Music Review: Isabelle Georges Continues Releasing New Music

A rethinking of a Dalida recording and a previous recording in a different language make for more Mlle. Georges

By: Jan. 15, 2024
Music Review: Isabelle Georges Continues Releasing New Music

Prolific French chanteuse, actress, and cabaret star Isabelle Georges has been very busy, of late, releasing a series of singles in English, French, and Italian.  The Parisian powerhouse last played New York City in 2019 when she got THIS rave review for her appearance at 54 Below, and with her return to the celebrated nightclub coming up in February, it seems only appropriate to take a look at some of her recent offerings.  Earlier this month BroadwayWorld reviewer Bobby Patrick offered his take on two Cole Porter singles recorded by Ms. Georges, “So In Love “ and “I Love Paris” (read Bobby’s review HERE), so I decided to get in on the Georges action and have a listen of her recordings of “Son Tornata Da Te” and “Tant D’amour,” both of which were released last month on the same day, December 15th, mere days after the Cole Porter releases.

A girl who might be considered a Europhile, I was already familiar with the story of Son Tornata Da Te, of the writer of the song, Luigi Tenco, and of the recording made famous by the iconic French singer Dalida, who had been involved with Tenco at the time of his suicide.  Dalida’s recording of the song was made in the year after Tenco’s death with a rhythmic arrangement and a passionate performance.  That is not the track that Isabelle Georges has taken.  While Dalida’s earlier recording was certainly filled with fire and emotion, Isabelle Georges walked into the recording studio with a musical monologue in her head.  Like the actress that she is, Ms. Georges has a mission to bring color and layers, light and shadows, and an entire storytelling arc to the recording.  Starting small, tender, almost diminished, Georges is telling the trepidatious tale of a soul torn apart; as the story builds, though, the vocals and the storytelling grow bold and big, like waves rising and falling with the heaving breathing of a woman confronting her lover in an overwhelming moment, only to pull back, again, at the end, resolute and resigned.  It is a very effective treatment for the song, so different from Dalida’s original as to shine light into corners of the composition not previously explored, and it matches perfectly with the Georges aesthetic.  

There are translations both French and English of Tenco’s lyrics but Georges has opted for the original Italian translation - wise because, even as successful as those translations are, the original Italian provides the foundation of the musical offering (the translations are pretty accurate, too, by the way - links are provided below).  Translations are wonderful but there is simply no denying the ballast provided by an author writing in their own language.  To further the gravitas of the recording, Mlle. Georges brought in two brilliant musicians who supply exquisite underscoring and a wealth of additional emotional support, pianist (among other things) Bruno Fontaine, and clarinetist Pierre Génisson, both of whose artistry on the piece is powerful in a sublime containment that assists Georges without distracting from her own artistry.  Together, the three colleagues have created a musical masterpiece designed to break the heart only to glue it back together again from pure satisfaction in storytelling, to say nothing of musical excellence.

For her second non-English-sung single, Isabelle Georges went with her native tongue but she did not stray far from her other new releases for this recording.  Tant D’amour (as the French speakers might have guessed) is the “So In Love” single, only in another language.  The treatment of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate classic is smoky and sultry in any language, but it has to be said that everything just sounds better in French, and everything sounds better in the voice of Isabelle Georges.  And since we all know the English lyrics to Lilli Vanessi’s love song, we have an opportunity, here, to sit back and luxuriate in something new to our ears, something sensual by way of a true romance language, and something individual from an actress who stands apart from the rest.  Listening to the English recording, Isabelle Georges sounds breathtaking (literally - she takes your breath away) but there’s an interesting thing that happens when a French person speaks in English - a part of their joie de vivre takes a back seat.  Time and again, I have seen it happen with French citizens - they speak English, they speak English very well, and isn’t that fine … but when they go back to speaking French, there is a brightness, a  flirtatiousness, a spark of light that makes more powerful the magic in their message.  Such is the French version of So In Love in the more than capable hands of Isabelle Georges.  Listen to both recordings back to back and soak it in - two different performances of the same song, both letter-perfect, yet both glowing in an individual way.  It’s like two different blooms on the same Magnolia tree, each tended to with exacting care by the same gardener.

Of course, there is no reason to expect anything else from an artist of Isabelle Georges's stature.  She is a force with which to be reckoned, which is why her upcoming show at 54 Below (February 22nd - ticket link HERE) should be completely sold out.  She doesn’t come our way very often - it would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity to see her live.  

THIS is the Isabelle Georges website.

All of Isabelle Georges’s recent singles are on the Encore Music label.  

FInd Isabelle Georges on Spotify HERE.

Son Tornata Da Te is translated into French HERE and into English HERE.