Hatchet Job

Singer Confronts Music Critic Decades On

Sashenka Gutierrez dpa
Ute Lemper: Singing on regardless.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Ute Lemper is one of Germany’s most successful musical stars, but has spent most of her career abroad.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • In 1992, Ms. Lemper’s performance in the stage adaptation of “The Blue Angel” was trashed by critics, prompting her to leave Germany.
    • She went on to play Velma Kelly in the musical “Chicago,” first in London and then on New York’s Broadway.
    • Today, Ms. Lemper lives with her American husband and four kids in New York City.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

When she was just 18 years old, Ms. Lemper secured a part in the Vienna production of Cats and later won prizes for her performance in the Paris-based show Cabaret. In 1992, she was cast in Savary’s Blue Angel in Berlin, a theater adaptation of the 1930 movie of the same name starring German actress and chanteuse Marlene Dietrich.

The play was not well received, and Ms. Lemper bore the brunt of the criticism and left Germany shortly after.

Twenty-four years later, she agreed to sit down with Die Zeit and C. Bernd Sucher, a former drama critic who wrote some of the most devastating reviews in 1992.

 

Die Zeit: Ms. Lemper, Mr. Sucher, how nice that we’re all sitting at the same table now! There’s this unpleasant history that connects the two of you, dating back to 1992. That’s when you, Mr. Sucher, in one of your critics called Ms. Lemper artificial, a Barbie doll – perfect, but without spark, without personality.

Mr. Sucher: Can I please just say something? Dear Ute, I’m really happy that you brought yourself to meet the person who wrote those things about you. But please keep in mind, that was 24 years ago, and I’ve learned.

Ms. Lemper: (patting his arm) Oh, my dear drama critic, you did a nice job rehearsing that. But I can put your mind at ease: I’ve long since forgotten about all that. Before our meeting, I reread your article, and I have to say: you were right about many things! The play was terrible.

You’re talking about the Blue Angel adaptation. Did the critic hurt you nevertheless?

Ms. Lemper: What a question! I’m a human being after all. The morning after the premiere I entered the theater’s canteen. I hadn’t even had breakfast yet, was still disheveled. After all, we had spent the night celebrating. And then everyone was staring at me, putting the reviews in front of me. I almost choked on my coffee…

Mr. Sucher: There were reviews even worse than mine.

But your review, Mr. Sucher, was crushing.

Ms. Lemper: Mr. Sucher for sure didn’t crush me, and neither did any of the others manage to do that. I’ve had a wonderful career over the past 25 years, I devoted myself to my job with body, mind and soul. Je ne regretted rien. I even enjoyed the butchered production of “The Blue Angel” and played my part as well as this unfortunate production allowed me to.

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