List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess Of Berry-Charles X
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

possessed the secret of awakening lively sympathy in the world of
artists and men of letters? Who better than their worthy
counsellor seconded them in the impulses of generous courtesy so
common with them? Thus from this noble and gracious manner of
treating men devoted to art and letters, which marked the royal
administration of the Fine Arts under the Restoration, sprang an
emulation and a good will which on all sides gave an impetus to
genius, and brought forth the new talents."

In theatrical matters, the Viscount Sosthenes de La Rochefoucauld
exercised a salutary influence. He loved artists, and wishing to
raise their situation, moral and social, he deplored the
excommunication that had been laid on the players.

Speaking of the stage, he wrote in a report addressed to Charles
X., June 20,1825: "I perceive that I have forgotten the most
essential side,--the moral, I will even say the religious side.
What glory it would be for a king to raise this considerable class
of society from the abject situation in which it is compelled to
live! Sacrificed to our pleasures, it has been condemned to
eternal death, and a king believes his conscience quiet! For a
long time I have cherished this thought; we must begin by
elevating these people, as regards their art, by reforming, little
by little, the swarming abuses that awaken horror, and end by
treating with Rome in order to obtain some just concessions that
would have important results."

In another report to the King, dated October 21, 1826, M. de La
Rochefoucauld wrote, apropos of the obsequies of Talma:--

"A profound regret for me is the manner of the great tragedian's
death. Sire, would it not be worthy of the reign, the breast, the
conscience of Charles X., to draw this class of artists from the
cruel position in which they are left by that excommunication that
weighs upon them without distinction? Whether they conduct
themselves well or ill, the Church repels them; this reprobation
holds them perforce in the sphere of evil and disorder, since they
have no interest in rising above it. Honor them, and they will
honor themselves. It is time to undertake the reform of what I
call a pernicious prejudice. The clergy itself is not far from
agreeing on these ideas."

In his relations with authors, artists, directors of theatres, the
Viscount was courtesy itself. We read in one of his reports (June
17, 1825):--

"Rossini is the first composer of Europe; I have succeeded in
attracting him to the service of France; he had before been
tempted in vain. Jealous of his success, people have cried out
that he was an idler, that he would do nothing. I secured him by
the methods and in the interest of the King; I can do with him as
I will, as with all the artists, though they are most difficult
people. They must be taken through the heart. Rossini has just
composed a really ravishing piece; and, touched by the manner in
which he is treated, he wishes to present it to the King in token
of his gratitude, and wishes to receive nothing. He is right, but
the King cannot accept gratis so fine a present; I propose that
the King grant him the cross of the Legion of Honor and announce
it himself to him to-morrow--which would be an act full of grace.
All favors must come always from the King."

Great tenacity was needed in the government of Charles X. to get
the Chefs-d'Oeuvre of Rossini represented at the Opera. A little
school of petty and backward ideas rushed, under pretext of
patriotism, but really from jealousy, systematically to drive from
the stage everything not French. For this coterie Rossini and
Meyerbeer were suspects, intruders, who must be repulsed at any
cost. The government had the good sense to take no account of this
ridiculous opposition, which refused to recognize that art should
be cosmopolitan. Before seeing his name on the bills of our first
lyric stage, Rossini required no less than nine years of patience.
All Europe applauded him, but at Paris he had to face the fire of
pamphleteers rendered furious by his fame. The government finally
forced the Opera to mount Le Siege de Corinthe. Its success was so
striking that the evening of the first representation (October 9,
1826), the public made almost a riot for half an hour, because
Rossini, called loudly by an enthusiastic crowd, refused to appear
upon the stage.

The maestro gave at the Opera Moise, March 26, 1826; Le Comte Ory,
August 20, 1828; Guillaume Tell, August 20, 1829. (At this time
the first representations of the most important works took place
in midsummer.) The evening of the first night of Guillaume Tell,
the orchestra went, after the opera, to give a serenade under the
windows of the composer, who occupied the house on the Boulevard
Montmartre, through which the Passage Jouffroy has since been cut.
The 10th of February, 1868, on the occasion of the hundredth
representation of the same work, there was a repetition of the
serenade of 1829. The master then lived in the Rue Chaussee
d'Antin, No. 2. Under his windows the orchestra and chorus of the
opera commenced the concert about half an hour after midnight, by
the light of torches, and Faure sang the solos.

The government which secured the representation of Guillaume Tell
was not afraid of the words "independence" and "liberty." A year
and a half before, the 20th of February, 1828, there had been
given at the Opera the chef-d'oeuvre of Auber, La Muette de
Portici, and the Duchess of Berry, a Neapolitan princess, had
applauded the Naples Revolution put into music.

The government of Charles X. protected Meyerbeer as well as
Rossini. Robert le Diable was only played under the reign of Louis
Philippe, but the work had already been received under the

During the reign of Charles X. the fine royal theatres reached the
height of their splendor: the Francais and the Odeon were
installed in their present quarters; the Opera in the hall of the
Rue La Peletier, excellent as to acoustics and proportions; the
Italiens in the Salle Favart (where they remained from 1825 to
1838); the Opera Comique in the Salle Feydeau, until the month of
April, 1829, when it inaugurated the Salle Ventadour. Talma,
Mademoiselle Duchesnoir, Mademoiselle Mars, triumphed at the
Francais; Mademoiselle Georges, at the Odeon; Nourrit, Levasseur,
Madame Damoreau, Taglioni, at the Opera; Sontag, Pasta, Malibran,
and Rubini at the Italiens.

The Viscount de la Rochefoucauld wished in every way to raise the
moral level of the theatre. He forbade subscribers, even the most
influential, the entree behind the scenes of the Opera, because
these persons had not always preserved there the desirable
decorum. Thence arose rancor and spite, against which he had to
contend during his entire administration. He wrote to the King,
July 29, 1828:--

"A cabal is formed to deprive me of the direction of the theatres;
and by whom and for what? It is a struggle, Sire, between good and
evil. It is sought to maintain, at any cost, the abuses I have
dared to reform. They throw a thousand unjust obstacles in my way.
Gamblers are mixed up in it too; they wish to join this ignoble
industry and the theatres. It is a monstrous infamy. The opera
must be reached at all hazards, the coulisses must be entered;
these are the abuses that must be revived. How can it be done? By
removing the theatres from troublesome authority ... Sire, Your
Majesty shall decide, and must defend me with a firm will in the
interest, I venture to declare, of order; you must defend yourself
also in the interest of morals and of art, and of a great
influence of which it is sought to deprive you."

M. de La Rochefoucauld had the last word, and remained at the head
of the direction of the Fine Arts until the close of the
Restoration. To the credit of his administration there must still
be added the creation of the school of religious music, directed
by Choron, and the foundation of the concerts of the conservatory
with Habeneck, and a little against the wishes of Cherubini. The
chefs-d'oeuvre of German music were brought out as well as those
of Italian music. The Viscount performed his task con amore, as
they say on the other side of the Alps. He wrote to Charles X.
January 12, 1830:--

"How many reflections must have come to the King on regarding the
picture of the Coronation! I divined the thought that he did not
complete, and my eyes filled with tears. Oh, how much I feel and
imagine all the ennui given to the King by these barren and
unfortunate politics! I detest them more even than the King
detests them. Ungrateful offspring of the times, they fly away,
rarely leaving even a memory. How much I prefer the arts!"

This was also the feeling of the Duchess of Berry, who, during all
the Restoration, fled from surly politics to live in the region,
radiant and sacred, of art and charity. The taste of this Italian
lady for painting and music was a veritable passion. She was
forever to be found in the museums, the expositions, the theatres.
She caught the melodies by heart and was always interested in new
works. An expert, a dilletante, was no better judge of pictures
and operas; the great artists who shone in the reign of Charles X.
received from the amiable Princess the most precious
encouragements. Nor did she forget to encourage the efforts of
beginners. "Who, then," she said, "would buy the works of these
poor young people, if I did not?"



One of the most agreeable theatres of Paris, the Gymnase, owed its
prosperity, not to say its existence, to the high protection of
Madame the Duchess of Berry. Our old men recall its vogue, at the
time when they used to applaud Ferville, Gontier, Numa, Leontine
Fay, Jenny Verspre, and when they used to gaze at the greatest
ladies of the court, the most fashionable beauties; and they
remember that on its facade, from the month of September, 1824, to
the Revolution of 1830, there was this inscription in letters of
gold: "Theatre de Madame." Placed under the patronage of the
Princess, this fortunate theatre was a meeting-place of the most

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: