The Lady of the Camellias
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|The Lady of the Camellias|
Poster for a performance of the theatrical version, with Sarah Bernhardt (1896)
|Written by||Alexandre Dumas, fils|
|Date premiered||2 February 1852|
The Lady of the Camellias (French: La Dame aux camélias) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, first published in 1848, and subsequently adapted for the stage. The Lady of the Camellias premiered at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, France on February 2, 1852. The play was an instant success, and Giuseppe Verdi immediately set about putting the story to music. His work became the 1853 opera La Traviata, with the female protagonist, Marguerite Gautier, renamed Violetta Valéry.
In the English-speaking world, The Lady of the Camellias became known as Camille and 16 versions have been performed at Broadway theatres alone. The title character is Marguerite Gautier, who is based on Marie Duplessis, the real-life lover of author Dumas, fils.
Summary and analysis
The theme of the Lady of the Camellias is a love story between Marguerite Gautier, a "demi-mondaine" ("courtisane" in the original French, i.e., a woman "kept" by various lovers, frequently more than one at a time) suffering from tuberculosis, and a young provincial bourgeois, Armand Duval. The narration of the love story is told by Duval himself to the (unnamed) narrator of the book. She is named as the Lady of the camellias because she wears a white camellia when she is available to her lover(s) and a red one when her delicate condition precludes making love.
Armand falls in love with Marguerite and ultimately becomes her lover, convincing her to turn her back on her life as a "courtisane" and live with him in the countryside. This idyllic existence is broken by Armand's father, who, concerned by the scandal created by the illicit relationship and fearful that it will destroy his daughter's (Armand's sister's) chances of marriage, convinces Marguerite to leave Armand, who believes, up until Marguerite's death, that she has left him for another man. Marguerite's death is described as an unending agony, during which Marguerite, abandoned by everyone, can only regret what might have been.
Unlike the love of the Chevalier Des Grieux for Manon Lescaut (to which story Dumas himself makes reference at the beginning of The Lady of the Camellias), Armand's love is for a woman who is ready to sacrifice her riches and her lifestyle for him, but who is thwarted by the arrival of Armand's father.
Dumas is careful to paint a favourable portrait of Marguerite, who despite her past is rendered virtuous by her love for Armand, and the suffering of the two lovers, whose love is shattered by the need to conform to the morals of the times, is rendered touchingly.
The novel is also marked by the description of Parisian life during the 19th century and the fragile world of the "courtisanes".
Since its debut as a play, numerous editions have been performed at theatres around the world. The role of the tragic Marguerite Gautier became one of the most coveted amongst actresses and included performances by Lillian Gish, Eleonora Duse, Margaret Anglin, Gabrielle Réjane, Tallulah Bankhead, Eva Le Gallienne, Isabelle Adjani, Cacilda Becker, and especially Sarah Bernhardt, who starred in Paris, London, and several Broadway revivals, plus a 1911 film. Dancer/Impresario Ida Rubinstein successfully recreated Bernhardt's interpretation of the role onstage in the mid-1920s, coached by the great actress herself before she died.
Of all Dumas, fils's theatrical works, La Dame aux Camélias is the most popular around the world: According to 19th century book The Century, "not one other play by Dumas, fils has been received with favor out of France".
Amongst many adaptations, spin-offs and parodies, was "Camille," "a travesty on La Dame aux Camellias" by Charles Ludlam, staged first by his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1973, with Ludlam playing the lead in drag
In 1999 Alexia Vassiliou collaborated with composer Aristides Mytaras for the contemporary dance performance, The Lady of the Camellias at the Amore Theatre in Athens.
In addition to inspiring La Traviata, The Lady of the Camellias has been adapted for approximately twenty different motion pictures in numerous countries and in a wide variety of languages. The role of "Marguerite Gautier" has been played on screen by Sarah Bernhardt, María Félix, Clara Kimball Young, Theda Bara, Yvonne Printemps, Alla Nazimova, Greta Garbo, Micheline Presle, Francesca Bertini, Isabelle Huppert, and others.
Films entitled Camille
There have been at least eight adaptations of The Lady of the Camellias entitled Camille. See Camille (disambiguation).
Other films based on La Dame aux Camélias
In addition to the Camille films, the story has been the adapted into numerous other screen versions:
- Kameliadamen, the first movie based on the work. Kameliadamen was a 1907 Danish silent film directed by Viggo Larsen and starring Oda Alstrup, Larsen, Gustave Lund and Robert Storm Petersen.
- La Dame aux Camélias, a 1911 French language silent film, directed by André Calmettes and Henri Pouctal. It stars Sarah Bernhardt.
- La Signora delle Camelie, a 1915 Italian language film. It was directed by Baldassarre Negroni and Gustavo Serena. It stars Hesperia, Alberto Collo (it) and Ida Carloni Talli.
- A 1921 English silent film that stars Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino. It was directed by Ray C. Smallwood.
- Damen med kameliorna, a 1925 Swedish film adapted and directed by Olof Molander. It stars Uno Henning (sv) and Tora Teje.
- La Dame aux Camélias, the first sound adaptation. La Dame aux Camélias was a 1934 French film adapted by Abel Gance and directed by Gance and Fernand Rivers. It stars Yvonne Printemps and Pierre Fresnay.
- Greta Garbo had the starring role in Camille (1936), directed by George Cukor
- A 1944 Spanish language version was produced in Mexico. It was adapted by Roberto Tasker and directed by Gabriel Soria, and stars Lina Montes and Emilio Tuero.
- La Dame aux Camélias, a 1953 French film adapted by Jacques Natanson and directed by Raymond Bernard. It stars Gino Cervi, Micheline Presle and Roland Alexandre (fr).
- Camelia, a 1954 Mexican film adapted by José Arenas, Edmundo Báez, Roberto Gavaldón and Gregorio Walerstein. It was directed by Gavaldón, and stars María Félix.
- La mujer de las camelias, a 1954 Argentine film adapted by Alexis de Arancibia (as Wassen Eisen) and Ernesto Arancibia, and directed by Ernesto Arancibia. It stars Zully Moreno.
- La Dame aux Camélias, a 1981 French language film adapted by Jean Aurenche, Enrico Medioli (fr) and Vladimir Pozner, and directed by Mauro Bolognini. It stars Isabelle Huppert.
- Dama Kameliowa , a 1994 Polish language film
- Lady of the Camellias is a ballet by John Neumeier with music by Frédéric Chopin, created for Marcia Haydée, then prima ballerina of the Stuttgart Ballet. It premiered at the Staatstheater Stuttgart in 1978.
- Marguerite and Armand is an adaptation created in 1963 by renowned choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton specifically for Rudolf Nureyev and prima ballerina assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn.
- Veronica Paeper created a ballet Camille based on The Lady of the Camellias which has been staged several times since 1990.
- Biography of Alexandre Dumas fils on the Lietrature network website
- The Century. January 1879. p. 60.
- Wolf, Matt (Tuesday, May 27, 2008). "In 'Marguerite,' an all-too-dark musical". New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Marguerite Gautier at the Internet Movie Database
- "John Neumeier biography". Hamburg Ballet. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
- Ferguson, Stephanie (14 February 2005). "La Traviata". London: Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2010. Staged as La Traviata for Northern Ballet Theatre in Leeds, UK in 2005.
- Full texts at Project Gutenberg in the original French and in an English translation
- 1953 Best Plays radio adaptation of play at Internet Archive