute Lemper, 1998. Get the CD from Amazon.com
Punishing Kiss, April 2000. Get the CD from Amazon.fr,
Ute Lemper also appeared in a number of films (big screen and TV), a
Drei Gegen Drei
directed by Dominik Graf (1985); L’Autrichienne
directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre (1989);
Jean Galmot, Aventurier
aka Jean Galmot, Adventurer
directed by Alain Maline (1990);
directed by Peter Greenaway (1990); Pierre Qui Brûle
directed by Léo Kaneman (1991); Prorva,
aka Moscow Parade
directed by Ivan Dykhovichnij (1992);
aka Guilty of Innocence
directed by Marcin Ziebinski (1992);
Michael Nyman Songbook (TV)
directed by Volker Schlöndorff (1992);
In Search of Cabaret (TV)
directed by Michael Houldey (1992);
Prêt-à-Porter by Robert Altman (1994); Bogus
directed by Norman Jewison (1996).
Books by Ute Lemper:
- Unzensiert, Berlin, Henschel Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3894872136 (in German).
- Non Censuré, Paris, Albin Michel, 1997, ISBN 2226092757 (French edition).
Ute Lemper sings Kurt Weill, 1989. Get the CD from Amazon.com.