Marie Baptiste

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Marie Baptiste née Dumont, (born in Bordeaux, France), also known as Mademoiselle le Prévost (or Prevot), was a French actress and singer. She spent a large part of her career in Sweden, where she was the perhaps most significant female star of the French Theatre during the Age of Liberty.

Background and career[edit]

Marie Dumont, whose stage name was Mademoiselle le Prévost, was a member of the French Du Londel Troupe engaged on the orders by the Swedish queen Louisa Ulrika of Prussia in 1753. The Du Londel Company had performed in Copenhagen under the leadership of Jeanne du Londel and Pierre de Laynay when it arrived in Stockholm in 1753. They first shared with the Swedish Theatre in Bollhuset (during the 1753–54 season), but the building was soon reserved for them. They performed for the public in Bollhuset in winter, and for the royal court in the theatres of the royal palaces in summer. The troupe only contained twelve members at first, and in 1756, Louis Du Londel, the son of Jeanne Du Londel, travelled to The Hague and hired eight new members, of which Prévost was the most prominent one.

The French Theatre had a strict hierarchy, and Prévost was appointed prima donna in the conditions of her contract; she was to play the lead parts in tragedies, comedies from Comédie-Française and Comédie-Italienne, opéra comiques and breeches roles. She was also a singer, and participated in public concerts at Riddarhuset.

She was known as Madame Baptiste after she her marriage to another member of the troupe, Jacques-Baptiste Anselme (born 1732), whose stage name was Monsieur Baptiste. He was contracted as a second-part actor. Other notable members of the troupe was Marguerite Morel, the dancer and ballet master Elisabeth Soligny and Jeanne Louise Du Londel, daughter of director Jeanne Du Londel, who became the protegée of the court with her own carriage and dresser and was appointed instructor in French etiquette to Princess Sophia Albertine of Sweden.

The theatre fire[edit]

Baptiste is remembered also in connection to the fire at the first Drottningholm Palace Theatre. It was she who rushed out on the stage, in the middle of the play on the celebration of the queen's name's day, 25 August 1762, and alarmed that the theatre was on fire. The audience first thought it was a part of the performance. The event was described by the nobleman Knut Henrik Leijonhufvud :

The fourth act was just finished and the orchestra played...at last the usual clap gave the signal of silence; and Madame Baptiste came running and made a gesture, which displayed all her devastation; no one though anything but that it was a part of the play. He, who discovered, that the signal had not the necessary effect was the only one with the resolution to come in and then she replied only with half suffocated voice, le feu.

After this, panic erupted and the fire spread very quickly in the wooden building; Leijonhufvud described how one nobleman took Princess Sophia Albertina under his arm, another the two princes, how the queen and the Crown prince argued about who was going to leave first and how he gave way to "The poor women, who an account of their big skirts was in terrifying danger", and how the whole building was burning. The fire caused the death of one maid, two boys and two "people of the working class". For the actors, it was also a catastrophe; as their own apartments were in the same building, they lost all their possessions.

It was believed, that many more people would have been killed if Baptiste had not called out in time. For her actions, she was rewarded with a pension from the state in 1762. In 1769, she gave it up in exchange for a large sum of money, but the pension was returned to her in 1776.

Later life[edit]

In 1771, the French Theatre was dissolved by king Gustav III of Sweden and all the actors fired. The Baptiste family toured around Europe for a while, but was enable to find a permanent position and returned to Sweden in 1776. The Baptiste family performed plays for the royal court with other members form the former French troupe in 1776–1780. Jacques Baptiste was a member of the royal court chapel in 1773–1786. They had with intent to start an acting school. This never came about, but their daughter, Marie Louise Marcadet, was employed in the Royal Swedish Opera in 1778 and became one of the great stars in Sweden in the Gustavian era.

The French Du Londel Theatre of 1753–1771 had long a bad reputation in Swedish history, because they were the cause of the dissolving of the first Swedish-speaking national theatre, who were exiled from Bollhuset to be replaced by a theatre which was only enjoyed by those who could speak French. This was true, as the audience of the French Theatre was mainly from the upper classes. Lately, however, they have been given credit for making the modern French theatre popular in Sweden, which laid the foundation of the national stage's Swedish Royal Opera and Royal Dramatic Theatre.

References[edit]

  • Calendrier électronique des spectacles sous l’ancien régime et sous la révolution.
  • Frihetstiden (The Age of Liberty) (Signum) (Swedish)
  • Lars Löfgren : Svensk teater (Swedish Theatre) (Swedish)
  • Anna Ivarsdotter Johnsson and Leif Jonsson: Musiken i Sverige. Frihetstiden och Gustaviansk tid 1720-1810 (Music in Sweden. The age of Liberty and the Gustavian age 1720-1810) (Swedish)
  • Gidlunds förlag : Ny svensk teaterhistoria. Teater före 1800 (New Swedish Theatre history. Theatre before 1800) (Swedish)
  • Oscar Levertin : Teater och drama under Gustaf III (Theatre and drama during the age of Gustav III) Albert Bonniers förlag (Stockholm) Fourth Edition (1920) (Swedish)
  • Fredrik August Dahlgren: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms theatrar 1737-1863 och Kongl. Theatrarnes personal 1773-1863. Med flera anteckningar. (Swedish)