Massimo Privitera

Canzone e dinamiche socioidentitarie nelle memorie degli artisti di café-concert

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract


This article examines the autobiographies of nine French café-concert singers written between 1865 and 1950: Buffet, Charlus, Chevalier, Guilbert, Mayol, Ouvrard, Paulus, Polaire and Thérésa. Although reticent about several aspects, these memoires are valuable first-hand documents concerning the world of popular theatre and, generally speaking, the values and tastes of the Parisian working classes between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. The article considers a few key topics: the reason for such a considerable number of singers' autobiographies, which reflects an awareness of the short-lived nature of success; the myth of the Artist and art as a vocation, which was always at the root of these careers («since I think», writes Thérésa in 1865, «I believe that my constant objective has been to become an artist»); the social origin of these artists, almost all of whom were born into poverty or misery; and finally, how the choice of repertoires and individual songs was crucial to the construction of a public identity as a café-concert singer, and how their fame resulted in a rise in social status that would have been impossible by any other means.

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