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Ute Lemper is a multifaceted singer/actress closely associated with the Berlin cabaret style of songs and the music of Kurt Weill. Although she has appeared in a number of movies, she has generally focused on vocal concerts or on roles in musicals. Some of her admirers have asserted that the marketing of her recordings under the umbrella of classical or semi-classical music has hampered their sales, yet most have been commercial successes (and in some cases best sellers), especially those containing the music of Weill.
Exposed to music in her childhood through her opera-singer mother, she veered away from classical music and developed a fondness for American jazz and popular music. She first studied piano and dancing at age nine. She later studied voice and furthered her musical education in Berlin, Salzburg, and Cologne. She also took acting lessons in Vienna at the Max Reinhardt Seminary. At age 16, she joined the punk music group the Panama Drive Band and, true to her broad artistic tastes, soon began taking on roles in Chekhov and Fassbinder plays at the Staatstheater Stuttgart. Her first important stage effort was the 1983 Vienna production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's
, where she played the roles of Grizabella and Bombalurina on an alternate basis. In 1985, she landed the lead role in the Berlin production of the
musical comedy. The following year turned out to be a pivotal period in her career: She played Sally Bowles in a touring production of
staged in Rome, Paris, Lyon, and Düsseldorf, and began to develop a strong interest in the music of Weill. That same year, she won the prestigious French Moliere Award as Best Actress in a Musical for her work in the Paris staging of Cabaret. In 1987, she appeared in a New York production based on the life and music of Weill. Her first major recording was released that same year on the German label Bayer,
Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill.
Other successful recordings soon followed, including several more Weill CDs, one in 1991 of
The Three-Penny Opera
, and further volumes of his songs in 1993. She also recorded a pop album, released in 1991, entitled
Crimes of the Heart
. While Lemper focused heavily on the music of Weill in the cabaret genre, she also sang and recorded songs by Hollaender, Nelson, and several others, which appeared on recordings in 1996 and 1997. Meanwhile, Lemper was making inroads into film, too: she appeared as Marie-Antoinette in Pierre Granier-Deferre's 1989 film
and in Peter Greenaway's 1990
. Michael Nyman, who had written the music for the Greenaway film, wrote his
Six Celan Songs
for Lemper in 1990, who performed them to critical acclaim.
Lemper has received numerous awards, including Billboard's Crossover Artist of the Year for 1993-94. Her work also includes her portrayal of Velma Kelley in the 1997 London production of Chicago and the album
, released in 2000, featuring songs by Weill, Philip Glass, Elvis Costello, and others. She also appeared with critical success at the 2000 Covent Garden Festival in a production of Weill's
Die sieben Todsünden
Ute was nominated for a Grammy for her CD
Paris Days/Berlin Nights
with the Vogler String Quartet and Stefan Malzew on Piano, released on the Steinway & Sons label. It is a beautiful semi-classical recording, featuring songs between love and war composed by Hans Eisler, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and Astor Piazzolla, as well as Folksongs in Yiddish and in Russian.
In 2015, Ute completed her compositions
The 9 Secrets
to the words of Paulo Coelho, based on his book Manuscript Found in Accra. This creation was released on CD in fall 2015 on the label EDEL in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and on the Steinway & Sons Label internationally in February 2016. She recorded the song cycle, The 9 Secrets, in New York with some of the finest musicians from around the world. Instruments used during recording include exotic ancient Arabic guitars, shepherd flutes, rebec and percussions. Gil Goldstein played accordion and wrote masterful string arrangements.
Her previous creation
, an homage to the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda presents her self composed song cycle to his passionate Love Poems. This heartfelt musical masterpiece toured the world and was released on CD by Steinway & Sons.
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