- The la Maupin Blog
- Sorry. None yet.
- Background material
It's been a while since I blogged here or even managed to respond to the input of others. My apologies. Family, work and health have all distracted me. Clorinde recently asked what operas were playing in Marseille, which ties in with the whole question of where la Maupin was performing. Some sources say that she actually performed in Gautier's Opera. Others doubt that and relegate her to lesser stages. Since I want to tell the tale of the young Marseillaise and the burning of the convent in Avignon, I need to settle how I'm going to handle it. This blog posting will serve to collect some of what we know and as a place for me to ruminate a bit about what makes the best story.
I've found a couple of sources for operas that were playing in the Marseille Opera. They include "Jean-Baptiste Lully and the music of the French Baroque" by James R. Anthony and John Hajdu Heyer and "The birth of the orchestra: history of an institution, 1650-1815" by John Spitzer and Neal Zaslaw. The following chart summarizes what I've found so far:
|1685||Marseille||Le Triomphe de la paix||Gautier||Spitzer/Zaslaw|
|1686||Marseille||Le triomphe de l'amour||Lully||Anthony/Heyer|
|Sep 29 1686?||Marseille||Phaëton||Lully||Anthony/Heyer|
|1692||Marseille||Le triomphe de l'amour||Lully||Anthony/Heyer|
One of the interesting questions about her career in Marseille is that of "trouser roles". According toa few sources, the Marseillaise at first mistook la Maupn for a man, suggesting that she was crossdressing on stage at the time. Clayton, for instance writes that:
A foolish girl of the city saw the supposed M. d'Aubigny on the stage, and, struck with his appearance, fell in love with him. Mdme. la Maupin, for a whim, encouraged this predilection.
Elsewhere she writes that,
She was excellent both in comic and serious parts, but it was in male characters that she shone more especially: for these her appearance and manners were well suited.
On the other hand, Gilbert makes no mention of pants roles or la Maupin pretending to be a man, merely writing:
It was in the first tier of boxes at the theater where she was singing that Mademoiselle Maupin discovered the ideal, the faultless blonde of whom she was in search.
This was a young lady who went to the theater with her father and mother and was to be seen several times a week in the costliest boxes of the Opera. She seemed to look at la Maupin with an expression in which admiration and passionate affection were equally intermingled.
Mademoiselle Maupin quickly sensed the promptings of love which began to ferment within her and immediately the masculine attributes slumbering in her female breast were aroused to activity.
After a while she succeeded in discovering the fair one's address, schemed to get a word with her, obtained an interview and bewildered the poor child with her passionate declarations. The parents soon discovered the unwholesome flame which was consuming their child, and accordingly put sudden stop to her theater-going. That troubled la Maupin but little, for she arranged to meet the young woman at a friend's house.
Letainturier-Fradin's story is not much different, so I can go either way. The easiest would be to say that she only went disguised as a man for specific purposes, such as the ambushing of Dumesnil, and taht the talk of trouser roles, which are quite uncommon in the French opera of her day, are a modern misunderstanding. On the other hand, given that d'Albert, Dumesnil, Servan and the three unfortunates at Monsieur's ball all mistook her for male, practice at the travesty on the stage would prove useful. If so, then what stage and what roles?
So far as I can tell, trouser roles—women playing men or boys—became moderately common in French opera in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in England in the 16th century, but I don't find references to the practice in the France of la Maupin's day. If any one can point me to a source on this, I would be grateful.