The president of France apparently has a thing for the progeny of composers. If you recall, back in October, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he had divorced his second wife, Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz, a great-granddaughter of the Spanish composer-pianist Isaac Albéniz. Now, a mere three months later, rumors are swirling that Sarkozy is about to marry his new girlfriend, the model-turned-singer Carla Bruni.
Bruni is the stepdaughter of the late Italian composer Alberto Bruni Tedeschi (1915-1996), who divided his time, Ives-like, between composing and running CEAT (Cavi Electrici Affini Torino), the tire and cable company founded by his father. (Bruni Tedeschi sold CEAT to the Italian tire giant Pirelli in the 1970s, but the brand lives on via its Indian subsidiary, founded in 1958.) From 1959 to 1971, he was also sovritendente of the Teatro Regio di Torino (where the current music director is the increasingly in-demand Gianandrea Noseda). Bruni Tedeschi’s music is mostly in a romantic-modernist style reminiscent of Dallapiccola; there’s a plethora of recordings and videos on his posthumous website. Still, his leading passion seems to have been collecting—art, furniture, houses, all manner of stuff.
Carla Bruni got her start as a model for Guess jeans back in the 80s, and, as every single news article about her never fails to mention, has at one time or another dated Eric Clapton, Donald Trump, Kevin Costner, and, most infamously, Mick Jagger, driving Jagger’s wife Jerry Hall to distraction for the better part of a decade. Until recently, she was married to the philosopher Raphaël Enthoven, who she began an affair with while she was still in a relationship with Enthoven’s father; the younger Enthoven’s wife at the time, Justine Lévy (daughter of the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy), later wrote a thinly-diguised roman-á-clef about the whole scandal. Did you follow that? Then again, Sarkozy met his second wife when, as mayor of Neuilly, he officiated at her wedding to somebody else. They sound like they were made for each other.
But even the normally tolerant French find the quick turnaround a little unseemly—the latest polls show that Sarkozy’s approval rating has dropped nearly 20 points since the summer, and 7 points in the last month alone. It should be noted that Sarkozy’s disinclination to keep his private life private—the couple took a well-publicized Christmas trip to Egypt—is in stark contrast with his predecessors, who have traditionally been discreet with their amorous activities while in office. The problem is not the affair, in other words, but that, in flaunting it, Sarkozy is coming off as a bit gauche—a danger for someone whose predilection for the luxuries offered by his wealthy friends and supporters have already earned him the derisive title of le Président Bling-Bling.
But this is a music blog, after all, so let’s get to the real question: can Carla Bruni sing? Well, she has better pitch than Rex Harrison, at least. Personally, I don’t go in for ultra-wispy breathiness (except from Blossom Dearie in one of her sly moods), but more than a few Europeans do, based on the success of her 2004 debut single, “Quelqu’un m’a dit.” She gets this sincere compliment: she’s the polar opposite of American Idol.