I trekked the U-bhan link to Charlottenberg to meet with Gerlinde Kempendorff, a German Kabarett chanteuse. It was now the second time I embarked on a little journey alone in Berlin. (note, my brother is accompanying on the trip). I had no idea what to expect, but had some idea of what I wanted to ask.
Gerlinde met me at the door, and I was instantly bitten by her regality and astounding nature. She was German Kabarett.
We began a discussion of the difference between Cabaret and Kabarett, and why there seems to be a lack of Kabarett in Australia. The first few minutes of our chat were extremely invaluable and it was exactly what i wanted to hear. It was by far the most enriching information I have come across thus far about c(k)abaret(t). I do not know whether if it was because I was hearing it in actual time and space or hearing it from a veteran of the art form, or hearing it from a veteran extremely passionate about the art form – all that was known was that I ready to explore and listen to what Gerlinde had to offer.
Visiting the homage to Marlene Dietrich’s exhibition at the Film Museum at Potsdamer Platz yesterday was perfect planning because it played a part in the exchange of information today.
Kabarett emerged during the 20s/30s in reaction to the political agenda of the time. There was Cabaret, but that form of entertainment was more of the variety, with dancing girls, costume, feathers and bare breasts or breasts with very little. The Germans wanted to take Cabaret to a more sophisticated level, Kabarett. Unlike Opera, Musical Theatre, Classical and Cabaret, the ‘dramatic’ does not exist in the melody, the choreography, the set or the big gestures and notes. The ‘dramatic’ in Kabarett exists in the words. One needs an explosive mouth – not in the form of ear battering offensive and explicit language – rather an emphasised articulation. The words are more important than the melody. And therefore, the singer doesn’t need to be so conscious of singing the correct melody. In the early learnings of a song, the story and words come first, then melody. Opposed to classical training where one begins with learning the melody and the correct placement of tone, followed by the words. Kabarett says ‘stuff the melody’. There is a story to tell.
Gerlinde quoted Fredrick Hollander, who described the verses in Ich Weiss Nicht as individual films. In a three minute film, you would have traveled a 6 hour journey if performed well. This song performed famously by Marlene Dietrich was the song I chose to work on today. We dissected the first four lines, one verse, one film. I exploited the German language, screaming with diction, and abusing the front of my mouth with the Kabarett BITE.
Ich Weiss Nicht can be a song about love. Leaving a traitor behind you, and wanting to find the Prince you have always dreamed of. Something that everyone can relate to. When Hollander composed the song, Marlene Dietrich was without home. She exited Germany and followed her career in Hollywood. During her time there, war broke out and it made it incredibly difficult to return home. She could not identify herself as American nor German. This song is a reflection of her homelessness in a time of great danger and darkness.
German Kabarett is sung from the front of the mouth. French Kabarett is sung from the nose and lips. (if you think otherwise please let me know).
During the wartime period – German Kabarett was the running social commentary of Politics and War – French Kabarett received its status from the street and never forgot to talk about love. Since then of course they have progressed and developed.
I have my copy of Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Tales, and off to purchase Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic Weimar Republic.
I saw the pictures at Erotik Museum and paid homage to Marlene Dietrich at the museum and on her platz. I am attending German Kabarett despite not knowing every word. I’ve seen the venues, and listened to the music.
Me thinks i need to change my ‘Cabaret artist’ to ‘Kabarett Artist’ or simply to Chanteuse ??
Could I handle German Kabarett? I guess I don’t have to decide now. Let’s just stick with my current repertoire, hey?
It’s a lot of work to reach and maintain your status as a German Kabarett performer. If i chose to become a Kabarett performer, be it German then my voice has NO WAY BACK. If it was French, then not as bad. I learned that it is harder for classical trained singers to bring the power to the front of the mouth in the real Kabarett way. They are constantly concentrating on how perfect the melody is. If I followed through on the journey, there is a chance that the voice may not want to return to ARIA, or pure CLASSICAL. The voice will become dirty, hard, rough, gritty; the exact tone for one’s story to be heard. [She] is poised, glares a long gaze with big wide eyes above the heads of her audience and pulls the power and energy from the feet. [She] is dominant, [she] is secure, and [she] is everything to everyone and exists as one for her.
In five days, Paris – where my show study begins.