Friday, June 11, 2010

Famous Courtesans: La Dame aux Camélias

"Marie Duplessis (January 15, 1824 - February 3, 1847) was a French courtesan and mistress to a number of prominent and wealthy men. She was the inspiration for Marguerite Gautier, the main character of La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas the younger, one of Duplessis' lovers. Much of what is known about her has been derived from the literary persona and contemporary legends."

"Marie Duplessis was born Rose Alphonsine Plessis in 1824 at Nonant-le-Pin, Normandy, France. Her father became her de facto pimp when she was about 12 years old. At the age of 15, she moved to Paris where she found work in a dress shop."

"Duplessis was evidently an extremely attractive young woman, with a petite figure and an enchanting smile. By the time she was 16, she had become aware that prominent men were willing to give her money in exchange for her company in both private and social settings. She became a courtesan and learned to read, write, and to stay abreast of world events so as to be able to converse on these topics with her clients and at social functions. She also added the faux noble "Du" to her name."

"Duplessis was both a popular courtesan and the hostess of a salon, where politicians, writers, and artists gathered for stimulating conversation and socializing. She rode in the Bois de Boulogne and attended opera performances. She also had her portrait painted by Édouard Viénot."

"Duplessis was the mistress of Alexandre Dumas, between September 1844 and August 1845. Afterwards, she is believed to have become the mistress of composer Franz Liszt, who reportedly wished to live with her. Throughout her short life, her reputation as a discreet, intelligent, and witty lover was well known. She remained in the good graces of many of her benefactors even after her relationships with them had ended."

"Marie Duplessis died of tuberculosis at the age of 23 on February 5, 1847. Two of her former lovers, Swedish Count Von Stakelberg and French count Édouard de Perregaux, whom she had briefly married, were by her side. Within a few weeks of her death, her belongings were auctioned off to pay her debts. Still, her funeral in Montmartre cemetery was said to have been lavish, and attended by hundreds of people."

"Dumas' romantic novel La Dame aux Camélias appeared within a year. In the book, Dumas became 'Armand Duval' and Duplessis 'Marguerite Gautier'. "

"Adapted for the stage, La Dame aux Camélias premiered at the Theatre de Vaudeville in Paris, France on February 2, 1852. An instant success, Giuseppe Verdi immediately set about to put the story to music. His work became the 1853 opera La Traviata with the female protagonist 'Marguerite Gautier' renamed 'Violetta Valéry'."

"In the English-speaking world, La Dame aux Camélias became known as Camille and sixteen versions have been performed at Broadway theatres alone."

information from Wikipedia

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