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Marguerite Debreux in the role of Cupidon in La Poudre de Perlimpinpin at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, autumn 1869

July 26, 2014

Marguerite Debreux (active 1868-1883), French actress and singer, in the role of Cupidon in La Poudre de Perlimpinpin at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, autumn 1869 (Le Gaulois, Paris, Tuesday, 21 September 1869, p. 4)
(carte de visite photo: Disdéri, Paris, 1869)

‘THE NUDITARIAN RAGE ON THE PARIS STAGE. – The Paris correspondent of the New York Herald, describing the grand rehearsal of ”Poudre de Perlimpinpin,” at the Chatelet, observes:- There is a certain negligé about costume I will not dwell on. Some come in every day clothes, some in splendid costume; some, the ballet dancers, are in white muslin reminiscences, but that is not much. Then 260 women! For the real performance 2000 costumes! On the occasion of the rehearsals I had witnesses a few little whiffs of passion about costume, and I was anxious to see who had gained his or her point, the manager or the actress. One of the prettiest threatened to throw herself into the Seine if she had to put that ”bag” on, in which not a bit of her arms could be seen; another meant to cut the tailor’s throat if he insisted on making her unmentionables more than three inches below the knee; a third would twist the tenor’s neck round if the colour of her tights did not harmonise with that of her hair, and the manager told me that the whole army of men employed – gaslighters, choruses, mechanics, decorators, singers, in all 1200 – were easier to lead than these terrible women. The ”ugly” ones, he said, are as mild as lambs – they put on anything; but it is the pretty ones, with fine legs and tempers to match! Oh! -.-. The way he turned up the whites of his eyes at this is till present to my memory.’
(The Dundee Courier & Argus, Dundee, Scotland, Tuesday, 2 November 1869, p. 3d)

* * * * *

On 18 April 1870 Marguerite Debreux appeared as Mephisto at the Lyceum Theatre, London, in H.B. Farnie’s adaptation of Le Petit Faust (Little Faust), an opera bouffe with music by Hervé. Other members of the cast included Lennox Grey, Jennie Lee, and Ada Luxmore, with Emily Soldene as Marguerite, M. Marius as Siebel, Aynsley Cook as Valentine and Tom Maclagan as Faust.

‘… But if our Faust [Tom Maclagan] was awkward, the public were more than compensated by our Mephisto, our specially imported Mephisto, the beauteous Mdlle. Debreux. Chic and shapely, full of brand-new bouffeisms, she brought the air of the Boulevards with her, and came on tiny, tripping toes, armed with diabolical devices to break up all the women and capture all the men, with a perfect figure, no corsets, and a svelte waist that waved and swayed with every movement; with manicured pink nails an inch long, with a voice that cracked and creaked like a rusty signboard in half a gale of wine, and was never exactly there when wanted. But these vocal eccentricities were accompanied by such grace and gesture and perfect insinuation that a little thing like C sharp for D natural was considered quite the finest art. She was an immense success, and made us English girls just ”sit up,” and we felt very sick indeed… .’
(Emily Soldene, ‘My Theatrical and Musical Recollections,’ Chapter X, The Evening News Supplement, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Saturday, 20 March 1897, p. 2d)

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