Sunday, May 26, 2013

Deanna Durbin and Georges Moustaki

When I returned home from my movie afternoon last night the "Lauantain toivotut levyt" ("Saturday's Record Wishes") programme was on the radio, and we listened to it during dinner. Besides Wagner (Kirsten Flagstad sang Liebestod), Sibelius (Janne Mertanen played "Kuusi" = The Fir), and Carole King (interpreting her soulful "You've Got A Friend") there was a movie continuum.

Deanna Durbin (1921-2013) sang "Danny Boy". She was a teenage idol, a musical star and the best-paid female star in Hollywood who, however, turned her back to Hollywood in the 1940s, disappointed with the quality of the scripts she was offered, and settled in France. She was a great soprano who mastered the classical opera repertoire with a personal and lyrical touch. Deanna Durbin made interesting films like Christmas Holiday, directed by Robert Siodmak, but her song recordings may remain her most enduring legacy.

Georges Moustaki's (1934-2013) "Ma solitude" was sung by Serge Reggiani. It's about his lifelong friend, faithful like a shadow, who will be with him till the very last day. His solitude. Moustaki's parents were Sephardim from Corfu who became keepers of a bookstore in Alexandria. The multi-lingual Moustaki moved to Paris in 1951 and became a legend of the chanson, writing for Édith Piaf, Serge Reggiani, Yves Montand, Dalida, and Barbara, and developing into a major star, himself. His cinema career includes roles such as Abbé Faria in The Count of Monte-Cristo (the 1998 version starring Depardieu) and scores such as the one for La Fiancée du pirate (1969) by Nelly Kaplan.

A further cinema-related treat was Tauno Palo singing "Toukokuu" ["The Month of May"] from Laulava sydän ([The Singing Heart], 1948). It's a strange post-war movie: a light entertainment concoction, bordering on the musical, yet dealing with grave issues such as morphine addiction - even the little daughter of the protagonist being exposed to morphine. The power of the song becomes a symbol of vitality - strong medicine in the post-war period of turbulence and despair. Tauno Palo delivers all this seemingly with little effort.

Georges Moustaki: Ma solitude

Pour avoir si souvent dormi avec ma solitude,
Je m'en suis fait presque une amie, une douce habitude.
Elle ne me quitte pas d'un pas, fidèle comme une ombre.
Elle m'a suivi ça et là, aux quatres coins du monde.

Non, je ne suis jamais seul avec ma solitude.

Quand elle est au creux de mon lit, elle prend toute la place,
Et nous passons de longues nuits, tous les deux face à face.
Je ne sais vraiment pas jusqu'où ira cette complice,
Faudra-t-il que j'y prenne goût ou que je réagisse?

Non, je ne suis jamais seul avec ma solitude.

Par elle, j'ai autant appris que j'ai versé de larmes.
Si parfois je la répudie, jamais elle ne désarme.
Et, si je préfère l'amour d'une autre courtisane,
Elle sera à mon dernier jour, ma dernière compagne.

Non, je ne suis jamais seul avec ma solitude.
Non, je ne suis jamais seul avec ma solitude.

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