Patricia Sings Piaf
An iconic artist of our time, Grammy Award-winning soprano Patricia Racette conjures the timeless power and viscerally authentic impact of French singer Édith Piaf (1915-1963), whose music gave voice to the mid-twentieth century, transcending language and borders. “For me, Piaf is a shining example through words and music. Great artist. Great actor. Great chanteuse,” says Ms. Racette. “I want to evoke Piaf without ever crossing the line of trying to imitate her. I want to create an experience.”
She is acclaimed on the world’s opera and concert stages and is a particular favorite of San Francisco Opera audiences, celebrated for her deeply emotional performances, impeccable technique and dramatic range. The Los Angeles Times called her, “The most fearless woman in opera.” Throughout her career, Racette has displayed courage, confidence, vulnerability, and honesty onstage.” These are qualities for which Piaf was widely known, making her artistry an ideal fit for Racette’s gifts.
Racette will be joined by pianist and arranger, Craig Terry, who currently serves as Music Director of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He curates the “Beyond the Aria” series for The Harris Theater and won a Grammy for “Best Classical Solo Vocal Album” with Joyce Di Donato. The performance will also feature projections by Greg Ermametaz, artistically weaving images and translated lyrics to enrich the music, messages, and stories of Piaf’s life.
The program will includes songs such as Non, Je ne Regretted Rien, Milord, Padam Padam, La Vie en Rose, L’Accordeoniste, and Hymns a L’Amour.
Singer, Curator, and Program Creator
Piano Accompanist and Arranger
Script co-writer and Musical Consultant
“I want people to cry even if they don’t understand my words” –Édith Piaf
Why Piaf? Why me? The thing that has called me to performing my entire musical life is the visceral authentication of being immersed in a story, in a character, and then applying one’s artistic and musical color palette to explore and express that immersion through one’s own lens. The question loomed: what do I want this evening to be, and perhaps, just as importantly: what do I not want it to be? I knew that I did not want a program in which the audience is bound to reading translations or being asked to digest musicological information that may or may not interest them. I knew that I wanted to evoke Piaf without ever crossing the line of trying to imitate her. I wanted to re-experience her music through my own voice. Plain and simple: I wanted to create an experience.
The reality, as I have noticed, is that almost everyone who hears Piaf – whether or not they comprehend the meaning of the text – takes note of the potent and raw expression that seems to emerge from her soul. Piaf was not a household name for me as I grew up, but I became enthralled with music and movie music from the 1930s and 1940s. Once I encountered Piaf, I found myself in the grip of her music and performance – it took hold of me! Her performances in my own ear result in an utterly authentic and searing delivery of her truth as a woman, as a human on this earth. Somehow we can find our own stories within her delivery. Perhaps this is the singularly most defining connection for me – as a performer ensconced in an art form that did not always feel at home for me. Having spent a career singing and expressing myself so often in languages other than my native tongue, I noticed and found instructive the immediacy of Piaf’s expression and lilt when she sang. Putting her quote into action for me as a performer spurred me to want to move people whether or not they understood every word in languages other than their own. For me Piaf is a shining example of truth through words and music. Great artist. Great actor. Great chanteuse.
The road to tonight has been an exhilarating one! My goal for the evening is to channel my ‘inner Piaf’ – and to bring each of you along for the ride!
– Patricia Racette
ABOUT PATRICIA RACETTE
For more than three decades, soprano Patricia Racette has sung regularly on all of the major opera stages of the world, including The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Teatro Real, San Francisco Opera, and The Santa Fe Opera. She portrayed iconic heroines ranging from Violetta and Mimi to Tosca, Madame Butterfly, and Jenufa. A champion of new works, she created leading roles in numerous world premieres, including Picker’s Emmeline and Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree.
In 2018 Ms. Racette made her directorial debut with a new production of La Traviata for Opera Theatre of St. Louis [OTSL]. Directorial returns to OTSL have included new productions of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah as well as La Voix Humaine, the latter in which I took on the roles of both singer and director. This season she directs Roméo et Juliette for Arizona Opera and Don Giovanni for the Merola Program at San Francisco Opera. She also serves as Artistic Director of Young Artist Programs at OTSL, a position which was created for her in 2019. In the fall of 2024, she returns to San Francisco Conservatory to present a new format of integrating the art of cabaret with classical singing, expanding on her intensive seminar, Integrative Artisty.
She came full circle back to her pre-opera roots in jazz and cabaret in 2012. Her cabaret show, Diva on Detour, with pianist and arranger Craig Terry was captured in front of live studio audiences in New York City. Together, Patricia and Craig have performed this show over fifty venues ranging from New York’s famed 54Below to Barcelona’s ethereal Salón de Baile in Madrid’s Teatro Real. From the popularity of a Piaf medley on this album, Patricia Sings Piaf was born and had its debut performance at Chicago’s Harris Theater in December of 2022.
Her professional identity evolved in San Francisco via the Merola and Adler Programs–an artistic home where she went on to sing over thirty leading lady roles with San Francisco Opera. She is proud to be a recipient of the Opera News Award, the Richard Tucker Award, the Marian Anderson Award, an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a Grammy for Best Opera Recording of Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles.