Legendary performers inspire cabaret


Little black dress: Above, Beleura’s “wardrobe mistress” Heather Peake, left, and mezzo-soprano Galit Klas in the costume room at Beleura. Below, Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. Pictures supplied

Edith Piaf and Marlene DietrichIF all goes well, American and European audiences will hear what an audience in Mornington will witness later this month – a new Australian show, Edith and Marlene, which will premiere at historic Beleura House.

The cabaret show is the work of acclaimed Melbourne pianist and world Chopin expert Alan Kogosowski and his friend and recent performance partner, Melbourne mezzo-soprano Galit Klas.

And it was “The Little Sparrow”, Edith Piaf, who brought them together and also brought them to Beleura, which has now become one of their favourite venues after they first played and sang there for a National Trust gathering mid-winter.

Kogosowski first heard Galit Klas at a variety concert at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne earlier this year where she finished with Piaf’s signature song Non, je ne regrette rien (No, I regret nothing).

He was deeply impressed and they met after the concert.

When he was asked to perform at the 30th anniversary of the peninsula branch of the trust, he called Galit to see if she would join him. Klas ended their little concert in the Tallis Pavilion at Beleura with Non, je ne regrette rien, and Beleura House director Anthony Knight also was deeply impressed, later asking the pair if they would return and do a concert of Piaf songs.

Kogosowski jumped on the internet to find out more about the famous French singer and, among many photos, found several of Piaf and her friend Marlene Dietrich. The two met when Piaf went to the United States. Dietrich was 15 years older and a superstar actor but the two made a strong connection and became lifelong friends. Dietrich was Piaf’s matron of honour at her wedding in 1952 and one of the photos shows Dietrich on her knees adjusting Piaf’s shoes just before the ceremony. Dietrich started doing cabaret after she met Piaf and she moved from the US to Paris to be closer to her friend.

With input from Klas, Kogosowski has written a script that explores the life of Piaf and especially the bond between the two women, interspersed with 12 songs, nine from Piaf and three from Dietrich including her classics Lili Marlene and Falling in Love Again.

“Galit is Australian-born and speaks English only but sings in a perfect German and French accent,” he said. “She is superb in the songs of Piaf, which she sings with the same conviction and sincerity as ‘The Little Sparrow’.”

The pair was at Beleura last week so Klas could find clothes for the concert. In short time Beleura’s “wardrobe mistress” Heather Peake found a Piaf-style little black dress and a trench coat from the collection, most of which has been donated by Beleura volunteers or made by Ms Peake. She and her team outfit performers for several shows at the house each year including Christmas Bonbons, a comic opera.

“This is made of chiffon,” Ms Peake said. “It’s typical of Piaf’s little black dresses, which had variations of the neckline; her signature look.”

Later Kogosowski and Klas walked across to the pavilion where the pianist showed off the “Melba” piano, a Wertheim baby grand. Dame Nellie Melba was one of J C Williamson’s star performers and a frequent visitor to Beleura, bought in 1916 by the Australian head of JCW, Sir George Tallis.

A last word from the script, Piaf talking about love: “When you love, you’re brave. If you’re to make something of yourself you need love in your life. It’s what helps you, what reveals you to yourself. I know that for me, at least, it has always helped me in life.”

First published in the Mornington News – 13 October 2015


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