Rue Douai

Rue Douai is a rather long street in the 9th arrondissement, created during the 1840’s. It goes from Rue Victor Massé (on which I have already posted a number of times, e.g. here and here) to Place de Clichy (on which I have also posted, e.g. here and here). We are just north of what is referred to as the “Nouvelle Athènes”, we may rather be in the “Pigalle” area. Among these then rather new streets, we could during the 19th century meet a large part of the then, but especially later, famous members of the artistic world. Along the street you cross also the Square Berlioz (see previous post)... 

...and looking right and left in the side streets, it’s easy to see in which neighbourhood you are.

The street is also well-known by the fans of modelling, especially model trains.

Even more is the street known for the place to buy instruments, especially guitars.

There are also a few references to what many considered to be typical Pigalle activities.

At no. 22 of the street, you will find a beautiful building (see also top picture), during the 19th century belonging to Michel-Victor Cruchet (1815-99), who was a successful sculptor-ornamentalist.

However, the place is today especially known for having been the home of the then newly married Georges Bizet. Together with his wife Geneviève, born Halévy, they lived here the years 1869-75. He was about 30 and Geneviève about 20 when they moved in. Their son Jacques was born in 1871. Georges had already spent all his life in the area. He was fairly successful as a musician and composer, but not enough to be really rich. He still gave piano lessons… and the family lived in a modest flat in this building… and also in a rented country house in the Paris suburbs – at Bougival. Those were the years when George composed “Carmen” – libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy - they had written a lot together already, especially for Jacques Offenbach. Ludovic Halévy was a cousin of Bizet’s wife Geneviève. “Carmen” was first performed March 3, 1875, without success and acclaim. Georges became ill, suffered one or two heart attacks and died three months later, 36 years old. 

Here we can see some photos of Georges, Geneviève, their son Jacques… and of Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac.

… and some illustrations dating from the first "Carmen" performances, including a photo of the first “Carmen”.

Geneviève, the wife, later opened a “salon”, well visited by the distinguished Paris society. She married a lawyer some ten years later. She died, depressed, in 1926. Her son Jacques, who became a medical doctor and was a friend of Marcel Proust… had died four years earlier.

Let’s listen to “Habanera”.

Talking about “salon”… At no. 50, lived the famous mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, sister of another famous singer, Maria Malibran. Pauline was not only a leading singer, she also played the piano (had taken lessons by Franz Liszt…), played four-hands with Clara Schumann, spoke six languages fluently, was the friend of Georges Sand, Frédéric Chopin, Jenny Lind, Charles Gounod,  Hector Berlioz… and perhaps especially the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev who actually spent his last twelve years here.

A last word about the no. 15 with Eugène Viollet-le-Duc as architect. He may be better known for some restoration work, including the Notre Dame Cathedral. 



Anonymous said...

The death of Georges Bizet in the flower of youth was a great loss. Not only for his wife and son but for the musical world. He didn't need to compose any kind of music, much less operas, to make a living. Ever since his early youth, he was considered one of the world's greatest pianists.
Not enough holocaust for Madame Bizet to lose the man she loved? I read that some years later she also had to bury her son.

Thank you so much for this tour and for the narrative, Peter. I have read in several blogs and comments about your being the indisputable Montmartre expert. And I believe it!


claude said...

Je ne pense pas connaître c'est rue.
C'est marrant en ville il y a une rue du Grand Douai.Carmen de Bizet, un Opéra que j'aime beaucoup.