La Belle Excentrique

Patricia Petibon, Susan Manoff

La Belle Excentrique
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La Belle Excentrique

Patricia Petibon, Susan Manoff

With this new record, soprano Patricia Petibon makes a welcome return to French repertoire on disc, exploring the fascinating world of French art song in this extraordinary new album.

The record features all-time favourites by Satie, Fauré, Poulenc, Reynaldo Hahn, Manuel Rosenthal, but also popular hits by Léo Ferré.

This selection takes the listener on an exciting journey of discovery: from the decadence of the cabarets of turn-of-the-century Paris to the melancholy of the 60s, from the eccentricity of the fin-de-siècle to modern-day spleen.

This original program is a collection of often humorous and eccentric songs with a deeper subtext.

Petibon is joined on this occasion by her accompanist and partner of many years, the superb pianist Susan Manoff, and a number of high-profile guests stemming from diverse musical backgrounds and influences, including star violinist Nemanja Radulovic and actor Olivier Py.

This is a wonderful new release from one of DG’s key vocalists. Featuring music of exceptional variety and contrast, it showcases Petibon’s versatility and multi-faceted artistry in an intimate setting as never before, while paying homage to the great tradition of French mélodie and chanson.


Much like the character Gil’s experience in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, listening to La Belle Excentrique is like stumbling into a music hall in 1920s France, complete with the idiosyncratic accordion accompaniment. Soprano Patricia Petibon’s latest CD release is a mixture of divine and absurd French art song, ranging from a languorous interpretation of Poulenc’s ‘Hôtel’ to the kooky ‘Ba, be, bi, bo, bu’, with delectable offerings from Satie, Hahn, and Fauré along the way. Petibon’s unusual voice is an excellent fit for this repertoire in which she gives us a lesson in versatility. Her top notes are effortless and beautiful, and, when the music calls for it, Petibon seamlessly morphs into a guttural and comic chanteuse.

Accompanied by pianist Susan Manoff, and with occasional appearances from violinist Nemanja Radulovic and actor Olivier Py, Petibon and team deliver a number of charming rarities amongst the well-known gems, such as Manuel Rosenthal’s ‘Chansons du monsieur Bleu’, and Léo Ferré’s ‘Jolie môme’. The Ferré is a particular highlight, and sets the scene for an enjoyable romp through twentieth-century popular and classical art song. Now in her mid-40s, Petibon is a confirmed star of the international classical music scene, with numerous solo recordings for Deutsche Gramophon under her belt. She has already traversed quite a range of styles and eras, from Mozart to Berg to Bernstein, but in this French repertoire Petibon seems most at home.

For those travelling to Europe over the coming months, I urge you to attend one of Petibon’s many solo recitals featuring music from La Belle Excentrique. For the rest of us here in sunny Melbourne, enjoy the recording, baguette in one hand and un verre de vin rouge in the other, and make like Gil to Montmartre’s La Folies Bergère and revel in the splendor of the Parisian cabaret world.

Alexandra Mathew is from Readings Carlton.

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