Brigitte Heuser shares her love for Marlene Dietrich and Maria Callas

Brigitte Heuser

When singer Brigitte Heuser moved back to Perth from Europe she began performing around town people would often ask her what types of music she performed.

Having straddled the world’s of both cabaret and opera Heuser would offer the reply of “everything from Marlene to Maria” name checking the iconic German film star and cabaret artist Marlene Dietrich and American-Greek opera legend Maria Callas.

Her reference to the two singers got Heuser thinking about the parallels of the two legendary singers lives and careers, and from that she created a new cabaret show that celebrates their lives and music.

“It’s not presenting a Wikipedia page, because people can read about these people online, but it is me intertwining the stories of their lives; and they did have some similarities. They both lived for their art, they were icons, and they reached the pinnacles, they’re both absolute stars who had a huge legendary status.” Heuser said of the thoughts behind the new show.

“I adore the music of both of them, and I wanted to explore and see what songs I can do in a show and just go from one to the other, some songs from Marlene are very reflective of what Callas would have been feeling in her personal life.”

While both artists reached the top of their respective professions they both had huge personal lives, albeit very different lives. While Maria Callas abandoned her singing career for lover Aristotle Onassis, she spent her final years being lonely, Dietrich just worked and worked and reportedly had a stream of different lovers.

Both stars have been remembered in popular culture in different ways, Callas was captured in Terrence McNally’s play Masterclass, while for many younger people the most common reference they have to Marlene Dietrich is homages Madonna has made in her music concerts.

“In more diverse communities I’d say Marlene is an icon and is more well known, but in the wider not-so-cultured public, they don’t know either. With my music I always like to bring people something they haven’t seen before.” Heuser said.

The singer shared that she grew up in New Zealand in a family with a German background, and as her father was a musician she was exposed to a lot of different kinds of music.

“Opera and classical music and performance was always in my zeitgeist, but for other people that’s not the case, so you’re not expected know anything. The kind of way that I’m brining opera to cabaret is an easy exposure, it’s not like going to see a three hour opera and having to read about it.”

Heuser shared that she’s always intrigued by how people discover and fall in love with opera, and says most people don’t realise how many works they already know through advertising and films.

While opera is often performed in big rooms with an orchestra, Heuser says it also successfully make the transition to the intimate world of cabaret.

“I’m doing it with a pianist as opposed to an orchestra, but it’s taken taken out of context we’re just doing one aria, not the big numbers. A lot of opera though is written for smaller spaces, like Baroque Opera and even some Mozart with a smaller orchestra. Even Wagner, and maybe some Verdi, where people expect a massive sound and huge productions, that can be taken into a new context and presented in a smaller space and people will love it.

“People love that as a first experience because its actually more engaging, the walls are completely broken down. There’s not a big orchestra pit and a huge auditorium, just you up there close… at the end of the day cabaret is about telling stories and I think opera translates very well.”

Brigitte Heuser will be performing Maria, Marlene and Me from 22-23 June as part of the Perth International Cabaret Festival. Tickets are on sale now.

Graeme Watson


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