Sonja Kehler

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Sonja Kehler (1974)
Sonja Kehler at the Long Hanns Eisler Night on September 8, 2012 in Berlin

Sonja Kehler (* 2. February 1933 in Haldensleben ; † 18th January 2016 ) was a German actress and Diseuse , through their Brecht - interpretations gained international prominence.


After studying acting at the Leipzig Theater Academy , she initially worked successfully for a number of years on various GDR theaters, including as Luise in Kabale und Liebe , Shen Te in The Good Man of Sezuan , and Grusche in The Caucasian Chalk Circle . As Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and Pirate Jenny in the Threepenny Opera , she gave the first major samples of her musical talent. She had permanent engagements in Brandenburg and Karl-Marx-Stadt .

Ultimately, it was also the design of the vocal pieces for the Brecht roles that Kehler brought to the chanson during her acting studies and that she enlivened with new nuances. Already at that time she was called the "singing actress". In 1967 she took part in the GDR's 1st Chanson Competition and received the special radio award.

In 1971 in Berlin, Kehler was finally on stage with her first, own Brecht program (music: Kurt Weill , Brecht , Dessau , Hanns Eisler , Medek ) and was well received by the public and critics. Soon recognized by international critics as one of the most successful and important interpreters of the German language, her records, which she published from then on, appeared in part in West Germany and abroad. Sonja Kehler often sang her chansons in several languages.

Various tours and trips abroad - still in GDR times to Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Algeria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the CSSR and last but not least to the Federal Republic  - also testified to the international format of the artist, which at the time was accompanied by a combo led by Bernd Wefelmeyer . In the GDR she was also often heard on the radio and television.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the actress also worked as a director at the Trier House of Excellence , but continues to perform with literary programs that are still among the best on offer in this regard. Her preferred authors were Brecht , Kästner , Tucholsky , Ringelnatz , Heinrich Heine and Else Lasker-Schüler , whose texts she presented both spoken, played and sung; often with Milan Šamko as accompanist at the piano, with whom she already worked in the GDR for recordings and the like. To date, over a dozen long-playing records by the Diseuse have been released.

In 1999 she was also seen in the movie Heroes Like Us , based on a novel by Thomas Brussig .

Sonja Kehler found her final resting place in the south-west cemetery in Stahnsdorf near Berlin.

Denmark and “Stemmen i kroppen” book

From the 1980s to 2016, Kehler was a lecturer at the State Drama School i Odense (Skuespillerskolen ved Odense Teater, now DDSKS), Denmark. Here she developed her own vocal method for actors and singers. Originally to interpret Bertolt Brecht's complex text and expression language. In 2009 the Danish publisher Kastanjehøj published the book "Stemmen i kroppen - en øvelsesbog i Sonja Kehlers stemmemetode" (The voice in the body - an exercise book on Sonja Kehler's voice method) by singer, actor and author Ulle Bjørn Bengtsson. Bengtsson had previously been a student of Sonja Kehler. Quote from the back:

“The voice in the body is an exercise book on a physically based vocal method, developed by the German actress and singer Sonja Kehler. The essence of the method is the training of naturally deep breathing and a voice support that is deeply seated in the body, from which the ability to use the voice in a controlled manner during physical movement is practiced. The exercises have other positive effects, such as increased strength and suppleness, increased grounding and balance ability, and on the very basal an increased common sense, which makes the voice in the body available to a large number of people. "


  • What do you believe if not in yourself? (with Dieter Mann and Stefan Lisewski ; LP Litera 8 60 190, 1972)
  • Monologue about love (LP Litera 8 65 191, 1973)
  • Eisler: Songs with Sonja Kehler (LP Nova 8 85 087, 1973)
  • Midnight trolleybus (with Winfried Wagner; LP Litera 8 65 212, 1974)
  • Sonja Kehler sings Hanns Eisler (LP Songbird, 1975)
  • So it must be, Marie - New Songs with Sonja Kehler (LP Nova 8 85 115, 1976)
  • Dessau - songs. Sonja Kehler sings songs by Paul Dessau based on texts by Bertolt Brecht (LP Nova 8 85 120, 1977)
  • Brecht portrait (LP / CD Wergo, 1978)
  • Winged sentences. Songs with Sonja Kehler (LP Nova 8 85 162, 1978)
  • Sonja Kehler sings Brecht ; (LP plans S 44 601, 1978)
  • Against the phrase, the boredom and the general chatter - poems by Johannes R. Becher (LP Litera 8 65 281, 1980)
  • Message to my oppressed friends (Links Händle Records, 1981)
  • The world is round? (LP) ( Amiga 8 45 311, 1987)
  • Light sleeping, dark waking - Else Lasker-Schüler (CD) (SK, 1998)

CD compilations:

  • Sonja Kehler sings Brecht (CD) (Berlin Classics, 2008) - Recordings 1972–78
  • Der Brecht and I - Hanns Eisler in Conversations and Songs (CD) (Berlin Classics, 2008) - With Sonja Kehler, Ernst Busch , Hanns Eisler himself and others.

Stage appearances

Sonja Kehler sings at the Long Hanns Eisler Night on September 8, 2012
  • Luise in Cabal and Love (Friedrich Schiller) (Theater Neustrelitz, 1959?)
  • Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare) (Theater Neustrelitz, 1959?)
  • Shen Te in The Good Man of Sezuan (Bertolt Brecht) ( Brandenburger Theater , 1960?)
  • Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Alan Jay Lerner / Frederick Loewe) Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz, 1961?)
  • Jenny in Threepenny Opera (Bertolt Brecht) Theater Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz, 1961?)
  • Grusha in The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Bertolt Brecht)
  • Elisabeth in Maria Stuart (Friedrich Schiller) - (Staatstheater Stuttgart?) (Directed by Harald Quist)
  • Phaedra in Phaedra (PO Enquist) - City Theater Klagenfurt (Dir. Alexandra Thaer)
  • ShenTe / ShuiTa in The Good Man of Sezuan (Bertolt Brecht) Castrop-Rauxel (directed by Franz Bäck)
  • Anna in The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petty Bourgeois (Bertolt Brecht) (Copenhagen) (Morton Grue)
  • Dame in Grau Happy end (Brecht / Hauptmann) - (Team Teatret, Herning, Denmark, 1990) (Direction Sonja Kehler)
  • Heather (I'll get out and do my own show) Edith Piaf

Solo performances

  • Letters from prison (Rosa Luxemburg)
  • Tonight - Lola Blau (Georg Kreisler)
  • Love story of the century (Märta Tikkanen)

Radio plays


On the cover of Monologue About Love :

  • "Sonja Kehler has a tart, beautiful, versatile voice, well-founded in depth and expressively modulated up to astonishing heights." (Neue Zeit, 1971)
  • "In her vocal and acting gesture, Sonja Kehler consistently always stays on the basis of the acting, avoids any purely vocal ambition in precise knowledge of the specifics of the genre." (Leipziger Volkszeitung, 1972)
  • “The song seems full of consciousness all the time. She knows what she sings and she also knows how to make it understandable to her listeners. "(Helsingin Sanomat, 1972)
  • "... Just like the soft tones, restrained charm, intimacy occasionally paired with soft irony, seem to be their real domains." (Der Morgen, 1971)


  • “You can really say of her that she is a gestural actress. The attraction, often ravishing, of her lecture lies in the fact that she is able to find her own gesture for every poem she sings: How she stands, how she speaks with her arms and hands and fingers, how she looks at the features of her face what she sings, adapts or opposes, and of course, how she modulates the voice and lets it act gestural and how she manages the feat of repeating herself in hardly a gesture. "(Prof. Dr. Ernst Schumacher)
  • “By the way: Unteachable, as Sonja Kehler is apparently now, she also clings to a virtue that has gone out of fashion. She speaks the texts in such a way that you can understand them. Articulation as a prerequisite for a profession based on public speaking. "(Thomas Rothschild)


  • Wolfgang Lange: I want to be useful. In conversation with Sonja Kehler . In: Ernst Günther, Heinz P. Hofmann, Walter Rösler (eds.): Cassette. An almanac for the stage, podium and ring (=  cassette ). No. 2 . Henschelverlag Art and Society, Berlin 1978, p. 51-60 .

Web links

Commons : Sonja Kehler  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. a b Bärbel Beuchler: Nothing works without freedom - On the death of Sonja Kehler. In: Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  2. a b Sonja Kehler. In: St. Marien am Behnitz. Retrieved April 22, 2016.