The Monday post

MarieDuplessisMany people in classical music know the name Marie Duplessis, because she was the real-life Paris courtesan whose story — greatly fictionalized, in a novel by Alexandre Dumas — was the inspiration for La traviata. 

And a New York Times review of a new biography of her starts by almost deploring the disconnect between fiction and reality. How sad, some people think, that the real courtesan didn’t nobly sacrifice herself, the way her idealized persona in Dumas and Verdi did.

But how her life really ended was, to my mind, much more touching. Precisely because it wasn’t grandiose, and feels more human.

One of her many lovers was Franz Liszt. She begged him to let her come on one of his recital tours, lasting for 18 months. “’I shan’t bother you,’ she pleaded. [I’m quoting the review.] ‘I sleep all day . . . and at night you can do with me what you will.”

But Liszt said no. Duplessis, in his wake, partied day and night. And a year late was dead of consumption.

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  1. ariel says

    She was a prostitute plain and simple . We use the term courtesan when the cost of turning
    a trick and the social standing of the customer rises above back alley encounters .Wasn’t
    Dumas fils a customer ?Verdi being a master of the stage, following in the foot steps of Dumas fils, gave his audience the opera they wanted – hypocrisy and redemption . She died a miserable
    death of consumption as did countless others of the time -did she pass on venereal disease
    as well as consumption we will never know but Liszt being no dummy turned her down…
    could it be for health reasons ?