French chanteuse Caroline Nin, crowned France’s First Lady of Cabaret, has graced the Vanguard Theatre with her presence to bring Edith Piaf to Australia. For those of you who already love her [Piaf] she needs no introduction, for those of you who know little about the “Little Sparrow”, Edith Piaf is a national icon of monumental significance to the French and their musical culture. Piaf was a performer of the kind that only France could produce, being spawned from the streets of Paris to become one of the worlds greatest popular singers.
Prior to attending this very intimate evening, I had never heard of nor listened to songstress Caroline Nin, so the night offered a mystique appropriate to this style of music and venue. The Vanguard is a stark contrast to the setting to the Opera House, which is where Nin first performed her Piaf show in 2007. But a more suitable venue than the Vanguard could not be found for an evening of musings and songs born for restaurant theatre.
Nin delivers unique entertainment, her presence onstage is captivating enough aside from the methods she uses to engage her audience. Nin has an exceptionally powerful voice and uses it to imitate Piaf in song and conversation. However, Nin’s choice of accompaniment is what distinguishes her from Piaf thus personalising her own vision as a performing artist. Nin has chosen onstage collaborators Bassist Jonathan Schwartz and Pianist Tom O’Halloran to create a pared back version of the Piaf repertoire. This simplicity of instrumentation highlights the vocal capacity of Nin and emphasises the passion of Piaf.
As a kind gesture, Nin explains to the audience in English the history and meaning of Piaf’s songs, which I found deepened the experience for Piaf fans (being one myself). Nin is obviously a consummate professional of her craft, so much concentrated effort has gone into creating this concept that no small detail has been overlooked. From the consciousness of her manner of speech between songs to the choice and order of the songs Nin has re-created a bygone era of musical history.
Schwartz and O’Halloran should also be commended on their ability to assimilate and deliver the ethos of such a showcase. Both are well known purveyors of fine jazz and use their musical dexterity to encompass the nuances of a Piaf approach to performance. The subtle genius of the music allowed Nin to freestyle as if performing solo whilst filling the introspective moments onstage with some very polished and captivating passages of sound.
Hymne a Piaf is a journey into the past and a window into another culture that is often hard for Australian audiences to access. After all, it isn’t everyday that you can walk into a suburban wine bar and get up close and personal to the sultry overtones of Edith Piaf bearing down upon you from onstage. Nin has done a spectacular job to manifest this brainchild of hers and tour it around Australia for the second time. She, like Piaf, must be a passionate woman to take a leap of faith with this project not knowing how it will be received on shores so distant from that culture. This is a must see event if you are craving something extraordinary.
Hymne a Piaf
Venue: The Vanguard, 42 King Street, Newtown
Dates: 14 - 25 July Tuesday - Saturday
Time: Dinner from 7pm, Show at 9pm
Price: Tuesday - Thursday $40 + bf (show only), $59 + bf (main course + show)
Friday - Saturday $45 + bf (show only), $64 + bf (main course + show)
Bookings: 9020 6959 or www.thevanguard.com.au