restricted access 36. The Variétés Theater
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36 o The Variétés Theater Rachel—Malicious Gossip Thwarted—Why Cats?— A Star—Tonight, Passage des Panoramas    at my craft of acting, but managers and actors insisted on casting me as a soubrette, a grisette, or a dancer. I did not have the voice, the height, or the look for these roles. I was not pleased at all with the role that I had been assigned in the play just released. I had to play the queen of the Maenads. That was not what I had been promised, and I advised the manager that if he was not going to give me a challenging role, I would leave the theater. The authors were consulted, and in the end, when another actress turned it down, I was given a role in The  Revue, at the Palais de Cristal. A new dance had just arrived, l’impériale. I was asked to dance it with Page. I accepted, although I had long been wanting to put an end to this dancing I was repeatedly asked to perform.  I like everything that has to do with talent. It goes without saying that I was a fanatic of Rachel’s, a magnificent, sublime, undeniable talent, who nevertheless had her detractors among the mean blowhards whose sole conviction is small-mindedness. They would criticize her either for her appearance or her mind. After attending a performance of Phaedra I went home excited. This concentrated power, this smile full of hate and disdain, this gaze full of ire or love—it was all new to me and seemed magical. So, as I was saying, like all great people, Rachel was criticized, and I rebelled when she was found imperfect. ‘‘She is proud, impertinent, and arrogant,’’ a pretty little Jewish girl said about her one day. ‘‘I knew her when she was poor; I even lent her  The Variétés Theater some of my dresses when she was singing in the streets, and today she will not even say hello to me.’’ I thought this lack of gratitude was not consistent with Rachel’s personality . I knew shewas generous to a fault and carefree about the greatness wrought by her genius. So I contradicted my dear companion. She vehemently swore that she was telling the truth. I believed her less than ever, and I decided to clear up the matter. Mlle Rachel did not receive people just any time of the day, if she even consented to see you, otherwise the curious and the meddlers would have invaded her little house on Rue Trudon. I had been warned about that, but I went to her house after the theater anyway. The concierge, whowas in a pretty little alcove on the right, motioned for me to sit in a beautiful Voltaire-style armchair and invited me to look at paintings and knickknacks while he went to see if Mlle Rachel was receiving. I regretted coming. What was I going to say? How was I going to present myself? I was deep in thought when a liveried servant entered. He told me, ‘‘Madame is in her study; she is not receiving today; come back Thursday at two. Madame will see you then. If what you have to say to her is urgent, write her a note.’’ That evening I was having dinner with someone whose house had a beautiful garden. I was permitted to pick some flowers for a bouquet. I thought it was so beautiful because of the rare specimens it contained that I sent it to Mlle Rachel with a letter in which I thanked her. I shall never have a royal audience, but, if I ever had one, I would not be more intimidated than I was when the servant told me, ‘‘This way, mademoiselle. Madame is ill, but she will see you anyway.’’ When we were on the third floor, I was announced. The room I had just been brought to was simply furnished. The drapes were Persian, and the carpet was from Smyrna. Rachel was reclining on a bed, which faced the door. Her torso was partly visible. On top of a peignoir of exquisite batiste, she wore a green velvet jacket trimmed in gold; its sleeves were Greek-style. Her head was intricately wrapped in a brightly colored Algerian scarf. On each side of this sort of Jewish turban, fringes hung down to her shoulders. Her black and naturally curly hair stuck out here and there in little silky...


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