France-Amérique: How did you end up playing Edith Piaf in this show?
Anne Carrere: I was given the part of Edith Piaf in Paris ! Le Spectacle in 2014, an homage to the “greatest French ballads” from the postwar years, produced by Gil Marsala. Following on from the show’s success, the producer asked me to work with him on a show about Edith Piaf’s life, adapted from Olivier Dahan’s film La Vie en Rose. We had finished recording the demos for the songs in January 2015, when we got a call saying, “There are 23 venues in Poland, then in Brazil. You’re going on tour!”
You have been playing Edith Piaf non-stop for almost three years now, and you are already described as “Edith Piaf’s legitimate musical heiress” by the media. Are you worried you will always be associated with this role?
Not at all! My role is more an interpretation than a true embodiment. I follow her pronunciation and way of speaking – particularly the way she rolls her “Rs”, which is something the public expect to hear – but I’m not Edith Piaf! When they hear my voice, people often say, “My goodness, she sounds just like her!” But I have not led the same life as Edith Piaf. I haven’t experienced the same disappointments or emotions. I can’t sing her songs as she did, so I sing them in my own way. The singer Germaine Ricord also helped me a lot. She was one of Edith Piaf’s friends, and performed the support act for her shows for three years. She once told me, “You’ll never be Edith Piaf, so don’t try and imitate her. Sing her lyrics, and give everything you’ve got on stage!”
Your show in January will coincide with the 60th anniversary of Edith Piaf’s performance at Carnegie Hall on January 13, 1957. How important was this date in her career?
Edith Piaf had already sung in New York beforehand, but her shows were all in French and she struggled to win over the American audiences. They didn’t understand a word! As she didn’t speak any English, her first steps in the United States were very challenging. In an attempt to make up for her previous failures, she took English classes and had several of her songs translated into English, including “Hymn to Love,” “La Vie en Rose,” and “Autumn Leaves.” The show in January 1957 was an immense success, and it stuck in everyone’s mind. Through our show, we are celebrating Edith Piaf’s triumph in the United States.
Edith Piaf’s life was defined by hard years and incredible successes. Is the fact your show is in two distinct parts a way of reflecting the singer’s life? And why did you choose a storyline format?
At first, we planned to sing one song after another, like a recital. Then we had the idea of structuring the show to tell a story in a similar way to the film La Vie en Rose. In the first half, Edith Piaf is on the street; she “shines another glass, makes the hours pass, working every day in a cheap café,” and sings in the cabarets in Pigalle and Montmartre. Her four musicians are dressed as Parisian street urchins from the time. The musicians then wear suits in the second half. Piaf is at her peak, adorned in her renowned black dress as she sings on stage at the Olympia in Paris. But it could well be Carnegie Hall in New York, the most prestigious concert hall in the world!