At the end of my stay in Paris in late September, I met up with Anne Carrere, star of Piaf! The Show, and the musicians who accompany her and take on roles for the production. Anne was joined by Guy Giuliano who plays the accordion, pianist Philippe Villa, and drummer Laurent Sarrien. The foursome chatted with me about their visit to the U.S., the production, and some personal preferences. They will be returning to the U.S. as they head out with Piaf! The Show on what their producer/director Gil Marsalla (see my interview with him) refers to as a mid-level tour including Scottsdale, Princeton, Boca Raton, Los Angeles and other cities, which you can check out (and purchase tickets for) on the show website. A special performance of Piaf! The Show will be held at Carnegie Hall in New York City on the sixth of January 2017. That performance is a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Edith Piaf’s sold-out Carnegie Hall performance in 1957.
Piaf! The Show is a wonderful musical production about the life and times of Edith Piaf through her songs and images of places in Paris that encompassed her life. How have you been changed by this production?
Anne: It changed a lot of things for me. The role of Edith Piaf is a great role and playing her has been a great experience. Edith Piaf is a unique, singular performer. It has been an honor to sing her songs for audiences around the world. It changed my life. I travel: I’ve seen different cultures, countries, people, experienced different audiences. As an experience all of this has been truly wonderful.
Guy: The same goes for me.
What was your background before joining Piaf! The Show?
Guy: I played in different venues. I played traditional music, folk music, European music and particularly French music, French songs. For a long while I played French music and French songs, but I wanted to move beyond this. I like to play jazz. So I have familiarity [with] the music in Piaf! The Show. But the great surprise and pleasure for me is to play this music with Anne because there are a lot of French singers and French songs, but it is very hard to sing Piaf. I think that Anne does a fabulous job in playing the role of Piaf.
Did you travel before and is there any country you never went to before?
Guy: Yes, I have traveled before but I had never been to the United States. I visited for the first time last year for our tour. And it was a pleasure to discover the cities in the U.S.
Philippe: My English isn’t good, so bear with me. But I have the same impressions about this experience as Anne and Guy. What changed for me is to experience how amazing it is to play in these beautiful venues. The audiences are packed and it’s a great experience because their emotion is overwhelming. It’s a huge emotional experience to play with Anne and, for example, at the start of the show to hear the applause and see the large audience. It’s just great.
So in the past, you didn’t play to packed houses and you didn’t travel as much as you are traveling now?
Philippe: Not so much. [Guy translates]
The tour is huge. Poland, Italy, the U.S., Switzerland. One hundred fifty countries. Laurent, do you have the same reaction?
Anne: Brazil also.
Laurent: Yes, similar. I am having the same experience as Guy, Anne and Philippe. And I want to add that it is a pleasure to share French culture around the world. I usually play jazz, so that’s a shared culture with Americans. French musicians, we also have our own French culture and music. And it’s a discovery for me to see people around the world who are receptive to French culture and songs. It surprised me.
Anne: It is amazing to see how much people have loved seeing the show and how much they adore Edith Piaf.
Laurent: It has been surprising to see the audience loving the show in the countries we have toured. The audience response has been the same in showing the level of appreciation and love: in Mexico, Japan, Greece, England, Scotland. The response is the same. People say, “Edith Piaf. What a great artist.”
Anne: She’s known around the world because Edith Piaf represents Paris, Montmartre, and people equate her with the sounds and beauties of France because she represents French music.
The instruments, as well, the accordion, the solo piano, the drums round out what is wonderful in the show. [they smile] Any good things about America you liked? We need to hear good things considering the election coming up and Donald Trump being a candidate which French friends I’ve talked to here in Paris find very upsetting. Where did you go in the U.S.?
Various responses: Washington DC, Miami, Princeton, Boston, Los Angeles.
Laurent: We didn’t play in Boston. We played in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Anne: Remember the langoustine.
Laurent/Philippe: We loved the lobster from the area which was excellent. [all chime in about the lobster with smiles on their faces] We can’t forget the lobster.
On the East coast, the northern waters – the lobster is great.[Laurent shows a picture of lobster on his phone.]
Guy: We spend a lot of time on the road and sometimes we don’t see too much, only the countryside. But we stayed three days in Washington DC, not in a hotel, we stayed with a family which is really nice because you share with people and get to sit down and feel more at home. They didn’t have a car and they were working, but in the nighttime we had dinner together, we partied and played piano, violin and music and sang in their house and had a great time. They were nice and it was fun.
Anne: We spent three days in NYC, the first time for the showcase. The second time, one or two days.
There are many French living in New York. If you get to know someone, then, maybe they would invite you to stay because New York is expensive. Tell me where you are going next.
Anne: Athens, Greece. Herodio Atticus Theater [Piaf! The Show made history for a French production, with two sold-out performances on 28 September and 6 October.]
What would you like my readers to know about French culture, in addition to Edith Piaf? She is beloved around the world. What are we missing about French culture that we need to know? The language, certainly, is beautiful.
Anne: The food, the wine…
Philippe: The wine, the cheese. My favorite cheese is St. Nectaire, the real one. It is not possible to get it in the States. And even in France it is difficult to find.
You have to go to the place where they originate it to find it?
Laurent: The best one is made with milk that is right from the farm before it is treated.
Guy/Laurent/Philippe: Yes. It’s not possible to get in the States because of the laws.
I feel that the food in France is safer than in the U.S. because it is fresher, it doesn’t have all the pesticides and herbicides.
Laurent: Yes. We try not to have GMOs in France. But it’s difficult.
Guy: The European Union is trying to push them through, though the people are fighting this and resisting their attempts to force it on us.
You have been much more successful than the U.S. populace has.
Laurent: I like every cheese. Maybe Morbier [is my favorite]. It’s a little bit like St. Nectaire, but with the blue line. [Not to be confused with bleu cheese in the U.S. It has a very delicate taste.]
Guy: I love goat cheese, Morbier and Roquefort.
Anne: For me the same. Roquefort and Morbier.
I think you can’t get bad wine in France.
Guy: There is some bad wine.
Laurent: We do have a good choice, but you can get bad wine in France.
Philippe: Good wines are Bourgogne [from Burgundy], Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux. I like a good Côtes du Rhône, but I prefer Bordeaux, but you have to try a few to see which ones are good. Bordeaux is more expensive.
How reasonable are these wines?
Guy/Laurent: For 10 Euros you can get a very good one.
Laurent: For 10 or 15 Euros you can get a very nice Cote du Rhone.
In America, you cannot get wine in a grocery, usually. This is true in New York City because the liquor business controls this. But here you can which is great. Another question. Which is better for a croissant: a boulangerie or a grocery store?
Anne: Boulangerie, always.
All: Boulangerie, for sure.
You cannot get the croissant in America that you have here.
Laurent: I think in America, industry has won the battle. So they control and manage the food.
Anne: In America it’s wonderful, but you don’t have equivalent food.
In America don’t eat the processed food. Eat organic food.
Laurent: Yeah, you can find organic.
And lobster and no food with GMOs when you come. [smiles all around] Thank you for the tips. What is your hope for Piaf! The Show?
Anne: I hope that we continue presenting the show for a long time.
Anne: We would like it if we would be able to go everywhere and especially to countries or cities where we haven’t been like to Japan or to Australia and China
Guy: It’s hard to get there, far and expensive.
Guy/Laurent/Philippe: If the show continues to tour a long time that will be wonderful.
You’re booked until 2019?
How about Singapore?
Laurent/Anne: Why not? Why not?
Laurent: Cuba, now.
Anne: But also to come back to Poland and the other countries as well and perhaps to other cities in those countries.
Do you have new songs?
Anne: We have two new songs in Piaf! The Show. One is the last song of the show which is composed by Jacques Brel and Charles Dumont, “Je M’en Remets à Toi.” [“I Defer to You”]
Anne: [sings the first few lines of the song]
What is the song about?
Laurent and Guy: From this moment I trust you – it’s up to you. The song’s main point is trust and for the partner to decide. Nice meaning.
Anne: It’s a song, saying I have my own life, but I love you and you decide for me. I trust you. At the end, I leave it up to you.
Philippe: [comments in French]
Laurent/Guy, translating: He is saying that we are not artists if there is no audience.
Guy/Anne: In a way the song is directed to the audience. We need you and we trust you to decide.
You will have the audience, because all of you have the synergy and spirit which is powerful and strong. And Gil discusses passion. And all of you have passion. What did you think of Anne when you first heard her sing?
Philippe: When we heard Anne sing, we had the confidence to know that she would be able to do the role of Edith Piaf.
Guy/Laurent: When we listened to Anne singing the Piaf songs it was the evidence that she was great.
Philippe: It was really no other choice to make than to have Anne be Piaf. [this is seconded by Laurent and Guy]
Gil said that at the audition Anne sang three notes and it was enough for him to know she was the spirit of Piaf.
Laurent: And that was the same with the audiences. The first show and first song with Anne, the audience went immediately crazy.
Anne: And I went crazy, too. I didn’t understand their response. I cried. I thought, this is for me? I didn’t realize that their reaction would be this way. I didn’t imagine that their connection with me would be so overwhelming.
What do you think about Carnegie Hall?
Philippe: It’s the best venue in the world for music.
Anne: The name is known around the world.
Laurent: I’ve listened to recordings from Carnegie Hall since I was a kid. Miles Davis; Edith Piaf.
Anne: There are just four French artists who sang at Carnegie Hall. Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, and me. [the group laughs] Oui.
Very exciting.[Philippe and Laurent say their goodbyes and leave to catch a plane back to Nice.]
In Part II of the Interview, I chat with Anne and Guy about their background and upcoming performances. For tickets to the sixth of January, 2017 Carnegie Hall performance of Piaf! The Show, click here.