Mlles Périer and Fonti were the quality. The two original lady stars of La Princesse de Trébizonde.
Always well noticed: the one for her polyvalence, the other for her plump beauty and her voice. If they have not survived in this buzzword world as a Tostée, a Tautin, a Schneider or a Théo have done, it was maybe because a rôle such as Eurydice or la Grande-Duchesse didn't come their way. That's showbiz. But the ranks of the Bouffes-Parisiens, in the days of the Noriac management, in the late 60s and early 70s, also comprised a swatch of ladies, some fine singers, but not all of whom were vocally and histrionically overtalented. Emily Soldene, effective supremo of the Bouffes' English equivalent, the Philharmonic, said once 'I chose my chorus from the ballet. Minimum voice but maximum ...'
|The pages. The beauty chorus of La Princesse de Trébizonde (1875)|
Of course, a 'beauty chorus' occasionally throws up a talent. More often it throws up trouble. The Bouffes chorus was no exception. One example was the lady who called herself Mademoiselle Christiane.
Her real name, as eventually came out in court, was Dubois de Niermont, and she was presumably in some way, thus, connected to the lofty, prefectoral gentleman of that name. Talent? Hmm. If she is the Mlle Christiane, première amoureuse at Rouen ('toute jeune et toute mignonne') in 1863, maybe a little. But, from her arrival at the Bouffes in September 1868, she was simply part of the eight named 'front row' chorines. We see her, for example, in the cast for La Diva, listed alongside our friend Mlle Raymonde, the proven Mlle Bonelli, and Mesdemoiselles Berger, Leduc, Renault, Gayet, Marie Petit, Valtesse and Mizeray (all to be investigated!) in the support team, the 'thinking roles' .. In Le fifre magique she is Lavaleur, same story.
|Mlle Mizeray: it pays to advertise|
Well, if Mlle Christiane didn't make the papers by her talent (and she was one of those who liked to declare that she was an 'actrice', even if she weren't much of one), she certainly did by her extra-curricular activities.
In June 1869 her affair with a certain Prince Ignatieff, 'brother of the Russian ambassador to Constantinople' was splashed round the press. Oh! He said he would marry her. But unfortunately he died in his Paris lodgings before he got round to it. Scuttlebut said he'd drunk three bottles of green chartreuse, and when he got 'overexcited' ... pop! Then it was her dog Floupy which made the (tongue-in-cheek?) press, or a tale about her inviting yoohoo the Queen of Spain to join her girly pub party.
Anyway, Christiane was never going to rise to anything better than beauty chorus, with the odd line. And she was no professional. She skipped rehearsals, then, when Noriac cut her few solo lines, in the pages' chorus, performances. And he sacked her. And it all went to court, where her lack of any sort of ability became evident, and she lost her case, and her appeal, to a large financial forfeit. Dammit, and no Ignatieff to pay the bill. Anyway, exit Mlle Christiane from theatrical history. Unless the Palais-Royal was foolish enough to take her on ... they may have ...
In this wee Bouffes piece, I've honed in on the Noriac era. Late Sixities to early seventies. Here's one of the other chorus girls: one of the original 'pages' from La Princesse de Trébizonde. Mlle Caroline van Dike or Djke. Alas, she had but a short hour in the stagelight. In September 1871, the Figaro noted her death. She was but 18 or 19 years old.
Apparently she had also played at the Folies-Dramatiques and the Athénée. Must search. Wonder as what. Ah! I see ...
Here's another page. Blessed with the surname of Cinti. Later Cinti-Munié. A grand-daughter and/or niece of the famous Mme Damoreau (is it possible to be both?). She seems to have stayed around only for a couple of years, playing roles such as a marchande des cigares in Les Bavards, un tambour in Mesdames de la Halle, a marchande in Boule de neige, or a page in La Princesse de Trébizonde. At Boulogne, she had a wee go at Lischen et Fritzchen, to duly sweet notices. I'm guessing the Munié was André Munié of the Théâtre du Vaudeville ... but it is just a guess.
And here's another. Mademoiselle Gayet. Again, we have name trouble. There seem to have been several Mlle Gayets. A dancer at Ghent 1864-5, a singer at Antwerp 1865, an actress at the Palais-Royal in 1868, the Bouffes one, who played in La Princesse de Trébizonde, La Diva, Les Bavards (un bottier), Le Fifre magique et al in 1868-70. Then there's one wandering round Germany with a poor company playing Wanda in La Grande-Duchesse. She has a prénom: Marguerite. This one (and, of course, they may all be the same one) spendt several years in Belgium, and is last spotted in 1863 playing Peronella in Boccacio in Nantes in 1883. But ... there was a Mlle Gayet, pupil of Masset, at the Conservatoire in 1870, as well. Doubtless, not the same one ...
There's one other of the original group of Trébizonde pages that I have to acknowledge. Super-tart. A professional prostitute (rising to courtesan) of no acknowledged theatrical talent, except beauty, who, presumably, put herself into the Bouffes chorus as a kind of advertisement for her availability. At a price. She called herself Mademoiselle Valtesse (d 1910), and much has been written about her hilariously inept efforts to establish herself as a modern day Aspasia.
Her name was, in fact, Louise Emilie Delabigne (which duly crept up to the quasi-aristo De la Bigne) and many a tale has been woven around her, as the archetypical Parisian 'courtesan'. He name has been linked (rightly or, more probably, wrongly) with dozens of Parisian figures of her era, and many an apocryphal anecdote is attached to her. She was reportedly furious, when trying to be an Aspasia, to be taken as the original of Zola's Nana.
Which, at least in part, she probably was. If all the tales are true, its amazing that she lived so long, or certainly was able to walk for so long. The impressionable Jules Clarétie writes gushingly ('tart with a heart...') of her in his La Vie à Paris.
Other folk, less kindly. But the bit of her between her navel and her knees made her a fortune, wisely invested, before she was out of the chorus.
Needless to say, her time on the stage was brief. But, I think, it may have been wrongly reported. Wikipedia and its source say she debuted as Hebe (who has nothing to say/sing) in Orphée aux enfers. When? Where? 1867? Ah! no! There she is in the chorus of Les Bergers in 1865. I see her again at the Bouffes in the chorus role of L'Olive in Le Fifre Magique (1868), as a page in La Princesse de Trébizonde (1869) and in a chorus role in La Diva, and shortly after that, a newspaper report (1870) appeared, picturing her erstwhile colleagues envying her in her lofty box while they worked on.
I'm more interested in the little colleagues. Oh, and Wikipedia also credits her, amongst others, as a 'mistress' of Offenbach. I wonder that le joli (?) Jacques had time to play his cello, the number of women he is supposed to have bonked. From memory: he wasn't even in charge of the Bouffes when 'le rayon d'or' aka 'L'union des peintres' (some of her rude nicknames) was engaged.
Anyway, back to the ones who could actually sing and act.
Blanche Gouvion obviously could. She was yet another of those Parisian pages in La Princesse de Trébizonde. I'm a bit surprised, because she had (at least, I assume it was she) created the part of Alfred in Chilpéric in October 1868. A 'beauty' part, yes, but with a number of her own. Anyway, she played a few roles at the Bouffes (Rebecca in La Romace de la rose), created La Nuit du 15 Octobre with Lacombe and Lajallais, then moved on to the Folies-Dramatiques, the Delassements-Comiques, and then as an actress to the Palais-Royal (Le Baptême du petit Oscar, Les Esprits de Batignolles), where I see her, in the late 1870s, in supporting roles in Sardou's Dora and the original Le Réveillon. She also appears in the courtesan-catalogue Les joli actrices de Paris ('une gentille boulotte surmontée d'une chevelure blonde comme houblon'. 'Elle ressemble a un moos coiffé d'une perruque blonde') so I suppose her virtue is somewhat 'douteuse'.
I haven't got a photo of the lady intriguingly named Mademoiselle Léa-Lini. But she was another who was clearly a little more than a pair of legs and accessories. She got to play a number of small parts at the Bouffes (Johnson in La Romance de la Rose, le barbier in Les Bavards, la marchande des pois verts in Mesdames de la Halle), cretaed the part of Fiametta in Les Brigands, accompanied Tostée to Boulogne for a season, and in 1871-2 could be seen at the El Dorado, featured in the little opérettes there produced (Le Nez de carton, Amour et revolver, Millionaire) and giving a set of songs in between the plays ('Il faut aimer', 'Les fraises des bois', 'Amour et miroir', 'C'est la dernière fois que ça m'arrive', 'Les regrets de Mignon', 'Y a temps por tout', 'La désheritée', 'Les pommes'). A lass of the same peculiar name turned up in America in the 1880s, billed as the entertainent ('konzertsängerin', 'opera and ballads') at venues such as Huber's Prospect Gardens and Shäpperle's Muzikhalle, Cincinnati ... I fear it may have been she.
That leaves Mlles Dalbert, Henri or Henry, Cellini, [Brigitte, sister of Irma?] Aubry, Bertelli, de Gratry, Leduc ... must I? Well, Dalbert, at least ...
Mademoiselle [Jeanne] Dalbert seems to have been the sort of lass you like to have in a repertoire company. Pretty enough for the front row of the beauty chorus, talented enough to take an ingenue role in an opérette. Her name appears intermittently on Bouffes bills, at home and away, for a good half-dozen years, between which times she can be seen at and Toulon (Fra Diavolo, Le Caïd, Urbain in Les Huguenots, Fleurette in Le Capitaine Henriot, Zélide in Si j'étais roi, Camille in Lara, Eurydice, La dame blanche 'Mlle Dalbert rachète la petite entendue de sa voix par une gracieuse physiognomie, une grande intelligence de la scène...') or Bordeaux (L'Oeil crevé with Mme Matz, revue Bordeaux après dîner, Countess in the play Les Noces de Figaro, Musette in La vie de Bohème 'elle y apporte la désinvolture des Bouffes', La Périchole) as a leading lady. At the Bouffes, I see her as Minerva in Orphée aux enfers, Saturnin in Le Chanson de Fortunio, Torbisco in Les Bavards and Tsa-tsa-tsing-tsing in Ba-ta-clan in 1863, creating L'Arche-Marion 30 September 1868, and playing Denise (Mariage aux lanternes) alongside Fonti and Périer in October 1869. All this is assuming that these Mlle Dalberts are one and the same person. And the same Mlle Dalbert who was hired for the Gymnase around 1866 (Gentil Bernard, La Fille mal gardée, Peterman in Monsieur Choufleuri), and who was said to be ex-of the Théâtre Français. Ouch. Théâtre Français which city? Oh! it's Bordeaux (1866). And the Gymnase in Bordeaux. Phew. At Bordeaux she took part in a new opérette Les deux frères avares. And the same Mlle Dalbert whose 'piquante physiognomie' is noted as première soubrette et chanteuse d'opérettes at Strasbourg (La Bonne d'enfants, Fleur de thé, Marguerite in Le Petit Faust) in 1869-70? (Dalbert, the well-known comedian, felt it necessary round this time to write to the press explaining that the 'Mme Dalbert' with whom he was currently playing was not his wife ...)
Ah! Strasbourg says 'Mlle Dalbert, une Déjazet, une Alphonsine, une Schneider, aussi jeune qu'elle est charmante, et qui a tour à tour reçu les applaudissements des Bouffes, de Bruxelles, de Barcelone et de Bordeaux'. So I guess all the Mlle Ds are, indeed, she. Thank you La Comédie newspaper! And thank you for a wee bit of scandal. April 1867 ... in court for breaking a contract to go to ... Constantinople! Barcelona, eh? Yes, there she is 30 August 1869 playing Un mari dans le coton, La Rose de Saint-Flour, Gentil Bernard ... the manager is her Toulon manager ... 'Mlle Dalbert est le séduction même; son brio égale sa beauté'. Brussels? Yes. Mlle Dalbert as Régina in La Princesse de Trébizonde at Brussels ...
So 1863 to 1870 is basically Bouffes, Toulon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and then ... take-off!
Mlle Dalbert of the Palais-Royal is to feature in Le Diable à quatre at the Porte Saint-Martin (1872), Mle Dalbert is playing the title-role in La Fée Popotte and in Les Griffes du diable with Léa Silly. Mlle Dalbert is sharing the role of La Cocotte (1873) with Blanche d'Antigny. Mlle Dalbert is in London playing Lange in La Fille de Madame Angot (1873) with great success. Mlle Dalbert taking over the part from Desclauzas in the original run of the famous opéra-comique in Brussels; Mlle Dalbert at the Palais-Royal alongside (tiens!) Mlle Gouvoin in Le Baptême du petit Oscar; Mlle Jeanne Dalbert or d'Albert in Egypt in 1874 getting caught up in one of those silly 'refuse to sing at a benefit' situations. The Capitole Toulouse engages Mlle Jeanne Dalbert of the Bouffes, Palais-Royal and Folies-Dramatiques for 1877 ... they are all she! And it doesn't stop! Mlle Dalbert in La Reine Indigo at Strasbourg in 1880? Jeanne Dalbert soubrette at Boulogne in 1884 ..
I never made the connection before. All those Mlle Dalberts are one and the same! A pretty good twenty years' worth of career for the pretty pageboy from the Bouffes ... Oh, the name? Given the place of Jeanne d'Albert in French history, pretty likely a pseudonym. So ... no dates. and why no photo?
Marie Allonzieux doesn't appear to have belonged to the chorus in her time at the Bouffes. Her 'jolie voix' was noticed at Versailles and she was brought straight to town, and to the roles of Inès in Les Bavards and Lischen to the Fritzchen of Berthelier, in 1870.
I see her thereafter at Nimes, in the Folies-Bergère revue Express-Revue (1872), at Rouen singing Heloïse in Abélard et Heloïse and Les Bavards (1872), and creating the role of Marthe, behind Silly and Matz-Ferrare in La Liqueur d'or at the Menus-Plaisirs. In 1874, she joined up with the Bouffes touring troupe (La Jolie Parfumeuse, La Timbale d'argent) to visit Belgium. In 1875, I see her giving Giroflé-Giroflà at Angers, before setting out for Moscow with an opéra-bouffe company. Thereafter, I spot her at Toulouse ('deuxième chanteuse d'opérettes) with La Timble d'argent and Le Petit Faust (1876-7), at Perpignan (1878) and, finally, as première chanteuse at Le Havre in 1883.
I'm tiring. And I still haven't got round to the likes of Mme Bonelli, Mlle Castello ...
Oh dear. Adèle Castello (b Paris 27 November 1840) should have been at the top of this list, by right of success and importance. But, for some reason, I couldn't, at the start, find a photo. But I finally did. The Carnavalet has a number of them.
The career of 'Mlle Castello à la jolie jambe et au fin maillot' was, apparently by choice, brief, but decidedly interesting, including as it did, two important creations. Adèle was a Conservatoire girl. Of, it seems, certain ambition, as I see her singing 'Bel raggio' at the concerts of the moribund Société de Beaux Arts in 1862. She studied under Fontana, and in 1863, at the concours, those lofty press-gents who annually ripped apart the underripe and underweight students judged her 'très faible'. By the next year, she had added Mocker to her teachers, and had risen to being allowed a deuxième accesit in opéra-comique. But, while others among the more highly decorated struggled to establish a career, Mlle Castello walked straight into a job. As leading lassie at the new Fantaisies-Parisiennes. She opened there 2 December 1865 as Seraphine in Donizetti's little Il Campanello, alongside Leroy and Sujol, and was decidedly well liked. The piece stayed several weeks on the bill, and she rather longer. I see her playing both Louisette in Poïse's Bonsoir voisin with Meillet ('interpretation excellente') and in Barbier's Les Oreilles de Midas, with Bonnet and Gourdon, at the little house during the season that followed. After which, unsurprisingly, she was snapped up by the Bouffes.
Her first creation at the Bouffes was the juvenile role of Angélique in Hervé's Les Chevaliers de la table ronde (17 November), behind producer Delphine Ugalde as her mother, the Duchesse Totoche, and Mlle Darcier as Melusine the Enchantress. If the role of Angélique included only a duet by way of music ('au premier acte il y a un duo d'amour charmant entre Jannin et Mlle Castello'), she was judged to have 'une voix fraiche et sympathique' and made considerable effect by her acting ... and her good looks. Le Charivari noted 'On a remarqué une jeune artiste, Mlle Castello, déjà signalée par la critique aux Fantaisies-Parisiennes. Sa voix est pure et légère et elle a joué son rôle d'ingénue d'une façon charmante. Par dessus le marché, elle a eu un succès de beauté ..'. Decades later, a theatrical memoirist recalled a stage door johnny who sent her a bunch of violets each night: 'Le citoyen' Raoul Rigault of Commune ill-fame.
For the revival of Orphée aux enfers which followed, Adèle was cast as Venus to the Eurydice of manageress Mme Ugalde, but another new piece was to follow. She was selected to create the role of Alexis, opposite the Hermosa of Victor, in the topsy-turvy L'Ile de Tulipatan (30 September 1868). Berthelier and Felicia Thierret carried the comedy of the work, but Offenbach supplied his prettiest music for the juveniles. Adèle got the delightful 'J'ai perdu mon joli colibri' which would, like the little piece, become an enduring success
Mlle Castello seemed on the fast up-escalier to theatrical and worldly success. But, after this little triumph, I simply lose her. It would later be said that she just gave up the stage after her Bouffes period. But she did return, whether from overseas or retirement, to play the part of Sempronia in Apothicaire et perruqier at the Théâtre de la Renaissance (1873) and another round of Orphée aux enfers, this time as Minerva, at the Gaîté (1874). And then she really was gone, this time out of theatrical knowledge. A diarist, recalling Tulipatan some years later, wondered 'whatever became of Mlle Castello?' Maybe we'll find out one day.
|Minerva at the Gaîté|
Just a minute. One of the Carnavalet's Adèle-photos is labelled 'Porte Saint-Martin'. When? In what ...?
There's a picture of Mademoiselle Bonelli in the same bundle
All I originally knew of Mlle Bonelli's time at the Bouffes is that she was in the cast list for La Diva in 1869 ('Mlle Bonelli s'est distinguée .. et pourtant sa role est bien minime'), was the original Régina in La Princesse de Trébizonde at Baden ('Romance des ancêtres'), and played roles in little pieces such as Tu m'as voulu, Marcel et cie (Charlotte 'Mon village est dans la Touraine'), L'ours et l'amateur de Jardins (Athenaïs) and the pants part of Sténio in Gandolfo. In 1870 it was reported that she had been re-engaged for two years, and she, indeed, had a supporting principal part in both Boule de neige (1870, Gregorine) and Le Docteur Rose in 1872 (La Pupille). When La Timbale d'argent was produced, she was understudy to Anna Judic. But she was to have at least a decade of career, all across the map, altogether.
I see her, prior to he engagement Passage Choiseul, in 1866-7 playing at the Fantaises-Parisiens in Le Sacripant (Nisida 'jolie et gracieuse debutante'), Le Baron de Groschaminet (Inès), L'amour mannequin (Nizza), as Agathe in Le Sorcier and Daphne in Les Oreilles de Midas, then, in 1868 at the Athénée playing Thisbe with Désiré, Léonce and Irma Marié in L'amour et son carquois, Callimaco in La Viperine, Wilhelmine in Les Horreurs de la guerre, Aventurine in Le Petit Poucet, in Duprato's Le chanteur florentin and succeeding to the star part of Césarine in Fleur de thé. The Athénée company also played a season in Brussels, with Lucie Abel and Mlle B as its principal ladies. So, a confirmed leading lady cover, for try-outs and take-over in major pieces with, nevertheless, a goodly bundle of smaller creations to her credit.
But Mlle Bonelli didn't stop performing after her years at the Bouffes. I spy her, in 1873, in ... New York, 'the young, beautiful and gifted soprano and comedienne from the Variétés ..' (!), for Carlo Chizzola, supporting Aimée (Fragoletto to the star's Fiorella, Geneviève to her Drogan 'a round, clear mezzo-soprano voice', the title roles of Belle Hélène and La Grande-Duchesse when Aimée wanted a night off, Les Cent Vierges), then at St Petersbourg playing Amaranthe in La Fille de Madame Angot ...
Perhaps she didn't come back from the Steppes. Many a little French actress who headed to Russia succumbed to the cold, the diseases or a Russian semi-nobleperson. But, alas, we don't know ... still lots of finding out to do ..
|Mathilde Leduc ... our one?|
Well, that's far from all of the little ladies who played or displayed at the Bouffes between 1868 and 1872. I'll maybe tackle another volley later on, but right now I'm Bouffed out ...
|Mlle L Sergent, chorus|