Adrienne Haan presents Between Fire and Ice—A Diabolical Weimar Berlin Cabaret in Review

Adrienne Haan presents Between Fire and Ice—A Diabolical Weimar Berlin Cabaret in Review

Adrienne Haan presents Between Fire and Ice—A Diabolical Weimar Berlin Cabaret
Adrienne Haan, chanteuse
Feinstein’s/54 Below, New York, NY
February 22, 2017


Adrienne Haan brought her unique passion for and devotion to the cabaret repertoire of 1920/30s Germany to the elegant room that is Feinstein’s/54 Below on February 22, 2017. In the several times I’ve heard her, her art has deepened—that includes this occasion in particular. Never have the bawdy, politically-charged themes of the material seemed more apposite, given the recent political shifts and conflicts here and abroad. Plus ça change.

She sang a generous program, and one would never have known, until she announced it, that she was appearing with a last-minute substitute pianist: the excellent Howard Breitbart ( her usual music director, Richard Danley, had a medical emergency). Their coordination was superb; she has appeared with Mr. Breitbart in Washington, D.C. previously, though not with this program.

Tonight, she brought extra undertones of sadness and fragility to her renditions. She sang a great deal in English, often turning to German for the refrains once the song was familiar. I assume this was done to increase the understanding of the largely monolingual audience. I found her instantly more expressive and idiomatic in her native German (true of classical art-song singers as well). She has precedent in that no less severe a figure than Arnold Schoenberg wanted his vocal works performed in the language of the audience.

Ms. Haan opened with the wonderful anthem to corruption “Alles Schwindel” (It’s All a Swindle). She never allowed her contemporary opinions to become heavy-handed to the point of making her evening unentertaining, but it was clear where she stood at all times. She circulated among the audience playfully, ruffling the hair on the heads of a few men, and, to be fair, sitting on the lap of a woman as well, during her saucier numbers. All this was done with the great ease of a natural performer. Her patter between songs was effective without being over-long.

Other highlights included: “Ich weiss nicht zu wem ich gehöre” (I Don’t Know Who I Belong To), “Medley zur Emanzipation der Frau” (Medley to the Emancipation of Woman), “Das Lila Lied/Maskulinum-Femininum” (The Lavender Song/Masculine-Feminine), and a forceful, haunting account of Kurt Weill’s well-known “Seeräuberjenny” (Pirate Jenny). In Ms. Haan’s tributes to Marlene Dietrich, such as “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe Eingestellt” (Falling in Love Again), she sang expressively, but without the weary “used-up” quality that Dietrich could summon so effortlessly.

A well-deserved encore was the staple “Lili Marlene,” with its own complicated history: words, by a WWI trench soldier, set to music only in 1938 on the eve of the next world war, which became an anthem of sorts for soldiers of both sides. At the risk of repeating myself, my wish-list for Ms. Haan would be for her to delve more deeply into the bitterness, anger, even fear, of this era (she came closest in the Pirate Jenny, which was spooky); and seek out more unusual repertoire to weave into her narrative. Nevertheless, she provides a wonderfully committed, very engaging window into this specialized world, one whose message we must never forget. Chapeau, Adrienne!

A Joseph Barry Production under patronage of the German UN Ambassador Harald Braun: Adrienne Haan sings Kurt Weill in Review

A Joseph Barry Production under patronage of the German UN Ambassador Harald Braun: Adrienne Haan sings Kurt Weill in Review

Adrienne Haan sings Kurt Weill
Adrienne Haan, chanteuse
Barry Kleinbort, director
Richard Danley, music director/piano
Novembergruppe Quintet: Dan Levinson, band leader/clarinet/alto saxophone; Jonathan David Russell, violin; Vinny Raniolo, guitar, banjo; Jared Engel, bass, tuba; Mike Campenni, drums
The Metropolitan Room, New York, NY
September 28, 2016


Late September, when “the days grow short” is indeed the best time for a survey of the songs of Kurt Weill—and Adrienne Haan has proved herself to be one of the finest living exponents of his varied repertoire. In the intimate, elegant Metropolitan Room in Chelsea (New York City), she commanded a musical sextet of excellent players, and illuminated Weill’s chameleonic nature as a composer, with anecdotes from both his life and her own.

Let me say right at the outset that this evening had only highlights. This is rare. All classically-trained singers of art song should be required to attend several cabaret performances a year to see how it is possible to emote fully and sing with a large voice and still make every word understandable, as Ms. Haan always does.

She plunges with apparent abandon right into the heart of every song, with a unique affinity for 1920s and 30s Weimar-era music that includes decadence and disillusionment—but she never descends into sour cynicism, as other well-known Weill interpreters sometimes do. Ms. Haan retains a sort of positive radiance. In fact, if I were to counsel her at all, it would be to develop yet another dimension, whether it is a kind of world-weariness, all-passion-spent, or a frankly angry persona. Perhaps she will as the years roll by, as she is still young.

She explained in concise patter how Weill shifted his style to match the various countries he resided in and the lyricists he was working with: Gershwin, Brecht, Fernay, Nash, Magré, Kaiser, and Botrel. Ms. Haan performed with authority in the three languages English, German, and French.

My Ship (from Lady in the Dark) opened with suitably convincing longing for the boat to be bringing her “own true love” to her. (Though Ms. Haan’s supportive husband was in the audience, and was introduced.) She then plunged into Die Seeräuber Jenny, the showstopper from Die Dreigroschenoper in which the scrubbing maid hectors her disbelieving listeners into a tale of capture and murder of which she is in charge. Then Ms. Haan turned to French Weill in the form of the Youkali tango/habanera (from Marie Galante) in which the land of infinite pleasure is first described and then negated as not existing anywhere.

Speak Low (from One Touch of Venus) was beautifully sung: “The curtain descends, everything ends too soon”- an apt description for this program. This was followed by Weill’s most famous number, the one everyone has heard even if they didn’t know it was by Weill: Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (from Die Dreigroschenoper) and its not-so-covert protest against the German regime which caused it to be banned. Ms. Haan deftly pointed out some possible relevance to current politics (without being heavy-handed about it.) The song’s sudden ending took the audience by surprise. She continued in intense-mode with Surabaya Johnny (from Happy End). This and the next lost-romance number (Je ne t’aime pas) I felt were the only tiny missteps in an otherwise perfect program. They came off as duly overwrought and desperate, but I felt they needed more anger and perhaps less “victimization.” Forgive me, Adrienne.

After a brief humorous explanation of how Brecht obtained his exotic geographical names (by sticking pins into atlases, in places he thought had funny sounding names), Ms. Haan delivered a stunning rendition of Alabama Song (from Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny) where her search for a “whiskey barrrrrrrr” was accompanied by the hurling of actual $100 bills into the audience, who were exhorted to join in the boozy chorus. Now that’s decadence! Cäsars Tod (from Der Silbersee) provided another censured bit of history, with its parallel of the ancient Roman dictator with the one rising in Germany at the time.

Nannas Lied states that “the love market becomes easier as you embrace them by the score,” with Brecht’s clever borrowing of the line from medieval French poet François Villon, “where are the snows of yesteryear.” Then Le Grand Lustucru (from Marie Galante) took the stage, a bogeyman from Provençal lullabies that devours little children who refuse to go to sleep. Bilbao Song (from Happy End), another whimsically chosen atlas-name, hymned the virtues of Bill’s Be-All Bar, where drink was unlimited, bar fights superseded any action on the dance floor, and the narrator can’t quite remember the lyrics to his song request, or whether the joy or pain was greater.

Regretfully, the evening had to end, and did so with The Saga of Jenny (from Lady in the Dark), quite a different gal from Die Seeräuber Jenny (or is she?), whose chief problem is that she sows tragedy quite effortlessly throughout her life simply by “always making up her mind.” Ms. Haan’s built-in (and well-deserved) encore was I’m a Stranger Here Myself (from One Touch of Venus), with perhaps more than a touch of nostalgia for her own experience as a transplant to the United States. Well, call me corny, but at an evening of Weill held on September 28, I would have liked to hear September Song. Maybe next time, and there will surely be many next times for this artist. (In fact, this concert was sold out, causing the Metropolitan Room to add another date for her in October.)

Adrienne Haan- Rock le Cabaret! In Review

Adrienne Haan- Rock le Cabaret! In Review

Adrienne Haan- Rock le Cabaret! In Review
Robert R. Blume and Joseph Barry present a Step Forward Entertainment Production: Adrienne Haan-Rock le Cabaret!
The Cutting Room, New York. NY
April 18, 2015


Back in the day (the eighteenth century French day, that is), cabarets were actually just smallish cleared-up spaces in the back of wine merchants’ shops. There, whoever wished could sing politically charged songs lamenting the overworked common man and his or her lot and loves. Naturally, these venues aroused suspicion on the part of the ruling powers, as did cafés .

Closer to our time, cabaret has come to mean a somewhat more genteel listening experience, often in posh surroundings, with standards from the American (or other national) songbook and musical theater material, delivered with some patter in between.

On Saturday night, April 18, 2015, the force of nature that is Adrienne Haan restored some of the fury that this genre could use, in her fusion of 20’s and 30’s inspired French chansons mashed-up with propulsive rock arrangements (all by Rainer Peters). This was no shrinking violet of an evening, but rather a high-energy spectacular. The unifying story-line was that of love: its longings, satisfactions, and endings.

She took almost every iconic song from Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, and even Kurt Weill, and shifted them (even the ballads) into high gear. As a result, perhaps there was too much sameness in the sound, which was heavily amplified to the point where the balances in the small, charmingly eccentric Cutting Room space were off, to the detriment of understanding a percentage of the lyrics.

A standout for me was the rendition of Brel’s Le Port d’Amsterdam, in which her tone and the arrangement and the material were in perfect alignment. This catalog of a seaport and its seedy needy denizens was delivered with maximum rage and/or disdain, yet turned also to empathy and identification.

Ms. Haan’s version of La Vie en rose reminded me of Grace Jones’ 80’s disco version, but her singing of Youkali, the Kurt Weill fantasy location where forbidden lovers may enjoy their ill-fated hook-ups, was extremely touching. The concert could have used more points of repose and lyricism like this. Ms. Haan is hyper-kinetic, urging the audience to clap along, even sing along at one point in the encore; she could be described as relentlessly positive, even when the emotions being sung about are less so.

Not to be overlooked, her five-piece band was extremely talented; this was evident despite the volume level. Two of the five even traveled from Germany to do this event. The others were from the enormous freelance talent pool of New York City.

Clearly Ms. Haan is a huge talent; she sang in only one of her six languages, and she often performs in many other styles as well. Perhaps I would have found the evening more interesting if the new versions had been interspersed with more traditional material; in that way, the appreciation of contrast could have been even greater. But that is just me. She generated enormous excitement in the room, and justifiably so. She is a totally-involved, hard working, generous and energetic artist.



From Berlin to Broadway-Transatlantic in Review

From Berlin to Broadway-Transatlantic in Review

From Berlin to Broadway-Transatlantic
Adrienne Haan, chanteuse; Richard Danley, piano; Mike Campenni, drums; Roswitha, curtain singer
The Actors’ Temple, New York, NY
March 23, 2015

This concert was a benefit to raise money for the renovation, or could one say restoration, of Congregation Ezrath Israel’s 1923 landmark building on West 47th Street, The Actors’ Temple, which now serves as both a house of worship and a theater. Before the opening ceremonies we were entertained by Roswitha, an Austrian violinist/singer whose vocals, violin melodies and costume (ooh-la-la!) reminded us that we weren’t in a shul, thus preparing us for the evening of cabaret singing which was to follow.

During these opening ceremonies we learned about the many Broadway legends who worshiped here. The program that followed was a perfect way to conjure up the spirits of those great performers, the zeitgeist of the European countries they left, and the creative spirit which their new home encouraged.

The houselights darkened and Adrienne Haan sauntered down the aisle dressed in a form fitting blue sequined gown with a white fur wrap (ooh-la-la redux!) Her first number was “Die Seeräuberjenny” (“Pirate Jenny”) from Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper). This and the next three sets were sung in both German and English, the first two of the five languages we heard this evening. The other three were Yiddish, Hebrew, and French. For her rendition of “Pirate Jenny” and during the following German cabaret medley, Ms. Haan used the very bottom of her very wide range, singing a la Marlene Dietrich. As the concert progressed she sang higher and higher. This was first heard during one of her best numbers, the Yiddish song “Ikh Shtey Unter A Bokserboym” (“I Stand Beneath a Carob Tree”).

Ms. Haan established a close rapport with the audience through her informative, funny, and often moving commentary between sets. Introducing the next song, “Rikmah Enoshit Achat” (“One Human Tissue”), she said it was dedicated “to all the souls who have brutally lost their lives in the massacres of World War II,” and [she] would “sing it in memory of the Auschwitz liberation seventy years ago on January 27, 1945.” The Hebrew text of this song, whose words and music were written by Moti Hamer, was a fitting tribute, but I found the musical arrangement and performance jarringly upbeat.

Up to this point the accompanying artists, pianist Richard Danley and drummer Mike Campenni, were discreetly in the background. During the next set, a medley of American standards, the three artists shared equal prominence. I especially liked Mr. Danley’s swinging “’’S Wonderful.” More American songs followed. For me, Ms. Haan’s best performances took place during the next two sets, sung in French. She began Jacques Brel’s “Le Port D’Amsterdam” a cappella, a wonderful change of color. The instrumentalists soon joined in, and the work crescendoed to a shattering climax. An equally successful Edith Piaf medley followed. The concert proper ended with a moving performance of Ute Lemper’s “Blood and Feathers,” based on Jacques Prévert’s poem “Sang et Plumes.”

After sustained and enthusiastic applause, Ms. Haan performed an encore, “Jerusalem of Gold.” It was touching to hear the melody being softly hummed by some audience members who sat near me.