Imagine falling in love in Paris: a delicate series of scenes painted in soft pastels, where romance shines through every innocent moment of discovery in that bright and historic city. Do you hear the music? It is very likely that the melodies your mind instinctively conjures are a melodic throwback to a classic staple of French songwriting: “La Vie en rose”. The lyrics to this lush piece of Parisian music were penned by French singer-songwriter, cabaret performer, and film actress Edith Piaf.
Immortalized as France’s national chanteuse, Edith Piaf’s remarkable vocal stylings gave birth to a career peppered with high points, and the immediate commercial success of La Vie en rose was certainly one of them. It was the song that made Piaf internationally famous, with its lyrics expressing the joy of finding true love and appealing to those who had survived the difficult period of World War II.
Popularized in 1946, it was released as a single in 1947 to widespread acclaim, with seven versions of the song topping the Billboard charts in the United States alone. The song was popularly covered by Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Donna Summer, and Latin singer Thalia. Even Bing Crosby hopped on the musical appreciation train bound for France when he recorded his 1953 album “Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris”.
As is the case with most secret sauces, the harmony between distinct flavors (musical or otherwise) makes all the difference. Similarly, the success of La Vie en rose is owed not only to Piaf’s sparkling lyricism, but also to the subtlety of composer Louis Guglielmi’s musical design. His orchestration deepens our immersion into the musical imagery that makes Piaf’s performance so captivating. Known by his nom de plume “Louiguy”, Guglielmi was no stranger to delightful combinations (himself being a Spanish-born French musician of Italian descent).
Having studied at the Conservatoire de Paris alongside the likes of Maurice Baquet, Henri Dutilleux, and Paul Bonneau, Guglielmi was also responsible for penning the 1950 Latin Jazz hit “Cerisier rose et pommier blanc” (a popular song which would eventually be reconfigured as a mambo smash-hit for Perez Prado). Guglielmi created nearly three dozen film scores during his life, but the musical partnership he showcases with Piaf on “La Vie en rose” is a timeless sort of beauty that sets itself apart. Like Paris itself, this renowned ballad is in a class of its own.
The SSO is living La Vie en Rose and performing it as part of our Postcards from Paris