Berlin was an important hub for artists, musicians, intellectuals, and innovators from all backgrounds during the Weimar republic years. Though the political and social climate was turbulent, Berlin welcomed new ideas in all areas, and encouraged the work of wide-ranging people including Theodor Adorno, Walter Gropuis, Kurt Weill and Alban Berg.
This thriving cultural climate also saw the rise of cabaret, which has become iconic in the English-speaking world through works such as Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (later adapted into the musical Cabaret).
This CD combines material that survived because the music and text was timeless in itself, with material that re-emerged years later. Contemporary social justice issues and movements such as ‘Me Too’ and LGBT rights resonate in songs such as “Chuck all of the Men out of the Reichstag” or “Das Lila Lied”.
In Berlin; Berlin im Licht; We’ve Been here before; Monotonous night; Illusions; Das Lila Lied/The Lavender Song; All the best men are gay; I loves my man; Where a Stolperstein stands; Youkali (Tango Habanera); Chuck all the men out of the Reichstag; Britannia waives the Rules; Please don’t invite me to your country estate; Der mensch muss eine Heimat haben
Project Overview from CD booklet notes by Michael Haas
There’s the view that cabaret started off in the 19th century as “the salon of petty criminals and prostitutes”. In place of gilded drawing rooms were smoky dives and rather than offering a venue for artistic transcendence, it offered shaky boards on upturned crates or beer barrels. These boards, in German “Brette” were further parodied in the diminutive as “Brettel” – or “little boards”, offering a name to the songs performed on such makeshift stages. It soon became fashionable for urban bohemians to frequent such low-life dives bringing a certain gentrification in their wake. In Berlin, Paris, Vienna and Barcelona, the bawdy songs that would have been more typical of English sea-side music halls were replaced by social satire, often pulling heavy political punches. Yet if there’s a single difficulty about Cabaret, it would be its inability to transcend locality, time and place. Cabaret like operetta, is essentially local, and rarely even survives into the following week or year. Its pre-war material was the equivalent of the satirical television programs of today – enormously entertaining while being “to the minute” relevant, making references to issues or people everyone recognized. Less entertaining is returning to the same material a year or a decade later. Events, politicians and social mores have moved on. Yet some elements survived either because the music and text were timeless in themselves, or emerged decades – or indeed, a century later, as provocatively contemporary. Struggles for social justice such as “Me Too” or “Black Lives Matter” are embryonically echoed in songs such as “Chuck all of the Men out of the Reichstag” or “Das Lila Lied”. Even today, we return to music to poke fun at society while making serious political points as a viable tool of passive resistance. True geniuses such as Hollaender, Spoliansky, Heymann and yes, Hughes & Limb could move the genre beyond supporting amusing texts with four-square accompaniments to true musical brilliance.
Lyric soprano Melinda Hughes has sung in more than forty countries. An accomplished opera singer, recitalist and cabaret singer, her sparkling personality, stage presence and wit make her very much in demand as a performer.
Hughes is a graduate from the Maastricht Conservatory of Music and the Royal College of Music. She attended The Brussels Opera Studio then toured Europe for three years as a soloist with the André Rieu Strauss Orchestra. Melinda then went on to sing more than thirty different main operatic roles. Opera roles performed include: Aida (Dorset Opera), Tosca, Madame Butterfly (CAMI, Diva, Longborough, Gubbay), Rachel (La Juive), Fiordilgi, Mimi, Violetta, Donna Anna, The Countess, Pamina, Nedda, Marcelline, Ninnet (l’amour des trios Oranges) Konstanze, Frasquta, Gilda and Euridice.
A specialist in Weimar Cabaret Melinda formed her satirical group Kiss & Tell with co-writer Jeremy Limb, performing at The Al Bustan Festival Beirut, Hay Literary Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Cadogan Hall, Holders Festival Barbados and The Metropolitan Room New York. Her CD ‘Smoke and Noise’ (Nimbus NI6139) received rave reviews and they appeared on BBC Radio 3 many times and on BBC Radio 4 with Barry Humphries on a programme about Weimar Cabaret.