When Watching Unbearable Tragedy Is Far Too Bearable — Especially When Ute Lemper Sings

[From Forward]

‘I’m a mother of four children,” Ute Lemper was saying, fingers toying with the handle of her coffee cup, “and singing these songs, telling these terrible destinies and tales of death, is almost impossible.”

Lemper sat across from me at Nice Matin, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The lunchtime conversations surrounding us hummed with an energy that felt unique to this day, one of the first that felt like spring; visible through the windows, trees weighed down with white blossoms lent a delirious beauty to 79th Street. It was, altogether, a somewhat jarring environment in which to be discussing Lemper’s current project: a concert of songs written by Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Unlike many who claim the title “chanteuse,” Lemper, strawberry blonde and dressed with a chic simplicity, lives up to its silky appeal. She’s won acclaim for playing Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and spent her career, which has taken her through Berlin, Paris, London and New York, in worship of Kurt Weill. In person she comes across as direct and unpredictable, moving with a pantherlike deliberateness. Beyond the glamour, though, she is a professional who wants to do a good job. As she sipped her second cappuccino, she grew eager to ensure that my phone, which I was using to record our interview, captured our conversation over the buzz. She joked, with genuine concern, that if she spoke louder she might hurt her voice.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Listening materials, Other resources

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