French Culture Guide

French Culture in New York, with a Touch of Paris

Edith Piaf – Alive and Living in New York: The Unexpected Duo

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Edith Piaf is a French legend, known also as “The little Sparrow”. Her mythical French songs are known internationally. Even when people cannot remember the lyrics, they can still recognize the rhythm. It’s very difficult to perform her songs, and especially abroad. Offering this show in NYC was a big feat full of challenges. However, Floanne loves challenges, so it was the perfect mission for her. She knew Edith Piaf’s French songs wouldn’t be understood by Americans. Therefore, she has to find a way to get everybody involved; the public has to be able to hear every word, and to feel every emotion.

 

She decided then to create a whole universe where aficionados and the curious can both have the pleasure to seeing her, and not only her. She was surrounded by famous professionals, Rachel Kaufman, the music director and pianist, Ray Park on the bass, Mario Monaco, the percussionist, and the guest star, Marcel Van Dam the guitarist. Floanne elected to offer an atypical performance where even Edith Piaf was resurrected.

 

The light went down in the Triad theatre while an elegant, sober, and mysterious apparition came from the back. Her piercing eyes looked over the room while she humbly tilted her head as a sign of gratitude. Wearing a simple black dress and capped by a 50’s hat, the woman apparition was floating until the stage. Then, under the spotlight, Floanne built on. Her first contact on stage was with Edith Piaf while she offered us a performance of one of the most famous titles of the star, “Non je ne regrette rien”.

The flash back started at that moment. We were transported in the 60’s in a Parisian cabaret… At the end of the song, she asked the audience “are you ready to hear about Edith Piaf?”, and yes we were all excited to hear Floanne keep singing. Then, she started to look back at Edith Piaf’s life from her birth to her last breath, trying to understand this icon by telling us her story. This exercise wasn’t easy at all. Edith Piaf was a complex artist who had an incredible fate. Her private life was completely integrated to her Art. Therefore it’s important to understand the woman she was, to understand the artist and her autobiographical repertoire. She used to have a song for every important moment of her life.

 

Floanne succeeded in this mission. She offered us a whole universe, and we followed her gently in her storytelling. The show was bewitching; we were all suspended to her lips and sensual moves. Between songs, the young French girl stopped singing to speaking. She explained to us, with humor and lightness, the important events of Edith Piaf’s life. She also made the effort of translating some of the songs, so no one would be lost. When she wasn’t able to give the English version, she started before performing explaining the main idea of the song. She gave life to Edith Piaf and her songs. Floanne gave Edith Piaf a chance to come back to life, and witness her own existence. Thanks to Floanne, Edith Piaf seized this opportunity to comment on certain parts of her life, sing some songs (like “La vie en rose”), and even interpret songs that came after her death (“La bohème” of Charles Aznavour).

 

I certainly went back to the past, and enjoyed it! This journey was intense and full of nostalgia, humor, rhythm, love, life, and experience. Floanne used all her skills to create this whole show. On stage you can see the singer, the dancer, and the actress. She even added a twist to her performance by combining old songs and new rhythms, with for example an air of Spanish guitar. Delightful! At the end of the show you just want to say one thing: “please, please, one more time Floanne…”.

By Kenza Yarhfouri