Edith Piaf remains an inspiration

From street girl to international star, France's national diva has two tribute shows open in her honour

Abandoned at birth and brought up in a brothel, she was a teen mum turned overnight singing sensation, caught between global stardom and romantic turmoil from the end of World War II until she died, aged 47, in 1963 – not before having immortalised iconic songs like ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’, ‘La Vie en Rose’ and ‘Padam Padam’.

Little wonder that, half a century after her death, Edith Piaf is still an inspireation to performers who cherish her bravura technique and raw emotional power. Two of those, Susan Black and Caroline Nin, mark the fiftieth anniversary of Piaf’s death with shows revisiting her repertoire.

‘She lived an extraordinarily passionate, short, dramatic life,’ Nin says. ‘People saw each and every step of her rise and fall, public and private. She displayed her daily love and addictive life. The way she sings seems to instantly touch the soul.’

‘People can relate to what she suffered,’ Black suggests. ‘Hers is also a story of being lost and found, discovered and being made famous. People love it – just look at “The X Factor”!’ She sees traces of Piaf’s spirit in artists as diverse as John Lennon and Lady Gaga.

Trying to recreate even a hint of the stage presence of the ‘Little Sparrow’ (as Piaf was known) is a testing experience. ‘It’s a huge challenge, on the voice, on the body,’ Nin says. ‘You can feel it inside out, under your skin. But I guess this is why I love it. It makes me feel passionate, torn, exhausted at the end of the performance – but alive!’