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.