Continued from Part I
In a cafe in Paris, I talked with Anne Carrere and Guy Giuliano, who had just received their travel documents from the American Embassy. They are coming to the U.S. to tour various cities beginning 17 October in Princeton, NJ with Piaf! The Show. Anne stars as the iconic “swallow of Montmartre,” Edith Piaf, and Guy Giuliano, a wonderful accordionist, is one of the musicians who accompanies her. Piaf! The Show is an exceptional musical production which portrays the inspiring poverty-to-celebrity story of the Parisian singer’s career through her popular songs, backdropped by a panoply of rare photographs from the locations Piaf knew, frequented, and performed in.
Earlier in September, I interviewed the show’s producer and director Gil Marsalla in Paris. Gil discussed how Carrere inspired his creation of a show about Edith Piaf. Anne and Guy filled in some missing pieces in this second part of an interview continued from Part I held in a Paris cafe where we discussed their backgrounds and their impressions about Piaf. Piaf! The Show will be presented in New York City at Carnegie Hall on 6 January, 2017 as the 60-year celebration of Edith Piaf’s last performance at Carnegie Hall in 1957.
Where do you live, Anne, Guy?
Guy: The south. We are all from the south.
In the interview with Gil, I put down that you live in a small village…Puget Ville.
Guy: it is a small village in between the vineyards.
It’s a wine growing, wine producing region?
They make Rose, not so much red wine, but rose.
How did you two meet? [Anne and Guy are in a relationship] Are you from the same village?
Anne: On the tour.
Were you together when I saw you last year at Symphony Space?
You both did a musical number where there was electricity and love between you. It was wonderful. Guy, what other instruments do you play?
Guy: Accordion, professionally. I play for pleasure the drums, the piano, but I do it just for fun. I play the accordion really well. I began playing accordion when I was five years old.
Anne, how many years did you study voice?
I loved music since I was three years old. But I began singing seriously when I was 12. It was a musical in school. It was the first time. I liked music and my grandmothers listened to a lot of French music and international music and I heard these songs. I acted comedy for everyone. For example, I’d freely, as a kid, get up on the table and sing and dance and entertain everyone just for the pleasure of doing it.
But I wanted to dance and be in the musical theater when I was 12. And at that age, I knew that I wanted to be a singer. It was very firm in my mind. My mother encouraged me to wait until I was 18 to pursue this. So I was like, “OK, mother. I’ll get my diploma and finish my course work in school.” When I was 18, I was like, “Now, I’m ready.” And then, I was seriously pursuing a singing career.
Where was this?
Well, during the time I was in school, before I was 18, I was singing in cabarets and cafes and being paid for it. I was professional at 16. So I studied and I sang and at 18, then I just sang professionally. No more studies.
How old were you when you auditioned for Gil’s Paris! Le Spectacle?
Anne: I was 28.
Guy: It was three years ago.
What did you do between the time you struck out on your own after 18 to sing and get jobs, and the time you auditioned for Gil?
Anne: I sang in a chorus with other artists. I sang at weddings, private shows, children’s musicals, cabarets. I also have written children’s shows and musicals and then performed in them. I composed the lyrics and the book for these shows.
Guy, when did you meet Gil?
We worked together on Paris! The Show. I was involved in the project with another singer who sang the Piaf songs. Gil called me to play accordion with the other singer which I did. Then he sought another Piaf and he auditioned Anne and that was it.
Did he shape the show because of your relationship with each other?
Guy: Perhaps a bit. But not a lot, because we don’t have to show the relationship onstage, but we can infer other things onstage.
Just a look, sometimes, is enough to convey a feeling. Did you also play accordion for weddings, for example?
Guy: No, not for private shows, but I played in the jazz clubs and I played in festivals.
Now you both are professional and are traveling. So is this a dream come true?
Did you think that you would be portraying one of the most popular French singers, Edith Piaf?
Anne: No. I didn’t even imagine that one day I would play Edith Piaf and that it would bring me great success. This was a total surprise for me. But it has been a challenge. You go to sing Edith Piaf, one thinks, who me? I’m this little person and I’m now singing Edith Piaf? It is mind-blowing.
Does it change your thoughts about what you do?
But you and Guy are both humble and that is important for your spirit. It keeps you strong and keeps you level emotionally.
Anne: I think that it’s very important to think the same from the past to the present because the emotions are really important. If one day I’m not me, then it will be a problem for me to portray my emotions, to portray my heart in the songs, to give my heart to the audience, for me to share my joy, my life.
On stage you are you.
Yes. I have to stay simple and innocent and humble.
Guy: I think that’s what people are looking for. Edith Piaf is unique, singular. If you try to imitate or mimic Piaf? It’s not possible. But if Anne tries to fulfill Edith Piaf with her soul, she can reach people because she is herself. Sometimes, it is very surprising. People say, “Wow, you sing just like Edith Piaf.” But when you are listening to Edith Piaf and then Anne, you realize that their voices are very different. But what is the same is that both sing with a lot of heart and feeling and emotion.
Anne: I sing as an artist. I try to give my heart, my life, my soul.
There are people in the audience who are hurting. And hearing you sing, they feel better when they hear you.
Anne: It’s amazing sometimes. People have said to me, “You are wonderful because you have touched me. I cried as you sang.” That surprised me because I have joy and I smile as I play Piaf, and this is a very genuine response because their heart is touched by the emotion.
There is a connection with their souls. So if they cry, it’s like a healing for them. People have many troubles and all over the world people are the same. Your talent and your dedication have a positive impact on others. And you have a synergy with the musicians that is powerful. Gil would like to go to Broadway.
Carnegie Hall is a step in that direction.
Anne and Guy: Yes.
Now, Paris! The Show?
Guy: Anne auditioned for Paris! The Show and that is where we met. I remember when we presented Paris! The Show in Mexico. Anne sang for the first time and the audience reaction was incredible. Gil said, we have to do a show with Anne as Edith Piaf, because the global audience will relate to her Edith Piaf. So it was in Mexico when Anne sang the seven songs and the audience response was overwhelming, that Gil realized he must create a show with her as Edith Piaf.
Did you see the film with Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose?
Anne: Yes. I did see the movie. Very nice movie. It’s real, but it’s so tragic about her life. For me the life of Edith Piaf is tragic, yes, but there are other parts to her life the film didn’t portray.
Guy: You see, she was also very happy in life. The tragic elements are true. But the film is very focused on the sadness and almost excludes the happiness she experienced.
Anne: Edith Piaf also had joy in her life. I met her friends, actually three people: Germaine Ricord, Ginou Richer…
Who is Germaine Ricord?
Anne: She is a singer and Piaf’s friend. The person/character is in the first part of the film. I met Germaine Ricord and she spoke of Edith Piaf as a woman who was strong and who loved people and loved her life and loved her friends and loved parties, jokes, wine, men. And in the movie you didn’t really see much of her enjoyment of these things. So in Piaf! The Show, I wanted to express her joy and her happiness. I choose to do that, to reveal that she enjoyed herself and that she had a good life. I’m not about expressing the misery and tragedy. It’s not necessary to say again Edith Piaf’s life was bad, difficult, tragic. I prefer to reveal the joy in Edith Piaf’s soul and the good life she also led.
Who were the other singers or friends or researchers who told you this?
Bernard Marchois, [curator] at the museum of Edith Piaf in Paris, and Ginou Richer, the secretary of Edith Piaf. They say that Piaf’s life had many joyful and wonderful moments. The times that her life was difficult, the friends were there for her and they were present for a good part of her life. And they saw that she embraced life and had the good life in the midst of her troubles.
If you were to write the Broadway show about Edith Piaf’s life, you would perhaps write that, as you express that in Piaf! The Show, currently. You don’t show the tragic elements in Piaf! The Show.
And the song of Jacques Brel and Charles Dumont that they wrote for her, it expresses that she’s still alive in spirit through you. Is it a happy song?
Anne: It’s an homage to Edith Piaf. If she sings that song it’s like she’s saying “Thank you” and it’s a song of hope, not tragedy.
This is a good perspective because Americans equate Edith Piaf with sorrow. And Gil wants to create for a younger generation a new appreciation for her. And it’s happening. The film was a beginning to show who she was. But Piaf! The Show reveals other aspects of her life. She was a composer, she helped to author 400 songs, so just concentrating on the tragic aspects is not a complete portrayal of who Edith Piaf was.
Anne: Yes. The happy and joyful elements are a better vision of life and of what her life was really like.
Piaf! The Show is being presented on 6 January at Carnegie Hall for the 60-year celebration of Edith Piaf’s 1957 performance at Carnegie Hall. You may purchase tickets at the Carnegie Hall website or on the Piaf! The Show website.