Farewell Fanny Faye

November 12, 2013 by Dr Anne Sarzin
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It is an extraordinary achievement for a foreigner to tread the boards at the Comedie Francaise in Paris, the legendary heart of French theatrical tradition. Fanny Faye, a gifted actress and pianist, spent an exhilerating year in dramatic productions in that internationally renowned theatre, generally cast as aristocratic characters , reflecting her natural elegance and refinement, in roles such as the baroness in Un Chapeau de Paille D’Italie by Eugene Labiche.

Fanny Faye

Fanny Faye

Fanny Faye’s attachment to France and French culture was the stuff of her dreams. Although her first love was ballet, she was a trained musician and pianist, having graduated from the Conservatorium of Music at the University of Cape Town. She had the imagination, creativity and sensitivity of an artist, which explained her affinity with Paris, which became her spiritual home and where she explored other artistic genres, notably music, films, and television. During her thirty years in Paris, she features as an actress in films and television serials, where she worked with illustrious directors such as Richard Balducci and Luigi Polidoro. She made countless commercials in France and heads turned in recognition whenever she moved around the city. She was photographed by David La Chapelle and featured prominently in his acclaimed book Hotel Lachapelle. She cherished her deep and abiding friendship with Baroness Diane de Rothschild, who loved and mentored Fanny.

She spent several years working in the United Kingdom, where she was chosen for international video assignments, including a notable role with The Avalanches. Once again her beautiful face attracted top photographers, including David Stewart, who reproduced those photographs in his landmark publication.

Fanny Faye’s achievements in these fields were notable indeed and she was in demand for her artistry and, as a photographic model, for the individuality of her looks. But her individuality went much deeper than the surface veneer of Parisian beauty and glamour. The sweetness of her disposition and the kindness that radiated from her being brought her so close to those fortunate enough to know and cherish her.

Fanny-FayeShe was possessed of the most extraordinary gentleness and sweetness, qualities that endeared her to family and friends. But above all, she had a purity of heart and generosity of spirit that marked her out as someone quite unique, someone quite unforgettable, who found friends in many places around the world and, in the past eleven years, especially here in Sydney, where she found a special niche as a most treasured sister, an adored aunt and a surrogate granny, and where she connected in a deep and profound way with kindred spirits, especially her much loved friends from Danielle’s French circle and Amandine’s French choir.

A year or two after leaving London and joining the family in Sydney, she revived her passion for the piano and it was a delight to listen every day to her sensitive interpretation of Chopin and Mozart compositions, which filled with sounds of beauty the Roseville home she shared with her sister Anne Sarzin. Although, as a young student, she had completed postgraduate studies with Harold Craxton at the Royal Academy in London, in the intervening decades in Paris, she had neglected her music. In Sydney, fortunately for those around her, she experienced a renaissance in her piano playing and spent hours perfecting difficult and challenging passages under the direction of her much admired and loved Sydney teacher, a concert pianist of renown. She also found time to teach Anne’s grandchildren and nurture their musicality.

When her niece Tanya, Francois’s wife, was told of her death, she said ‘An angel left the world today’. And that reflects the perception of those who knew and loved her and who have commented that she never thought ill of anyone. She only ever expressed kind and loving thoughts. Music flowed from her fingers, kindness from her heart, and sweet smiles from her eyes. These qualities radiated from her and drew people to her. A friend has commented that she touched lives in a magical way. Fanny Faye is deeply mourned and missed by her sister, Anne Sarzin, and Anne’s children, Francois, Lisa and Zara, and their partners Tanya, Adam and Elliot. She gave the most tender affection towards her surrogate grandchildren, Dovi, Miri, Rafaella, JonJon, Gideon, Gabriel and Micah, who responded so warmly and cherished her as a beloved figure in their lives.

Gifted actress and musician, Fanny Faye, passed away 1 November in Sydney. Fanny Faye was born in East London, South Africa.

Dr Anne Sarzin is an author and journalist and a Director of the University of Cape Town Australia Trust

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