“I love to bring music and the passion it contains close to people. That means to cast a spell on someone, it means to forget reality for a brief moment, dispensing with your senses…” says German-born Adrienne Haan, who graduated in 1999 from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
And she does indeed cast a spell on her audiences, vividly portraying a host of characters with a sexy routine that combines a high-caliber voice with brisk buoyancy and perfect diction in German, French, and English. Once in a while, when the thematic programming demands it, she can throw in a Yiddish song as well, especially effective while exploring a favorite era of hers: The nascence of German Cabaret and Art Song, and its heroes like Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Weill, and Bert Brecht. Her latest cabaret show, The Streets of Berlin, which offers homage to the the German spirit of the 20s and 30s and all its tumultuous sociopolitical and cultural influences, builds on repertoire from on her 2010 CD: Berlin, mon amour, including work for orchestra and voice by composers ranging from Misha Spoliansky to Kurt Weill, arranged and directed by award-winning movie productions, Heinz Walter Florin. The disc is available in both English and German.
The recording was co-produced by Das Beste, a German publisher with whom Haan had collaborated previously on her first CD release in 2007. Haan also took part in several broadcasts for WDR (a German TV/Radio Station).
Haan, who lives in Bonn, Germany but spends a large part of the year in New York, has successfully launched a solo career, building on her many experiences and the broad scope of her cultural and musical understanding.
The actress and singer’s repertoire choices suggests the sheer limitlessness of her vocal and theatrical range; she broadened her education in song-interpretation with instruction from the Juilliard School, allowing her to engage in projects as varied as Shakespeare plays, musical theatre like Cabaret and Evita, and dramas like O’Neill’s Anna Christie among others. It is, however, the cheeky character role of the fresh and brazen cabaret singer in which Haan, who holds dual citizenship in both Germany and the French-speaking country of Luxembourg, has found an ideal niche to bring her radiant self-confidence and dramatic energy as a soloist to the stage. When she sings, her crisp soprano voice is stirred by jazzy roars with some added French ‘sparrow voice’ inflections à la Edith Piaf.
While many members of Haan’s audience fall effortlessly for her signature provocative charm and the allure of her blonde Fräulein look, it is her ardent commitment to evoking an intimate understanding of that interim era, between World War I and II, which draws in much of her audience. Haan keenly represents the fresh outlook of today’s young generation, existing between a history of destruction and a probing quest towards a truly liberal, democratic society; Haan’s awareness of issues such as woman’s rights, sexual revolution, and ethnic and religious equality consistently lies at the heart of her artistic pursuit, which is thought-provoking while it remains entertaining. As an artist, she has a gift for making things personal:
“As long as people are listening, I will tell stories. Because that’s exactly what I do, when I am on stage: I sing, but I am always telling new stories. They are stories of joy and suffering, fun stories about the ‘joie de vivre,’ hope, lust, sexuality, and seduction. You will find a combination of all these things in From Berlin to Broadway.” The cabaret’s issues touched on in The Streets of Berlin still bare essential truths today, and Haan is fascinated with the cabaret’s omnipresent relevance and its genre-bending method of describing the human sentiment: “Within those melodies and lyrics lays the sort of dark humor that enabled people to assimilate the pain caused by war, loss and death, but also share the humor, joy and sorrow of emotions expressed in love and human relationships.”
The Berlin Wall fell when Haan was 11 years old, and a new sense of global re-unification opened borders; with the fall, Berlin’s problems of financial insecurity and political instability re-immerged. Haan stresses the recession’s impact on Berlin’s Weimar Republic pre-World War II and the threat of impending Nazism, tracing the creative mindset that it produced, born into desperate times, and reaching into today’s global cultural centers. Extracting the most personal of stories, Haan makes sure to continue the fight against discrimination, persecution, and small-mindedness beyond borders. With great affection and resilience, whether she performs at the embassies in Germany or Luxembourg, at the smallest of assemblies, or widely broadcasted, Haan has the personality and the wit to bring her voice across. (All photos courtesy of the artist)
You can catch Adrienne Haan at the National Arts Club on Wednesday June 18th at 8 pm.