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Isa Bluette, the forgotten Starlet of the Roaring Twenties.

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

There is something both mythical and magical about Turin. The city is located at the intersection point between two triangles, that of white magic with Prague and Lyon and that of black magic with London and San Francisco. Black and white, Good and Evil, light and darkness: you can feel it in the air. The mysterious aura surrounding Turin and the emotional tension that floats among the streets have indeed very ancient origins, a magical legacy so powerful that turned it into the most famous esoteric city in the world.

Turin is a very beautiful city. What I love the most are its magnificent huge and charming squares and architecture. It reminds me of Paris a lot as «there’s a whiff of Paris in Turin’s elegant tree-lined boulevards and echoes of Vienna in its stately art-nouveau cafes, but make no mistake – this elegant, Alp-fringed city is utterly self-possessed.» according to Lonely Planet.

Anyone who visits Turin cannot skip the "Cimitero Monumentale" where writers, statesmen, historians, politicians, artists, footballers, and heroes are buried... all characters who have traced the history and contributed to building the culture of both the city of Turin and the entire country of Italy.

Entering the cemetery, passing through the oldest area, which is called Campo Primitivo, along a tree-lined avenue, after a few steps, you come across a tomb on which the white marble bas-relief of a dancer stands with her arms raised with lightness and grace. It is the resting place of Isa Bluette, the stage name of Turin-born starlet Teresa Ferrero, one of the most famous Italian divas of the 1920s and 1930s. A beautiful, purely Turin figure who deserves to be remembered.

Teresa was born in Turin in 1898 during the Belle Epoque. Her childhood was similar to that of many children of the time, with simple games and running around the courtyards of popular housing blocks. Her family was far from being wealthy: she was forced to work to help support the family budget at the Turin tobacco factory when she was still a young girl.

But Teresa, who had a strong personality, did not accept to waste her life in a factory and, aware of her natural gifts and potential she decided to resign from a safe job and boldly took a path dotted with many unknowns.

Italy was emerging from the Belle Epoque and the city of Turin, like the rest of Europe, wanted to forget the horrors of the First World War by opening itself up to fun and libertine nights of cafés-chantants. Teresa then decided to ride the wave of this positive change and decided to start a career in variety shows. Although she was small in stature, she was still a graceful girl, gifted with a dazzling smile and a proportionate physique, and above all she had a melodious voice which she cultivated on her own by practicing songs from the most famous operettas seen at the theatre, a genre of great popularity at the time.

She began to appear on the café-chantant scene as a singer from a very young age, making herself noticed in particular for her attractiveness and her strong sensual charge on the stage. Endowed with great intelligence and instinct, she understood that she had to change her name by choosing an artistic one inspired by Parisian's Folies Bergère soubrettes, then the temple of variety and the good life. She thus became the charming and sophisticated Isa Bluette.

She quickly became a star and leading lady in a series of successful revues and operettas throughout Italy. She imported from Paris the famous catwalk (the parade of artists at the end of the stage, therefore close to the audience), as well as the review, a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance, and sketches in which the soubrette is accompanied by men in tuxedos, along with a sumptuous and bright show for costumes and scenographic ideas.

Starting from the sumptuous costumes shown on stage, she gave her career an acceleration that would never decline, so dazzling and rapid that it defeated much more aggressive rivals thanks to the resourcefulness and talent of a woman who pursued ambitious goals. She looked irresistible in the spotlights that enhanced her supple curves. She naturally enchanted the very demanding audience who attended her show. She was a new, extraordinary soubrette who emphasized like none of her colleagues the haute couture dress ordered in Paris, trimmed with sparkling sequins. She loved showing off long embroidered gloves, and fluffy ostrich feathers, and on the variety show poster, she was mentioned as Isa Bluette. The cornflower she had chosen to identify with had bloomed.

In the 1920s, her shows, featuring great pomp and sensuality, had considerable success throughout Italy; with her company, Isa Bluette launched in that period those who would later become the most important comedians of Italian theatre, demonstrating an artistic intuition which our theater owes a lot.

Starting from the 1930s he devoted herself more and more to operetta (a form of theatre and a genre of light opera that includes spoken dialogue, songs, and dances), always continuing to have good success with the public.

Despite her success and the ranks of suitors, Isa Bluette had no known love affairs or secret relationships. In fact, Isa had a reserved behavior, quite rare among the divas of the time.

Her private life changed only when she met her only great love and life partner, the Milanese Nuto Navarrini, who was also a talented showman, with whom she shared her last years of glory on the stage. In fact, she died at just 41 years of phthisis when she was still at the pinnacle of her success.

She ended her days in a hospital bed where, on November 11, 1939, shortly before her death, she married Nuto Navarrini, the only man she ever loved deeply. Thousands of fans attended her funeral.

Unfortunately, as too often happens in Italy, Isa Bluette has been completely forgotten.

Not even her hometown Turin ever thought of dedicating a monument, a theater, or something to this girl who had been able to become a myth from scratch and transform the Italian variety show.



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