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.

Bardac's last home, now 23 Square Avenue Foch, Paris[1]
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.[2] In the summer of 1904, after a secret vacation with Bardac in Jersey, Debussy wrote to his wife Rosalie announcing the end of their marriage; distraught, she attempted suicide with a revolver in the Place de la Concorde. The ensuing scandal alienated Bardac and Debussy from friends and family, and in the spring of 1905 they fled to England, where they finalized their divorces, Emma from Sigismond on 4 May, Debussy from Rosalie on 2 August. They returned to Paris in time for the birth, on 30 October, of their daughter Claude-Emma, nicknamed 'Chou-Chou' , and dedicatee of his Children's Corner Suite composed in 1909.[3] The couple bought a large house in a courtyard development off the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne (now Avenue Foch) where Debussy would reside for the rest of his life.[4] Bardac eventually married Debussy in 1908, their troubled union enduring until Debussy's death 10 years later. 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.

Media[edit]

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. Bardac is portrayed by Iza Teller in Ken Russell's The Debussy Film released in 1965, starring Oliver Reed in the title role.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "23 Square Avenue Foch 75116 Paris, France". Google Maps. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Nichols, The Life of Debussy, 111.
  3. ^ Diane Enget Moore (2005). Debussy in Jersey. The Centenary, 1904–2004 [1].
  4. ^ "Claude Debussy's residence". Debussypiano.com. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  5. ^ BBC 'Monitor' The Debussy Film [2]

Bibliography (further reading)[edit]

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