Edith Piaf’s centenary celebrated in exhibition

Edith Piaf’s centenary celebrated in exhibition

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Edith Piaf’s centenary celebrated in exhibition

AFP Photo

Edith Piaf may have passed away in 1963 but this year, the year she would have turned 100, the memory of “the Little Sparrow” is just as strong as ever and enshrined as one of France’s most enduring icons.

A new Paris exhibition dedicated to Piaf has recently opened, offering tourists and the French alike an in-depth look at the woman who became a figurehead of a nation, and a postwar international star. The show at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, a modern library complex on the Seine river, features movie clips, concert posters, trinkets, letters and music by Piaf. Lots of music, as you can imagine; visitors don headphones that pipe in “La Vie en Rose,” “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” and her other standards, as well as interviews and narrations.

“She remains a personality who incarnated a past Paris,” said Julie Mirasola, a French 40-year-old lifelong Piaf fan who made a point to see the exhibition on the first day. “She marked a whole generation. But she’s also still relevant today,” she said.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a black dress that Piaf often wore on stage. It is relatively modest, with long sleeves and falls to the knee and it’s noticeably small, for the singer was just 1.47 meters tall. “I don’t want my appearance to distract from the performance,” Piaf had said.

The curator of the show, Joel Huthwohl, told AFP it was the singer’s “lucky dress” and served as a somber anchor for her pale hands and face, and her soaring voice. Born in Paris in December 1915 into a poor circus family, to a singing mother and acrobat father, Piaf had it hard as a child, living in a bordello and being partly raised by prostitutes. A Paris nightclub owner discovered her at age 19 and put her on stage, and on the path to stardom. Piaf died of liver cancer on Oct 10, 1963, aged 47. 

The Paris exhibition on Piaf runs to Aug. 23.