A brief, pianistic overture is so atmospheric, it almost makes the room overcast. Israeli vocalist Yael Rasooly walks slowly from the back of the room, opening with two eclectic numbers by Kurt Weill: “Mon Ami My Friend” (lyric-Paul Green for 1936’s Johnny Johnson) and “What Was Sent to The Soldier’s Wife” (Lyric- Bertolt Brecht):
What was sent to the soldier’s wife/From the ancient city of Prague ?/From Prague came a pair of high heeled shoes, With a kiss or two came the high heeled shoes/From the ancient city of Prague… a gift arrives from each city in which her love is stationed, the last, a widow’s veil.
Love Must Have An End is billed as “The vibrant world of German Cabaret before the Nazis rose to power.” Songs are well chosen and skillfully multilingual. It’s clear the self-assured performer is passionate about her subject. Flickers of a smile keep roiled emotion from achieving full effect with these first two otherwise powerful selections, but phrasing and accompaniment are spot on.
“I Love You Too Much” (Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib- Yiddish title – Alexander Olshanetsky, Chaim Tauber/English by Don Raye), is animated, flirty. Purposely Sturm und Drang Yiddish emerges expansive. Rasooly periodically offers the wide eyed response of silent films. One long note coils like a slinky. “Now she explains how he ruined her life step by step.” Bookended by jazzy English, the song becomes a scene-in-one.
The grave “Wie Lange Noch?” (Kurt Weill/Walther Mehring) follows in German. It was night when I willingly gave myself to you…you tortured me…I would’ve put the world at your feet…She steps forward…And I believed you…and I stayed silent…The terrific song is performed with wrenching regret that suffers from simultaneous translation.
Kurt Weill/Roger Fernay’s “Youkali,” in French, describes an enchanted land “where love is free and we can live out our desires…” Imagine its impact in the thirties…C’est un rêve, une folie… (a dream, madness) she sings ruefully, dismissing the fantasy with open palm. Direct and moving.
A tandem “Falling In Love Again” (Fredrich Hollaender-German/Sammy Lerner-English) and “Non, je ne regrette rien” (Charles Dumont/ Michael Vaucaire) salutes Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf. The first is soft edged, deftly restrained, the second could be more defiant.
We close with two more Piaf numbers. (A Piaf show is in development.) Rasooly theatrically relates these stories in English so songs might be experienced without interference. Rein’s adept background music makes even the telling cinematic.
“La Foule” = The Crowd, describes a lonely woman at a street festival unexpectedly thrown into the arms of a stranger. They dance. It’s a coup de foudre, love at first sight. Her heart leaps with pleasure and hope, but the throng pulls them apart. She calls to him. He can’t hear over music and laughter. She knows she’ll never see him again. The vocal conjures a vivid scenario. We hear abjection, joy, surprise, helplessness, misery. Music compels. Pauses are perfection. (Angel Cabral/Michel Rivegauche)
Michel Elmer’s iconic “L’accordeoniste” follows suit, first the tale, then the infectiously melodic song. The artist is invested. We see the heroine.
MD/Pianist Daniel Rein offers superb arrangements. The musician’s accompaniment practically breathes with Rasooly. His solo of Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife” is stunning.
One wishes stories of the period were included rather than personal anecdotes. We don’t need to hear a chatty explanation of how Rasooly reconnected with Rein. Too much is directed from the stage to friends in the audience. This is not a living room. The talented vocalist is apparently also a professional actress. A director might add polish and context. I look forward to the next effort.
Photos by Steve Bustamante of Unicodia
Yael Rasooly: Love Must Have an End
Daniel Rein- MD/Piano
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
May 11, 2019