Emma Bardac

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Emma Debussy after a portrait by Léon Bonnat

Emma Bardac (1862–1934), née Moyse, was the mutual love interest of both Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy. Of Jewish descent, Emma married, aged 17, Parisian banker Sigismond Bardac, by whom she had two children, Raoul, and Hélène (later Madame Gaston de Tinan (1892–1985)). Emma was an accomplished singer and brilliant conversationalist. Fauré wrote his Dolly Suite in the 1890s for Hélène and La bonne chanson for Emma herself.

The Debussys' grave at Passy Cemetery

After her affair with Fauré, Emma was introduced to Debussy in late 1903 by her son Raoul, one of his students.[1] Emma and Sigismond were divorced on 4 May 1905, and she eventually married Debussy in 1908. Bardac had a child by Debussy, a daughter, Claude-Emma, nicknamed 'Chou-Chou' (born 30 October 1905), and dedicatee of his Children's Corner Suite composed in 1909. Claude-Emma died of diphtheria in 1919, the year after her father's death. Emma Bardac died in 1934 and, like Claude-Emma, was laid to rest in Debussy's grave in the Cimetière de Passy in Paris.

In a documentary film called The Loves of Emma Bardac directed by Thomas Mowrey, the accomplished duo-pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque perform a selection of pieces by composers Bizet, Fauré and Debussy. Emma also is featured in Ken Russell's The Debussy Film released in 1965, starring Oliver Reed in the title role.


  1. ^ Nichols, The Life of Debussy, 111.

Bibliography (further reading)[edit]

  • Nichols, Roger The Life of Debussy (New York & Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). ISBN 0-521-57026-3