This performance! Any superlatives I could come up with would be insufficient. The words, the music, the exquisite sorrow, the unspeakable joy! That unlikely little body and that awkward fluttery voice - and the result of that improbable combination, well, there's really no word to describe it other than magic. And while what she does is absolutely personal and unique in every way, somehow, it is also irrefutably French.
After last night's terrorist attack in Nice (these horrors seem to be coming with such regularity; FUCK, I'm sick of it!), I fell down a French music rabbit hole this morning. I listened to favorites by Poulenc, Chausson, Duparc, etc... but then I started listening to and watching Piaf, and I became spellbound and entranced with her once again.
What causes a personality, a soul, to be so irrepressible?
There have been countless biographies and films based on her life. Of course there have been, her story is miraculous, the stuff of legends: father a traveling circus performer, abandoned by her mother as an infant, raised by prostitutes, singing for money on the streets of Paris as a child (it is believed she was as small and frail as she was in adulthood due to childhood malnourishment). Piaf's journey from hapless and desperate beginnings to the national voice of her country is so extreme as to seem too fantastic even for fiction. Plagued by poor health and addiction, she died a tragic alcoholic death at 47.
Surprised at my own response this morning, I wept for the senseless tragedy in Nice last night, and I wept at the diminutive chanteuse, dead 53 years now, who still, somehow, through time and space, across continents, different languages, and even modern technology has the ability to touch me so deeply. And I'm pondering the acute and unlikely emotional connection between present day calamity and bygone art.
Vive la France!