Poster of Bitton performing in Piaf, Her Story, Her Songs, 2003
Life and career
As a teenager in 1970, Bitton moved to San Francisco, where she began to work on the songs from the French Age d’Or ('Golden Age'). Her passion for music and song led her to the Edith Piaf songbook. Bitton became a renowned interpreter of Edith Piaf's music.
Bitton's hit show, “Raquel Bitton sings Piaf - her story, her songs” has been performed across North America including selling out Carnegie Hall. Critic Ann Powers, writing in the New York Times, liked Bitton's low-key treatment as she "served her subject by de-emphasizing the pathos in favour of the craft", using "calm narration". Bitton "did well to concentrate on the great singer as a virtuoso rather than a heroine" as the legend was impossible to live up to, but "a bright interpreter like Ms. Bitton certainly can illuminate it", wrote Powers.
The show “PIAF- her story, her songs” was made into a film which won first place at the 25th Classic Telly awards, and received the Special Jury Award for most moving film experience at The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.It was released on DVD by Lionsgate Films
PLAYS WRITTEN: "The Sparrow and the Birdman"(Piaf et L'oiseleur) (The Friendship of Jean Cocteau and Edith Piaf), commissioned by TONY Award winning THEATREWORKS California. "The Ladies of The Third Floor"(“In the autumn of their lives, confronted by loss and loneliness, two hilariously stubborn women discover the strength of their friendship and its crucial value in their lives”). "Piaf..Her story..Her songs", a play that sings. Plays translated into French: MAESTRO( The life of Leonard Bernstein) written by Hershey Felder. Written the concept and scenario of HEARTS( Le Ballet des coeurs",based on the classic Film "Les enfants du Paradis" (Children of Paradise, Marcel Carne, with Jean Louis Barrault) and obscure songs of Edith Piaf( performed by Raquel Bitton) with Choreography by Tony award winner MICHAEL SMUIN,set designs TONY WALTON and danced by the SAN FRANCISCO BALLET at the SF Opera House and THE WASHINGTON BALLET at the Kennedy center.
What Piaf Family,Friends,lovers and Composers said about “Piaf..He story..Her songs” Starring Raquel Bitton.
From MARCEL CERDAN Jr.Paris France (Son of the late middle weight boxing champion of the world MARCEL CERDAN) "To see over and over again the film you made in tribute to Edith Piaf is a pleasure I cannot let go of. You have a real talent, not only as a singer but as a storyteller, again BRAVO RAQUEL !"
From Francis Lai, Legendary composer who wrote for Piaf and who wrote the theme song in collaboration with Michel Rivgauche for Raquel in "Piaf..Her story..Her songs." "Raquel, the film is magnifique, I loved it, you did a fantastic job, you should be proud of yourself."
From Rosalie Dubois, famous French chanteuse and a dear friend of Piaf. "Raquel,today when I think of you, and it's very often, I am very proud of you, I know that Piaf also is proud of you. A thousand Bravos and thank you for your extraordinary film,so right on, so tender!"
From Monique Chauvigny, wife of lifelong Piaf conductor Robert Chauvigny. Thank you infinitely for your film"Piaf..Her story..Her songs." You have succeeded in capturing the essence and myth of Edith Piaf with Bravado. What a beautiful interpretation, it's not an easy thing. You have an intonation that reminds me of Edith (It's a compliment coming from me, because we were together so much, being the wife of her conductor. I traveled with her for years.
From Bernard Marchois, curator of the Piaf museum in Paris (Les amis d'Edith Piaf) What a beautiful gift you gave Edith on her 40th anniversary of her death. The images, the sound, you and us are all PERFECT! It's for us a great honor to know that she is loved and honored in the USA.
From Doris Contet, wife of one of Piaf's favorite composer Henri Contet. I saw the film and it filled my heart with joy. What a magnificent interpretation of "T'es beau tu sais." I have goose pimples! Your film is very important to me and is particularly dear to my heart. Thank you again a thousand times for this gift, it's magnificent!
"There's something about [Raquel's music], a je ne sais quoi, something that belongs to my parents' generation, something that's since gone missing—no, not in the spoken middle section but in the entablature of the singing itself, that gets to parts of the heart left previously untouched," says critic Mark S. Tucker.
"Raquel Bitton’s voice is warm and seductive and she has the full measure of Latin rhythms...Rafa Sardina, an 11-time Grammy Award winner, co-produced and engineered the album, and Rhythm of the Heart might put him up to an even dozen. Everything is exactly right, every balance perfect. The overall sound is lush, warm, and seductive, as it must be for this literature, but there is absolutely no lack of detail," says critic Rad Bennett of her latest album.
Critic Barry Singer wrote, "Where singers are concerned, imitation ... is never solely an act of homage, however inspired by admiration." Bitton, Singer continued, "is, to put it mildly, stuck on Edith Piaf", and he lists Bitton's Piaf-focused activities: a radio show; a TV documentary; a play; the scenario for a ballet; and "most decisively, learned to sing very much like her idol". The result is eerie, as Bitton performs with "exacting verisimilitude" and "unmistakable passion", "the requisite fierceness of elocution, fluttery intensity of vibrato, and R's rolled like a flotilla of drunken sailors", and "more than a touch of ghoulishness", wrote Singer. The problem is that in so meticulously recreating Piaf's sound, Bitton "buries most of the 'Little Sparrow's' incandescence, Singer concludes.
Raquel Bitton may be a French singer, but she's a woman of the world. On Rhythm of the Heart, she effortlessly bridges Paris and Havana, and dances, vocally, over sultry Afro-Cuban beats. From "La Vie En Rose" to "Merci Pour Tes Fleurs," Raquel continues to blossom. This is un beau bouquet. Ben Fong –Torres (Former Editor Rolling Stones Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Author).
Music website Sound Stage Experience wrote, "A MAGNIFICENTLY RECORDED CD "RHYTHM OF THE HEART". Raquel Bitton’s voice is warm and seductive and she has the full measure of Latin rhythms so that the undulating dances flow from her in a very natural manner.
Critic Mark S. Tucker of Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange wrote, "Fronting a 20-piece orchestra and an Afro-Cuban band, Bitton strolls through a dozen tangos, boleros, merengues, cha chas, bossas, and more, singing entirely in French and Spanish (the transcriptions and translations of each cut are included in a 19-page booklet: French, Spanish, and English!), Forgive Me a particularly intriguing set of lyrics. Bonjour Tristesse, though, is my sonic pick of the litter. There's something about it, a je ne sais quoi, something that belongs to my parents' generation, something that's since gone missing—no, not in the spoken middle section but in the entablature of the singing itself, that gets to parts of the heart left previously untouched."
Critic L. Pierce Carson of the Napa Register wrote, "...From the beloved bolero of Osvaldo Farres, “Plus Je Vous Aime,” to the pulsating bandoneon of “Tango Melodie,” from the classic love song, “Tout Bleu,” of French composer Andre Hornez to the ultimate payback song, “Il Est Trop Tard,” “Rhythm of the Heart” is a gem. All sung in French, the songs are as seductive as they are stirring."
Critic Oscar Montagut from the World Music Report wrote:-
- "No other title for this album would have been better than Rhythm of the Heart. The French typical song is an invitation to recall love memoirs and feeling, and Raquel Bitton does it again with the name of this album and its 12 songs. Raquel Bitton keeps an elegant, sweet and warm style of the French singing interpretation but adds the syncopated and seductive sound of Latin rhythms. Her voice fits beautifully with the classic Latin beat which shows that she has total control of the rhythm and the music flows very naturally with her soft and velvety voice.
- This album moves you to sing passionately and profoundly evokes feelings with the subtle clave beat of the bolero or danzón. Each song is a great excuse to explore your mind looking for beautiful pictures. “Tout Bleu” explains what I am talking about, it is the pure softness and poignant expression of singing, it is the switch that makes you start dreaming about your profound wishes, loves and feelings. Mrs. Bitton’s voice and her big orchestra take us to the place we have been dreaming about for quite some time, the place of our deepest feelings.
- What a wonderful tribute she has paid to the chanson of the world. This production has an incredible balance, keeping a lush and sweet sound from the beginning to the end."
- Rhythm of the Heart (SONY MUSIC) 2013) features songs written by Latin composers such as Osvaldo Farres and includes many genres including French Sambas, Bossa Novas, Tangos and more. Sony Label.
- Boleros (2009 and 2014) SONY MUSIC features songs written by Latin composers Augustin Lara, Armando Manzanero, Consuelo Velasquez, Isolina Carillo. SONY LABEL.
- Paris Blues (2006) features songs written by Django Reinhardt, Sydnet Bechet, Amalia Rodriguez
- Dream a Little Dream (2011) features songs written by Jacques Brel, Sydnet Bechet
- Raquel Bitton sings Edith Piaf (2000) features songs written by, Marguerite Monnot, Edith Piaf, Mikis Theodorakis, Francis Lai
- In a Jazzy Mood (1998) in collaboration with French composer Paul Misraki
- Changes (Country) (1996) features songs written by Roy Orbison
- I Wish You Love (1994) features songs by Charles Trenet, Michel Legrand, Gilbert Becaud
- Wong, Myriem (17 January 2000). "RFI Music". Piaf is born again. rfimusique.com. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- New York Times - Pop Review "More craft than pathos for the Little Sparrow". Ann Powers. January 17, 2000.
- Sparrow Productions (June 27 (2000 ?)). "Special Jury Award". Piaf: Her Story ... Her Songs Starring Raquel Bitton. prnewswire.com. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- Describing Raquel Bitton Sings Edith Piaf (The Golden Album) (Sparrow Productions RB4271-2)
- Singer, Barry (January 16, 2000). "Barry Singer: New York Times". MUSIC; An Attempt To Recapture The Elusive Piaf Mystique. nytimes.com. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- Kisselgoff, Anna (May 10, 1988). "Ballet: New York Times". Review/Dance; Washington Ballet Adapts French Film Classic. nytimes.com. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- Describing "Rhythm of the Heart" (2013 Album)