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The Real Traviata: The Song of Marie Duplessis

Rene Weis

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Oxford University Press
07 February 2019
Opera; Biography; European history; Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900; Social & cultural history
The Real Traviata is the rags-to-riches story of a tragic young woman whose life inspired one of the most famous operas of all time, Verdi's masterpiece La traviata, as well as one of the most scandalous and successful French novels of the nineteenth century, La Dame aux Camelias, by Alexandre Dumas fils. The woman at the centre of the story, Marie Duplessis, escaped from her life as an abused teenage girl in provincial Normandy, rising in an amazingly short space of time to the apex of fashionable life in nineteenth century Paris, where she was considered the queen of the Parisian courtesans. Her life was painfully short, but by sheer willpower, intelligence, talent, and stunning looks she attained such prominence in the French capital that ministers of the government and even members of the French royal family fell under her spell. In the 1840s, she commanded the kind of 'paparazzi' attention that today we associate only with major royalty or the biggest Hollywood stars. Aside from the younger Dumas, her conquests included a host of writers and artists, including the greatest pianist of the century, Franz Liszt, with whom she once hoped to elope. When she died Theophile Gautier, one of the most important Parisian writers of the day, penned an obituary fit for a princess. Indeed, he boldly claimed that she had been a princess, notwithstanding her peasant origin and her distinctly demi-monde existence. And although now largely forgotten, in the years immediately after her death, Marie's legend if anything grew in stature, with her immortalization in Verdi's La traviata, an opera in which the great Romantic composer tried to capture her essence in some of the most heart-wrenching and lyrical music ever composed.
By:   Rene Weis
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 215mm,  Width: 143mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   516g
ISBN:   9780198828297
ISBN 10:   0198828292
Pages:   416
Publication Date:   07 February 2019
Audience:   College/higher education ,  A / AS level ,  Further / Higher Education
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Rene Weis is a freelance author and Professor of English at University College London. He has a written on a wide variety of subjects, including Edith Thompson (of the infamous 'Thompson and Bywaters' murder case in the 1920s), the last Cathar insurgency in the Pyrenees in the Middle Ages, and a biography of Shakespeare. As a professional Shakespearian, he has published extensively on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, his publications including editions of Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Henry IV Part 2, and an Oxford World's Classics edition of the works of John Webster. A lifelong lover of opera, he also contributes regular pieces to the programmes for Royal Opera House productions.

Reviews for The Real Traviata: The Song of Marie Duplessis

This diligently researched book casts an astutely observant light upon [Duplessis's] memory and myth. * Aiste Anusaite, Londoniete * [An] immensely detailed biography ... impeccably researched ... an entertaining and informative account. * Susan Elkin, Ink Pellet * Impeccably researched and astutely observed, Weis's book sifts through facts and myth, and conjures up the texture of life in 19th-century Paris, with its many flaneurs, boulevards and cafes. Bravo. * Juanita Coulson, The Lady * Weis traces his protagonist's short but event-filled life - she died at the age of 23 - in painstaking detail. He also offers new insights into the genesis of Alexandre Dumas's fictionalised accounts of her life and of Verdi's opera. This book will intrigue fans of La traviata, but its broader account of the treatment of women in early 19th-century France deserves a wider readership. * Alexandra Wilson, BBC Music Magazine *


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