Minette et Lise
Minette et Lise (floruit 1789), was a sister couple of two stage artists, active in Saint Domingue in Pre-revolutionary Haiti. They were consistent of Elisabeth Alexandrine Louise Ferrand, stage name "Minette" (11 July 1767 in Port-au-Prince – 2 January 1807 in New Orléans) and Lise (1771–?). They have become known as Minette et Lise (Minette and Lise).
Minette and Lise were born in Port-au-Prince in Saint Domingue, in 1767 and 1771 respectively. They belonged to the affranchi class of free colored: their father was white, and their mother, Elisabeth Mahotière, Mahaultière or Daguin, was a free affranchi of African origin. They also had a brother, Louis Joseph Marin.
During their childhood, the sisters were trained in acting by their mother. The artistic talent of the sisters were discovered by Madame Acquarie, an actress and opera singer of the Comédie de Port-au-Prince. She offered them lessons in singing and acting, which they accepted.
Career in Saint Domingue
In 1780, they debuted together in the ballet La Danse sur le Volcan at the Comédie de Port-au-Prince. The debut was a success, and on 25 December of that year, Minette were engaged at the theatre by François Saint-Martin. Though only three colored actors are mentioned as artists of note in Saint-Domingue prior to the revolution, descriptions of colored artists on stage are common from diarists of the era, and the fact that they were colored should not necessarily have been an obstacle, though their success may have been somewhat more unusual.
Minette in particular was noted as a singer. On 13 February 1781, she performed as Isabelle in the opera Isabelle et Gertrude. During the 1780s, she became one of the most popular operatic artists in Saint Domingue and the prima donna of Port-au-Prince, as Jeanne-Marie Marsan had the same position at the Comédie du Cap in Cap-Francais. She also attracted criticism, such as for her luxurious costumes. In 1787, she was described as being in the highest point of her career. She did not marry, but had at least three children; François Charles Denis (1782-1789) with lieutenant Denis Cottineau; Marie-Jeanne (born 1786) with Etienne Palot; and Louise Françoise Théodore (1789-1790) with Théodore Roberjot du Désert.
Lise, though not as famed as Minette, also enjoyed a successful career. She had her breakthrough in Cayes in 1784, and toured the smaller stages in Les Cayes, Jeremie, Petit-Goave, Jacmel, Léogâne, and Saint-Marc where she is said to have enjoyed triumphs.
Minette are last mentioned when she performed in La répétition interrompue by Charles Mozard 4 October 1789. Lise are last mentioned when she performed in Faux Lord ou le Pacotilleur 24 January 1789.
There has been several theories about their later life and death, and they have been speculated to have died during the Haitian Revolution.
The Comédie de Port-au-Prince was burned on November 22, 1791, and its actors are reported to have fled to New Orléans. Minette was among those emigrating to New Orléans, were she died in 1807.
Minette et Lise have been the object of a novel of Marie Chauvet.
- Jean Fouchard : Minette et Lise..., deux actrices de couleur sur les scènes de Saint-Domingue. Revue d'histoire des colonies (1955) Volume 42. Numéro 147. pp. 186–219
- Leslie Bethell: The Cambridge History of Latin America
- Sibylle Fischer: Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution
- Paul B. Miller: Elusive Origins: The Enlightenment in the Modern Caribbean Historical ...
- Jean Fouchard: Le Théâtre à Saint-Domingue