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Anne Carrere in Piaf! The Show

Anne Carrere
Photo: Val Wagner

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors, January 6, 2017

 

Anne Carrere was advised, "Give your heart, give your soul, and believe in every word you say, speak or sing, and you will touch the hearts of the people."  Said Carrere, "I hope that I will be the embodiment of these words when I take the stage at Carnegie Hall."

With great respect for the story and music of Edith Piaf, Carrere took the stage and touched the hearts on January 6, 2017 with a one-night-only 60th anniversary of Edith Piaf's last concert at Carnegie Hall.  In 1957, Piaf was already a worldwide major star who had first toured the United States ten years earlier when she released her signature song, "La Vie En Rose."  She was a familiar face on The Ed Sullivan Show and debuted in Carnegie Hall in 1956, when The New York Times wrote, "High Priestess of Agony; French Singer Offers Heart-Rending Songs: Carnegie Hall Soaked in Tears by Edith Piaf."  Piaf returned for her final Carnegie Hall performance the following year. 

Piaf's longtime friend, Si­mone Berteaut, denied that the famed French chanteuse was a doleful victim, claiming, “She wasn’t sad. She loved to laugh.”  In Piaf! The Show, Carrere presents a portrait of the entire Edith Piaf metier, rags to riches, from her difficult youth, struggling to survive, suffering heartbreaks, losses and addictions.  The soaring scope of her life came through her music and contributed to the petite French superstar who arrived in Carnegie Hall and other major concert arenas with immense vocal power and a passionate heart that refused to surrender.  Not quite as diminutive as Piaf, Carrere does fiercely inhabit the canon with her own vibrato and emotion, less raw but  vibrant and painfully honest.  

Both parts of the show are sung-through with music telling the story.  In Act One, gliding projections of Montmartre display street scenes and a cafe in Pigalle where she scraped together a living. Like her four-piece band - Philippe Villa (piano), Guy Giuliano (accordion and harmonica), Laurent Sarrien (percussion/xylophone), and double-bassist Daniel Fabricant – Carrere is dressed casually.  She works the stage with energy and spirit.  Like Piaf, her singing is physical, her face and hands expressively interpreting hard-life story-songs like "La Goualante du Pauvre Jean" ("The Ballad of Poor John"), a harsher original version than the later American translation to "The Poor People of Paris." At the top of the show, she is on the street singing a fragile "Comme un Moineau," ("Like a Sparrow") but goes on to  include songs by familiar songwriters, like Michel Emer's expressive lost love of "L'Accordéoniste" and Raymond Asso, who joined Marguerite Monnot with a passionate ballad, "Mon Légionnaire." 

Many in the audience were not familiar with the early songs in this section and found Act II more accessible.  It is 1957, Piaf is sophisticated in a black dress, standing at a microphone, with her musicians in black tie.  The songs that made Piaf a French monument are presented with empathy and humor.  Playfully, she grabs up an audience member to join her dancing to "La Vie En Rose," she wanders up the aisle reprising the song in English and then asks the audience to join her singing in French.  And yes, many did with enthusiasm.  It helped that  the words were printed on a backdrop.

Projections showing her long line of lovers accompanied heartbreaking ballads of loss, "Mon Dieu" and the heartbreaking rendition of "Hymne à l'Amour," after the death of World Middleweight Champion, Marcel Cerdan.  "Les Feuilles Mortes" ("Autumn Leaves") in French and English was another emotional crowd-pleaser.  Carrere's English is halting but she charmed the audience, expressing undeniable honor standing in Piaf's star spot at Carnegie Hall.  

Interesting, the trademark Piaf anthem, "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" was not performed at Carnegie Hall in 1957.  Written in 1956, it was not recorded until 1960.  Wisely, in this show,  Carrere includes the song with powerful determinism. 

The audience's prolonged standing applause proved that Carrere fulfilled her aim, touching hearts with the French chanteuse' intensity  and sensitivity, and the memory of Piaf lives on. 

Carnegie Hall: Stern Auditorium, Perelman Stage
Seventh Ave and 57th Street, NYC
Starring: Anne Carrere, Singer; Philippe Villa, Piano; Guy Giuliano, Accordion; Laurent Sarrien, Percussion and Xylophone; Daniel Fabricant; Double Bass.
Written and Directed: Gil Marsalla
Production Stage Manager: Stephane Guy
One night only - January 6, 2017
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors, January 6, 2017