....AND she was an opera singer Illustration: History Witch.

....AND she was an opera singer

Jenna Simeonov

Readers, have you heard of Julie d’Aubigny?

Her father was secretary to Louis XIV’s Grand Squire of France, meaning she grew up learning to fence among the King’s pages. She often dressed in men’s clothes, and as she got older, her bisexuality got her in about as much trouble as her pugnacious tendencies.

Julie, also known as La Maupin, after taking her first husband’s name (Sieur de Maupin), was also an opera singer. She starting off as a combination tavern-singer and lady-fencer on her way to Paris, and sang on the opera stages in Marseilles, Brussels, and finally was hired at the Paris Opéra in 1690. She sang works by Jean-Baptiste Lully, Pascale Collasse, André Cardinal Destouches, and she premiered the role of Clorinde in André Campra’s Tancrède in 1702 (an appropriate role, it seems).

That’s a pretty neat story on its own, and for the full tale (and colourfully written), have look at her page over on Badass of the Week.

To tempt you into reading more, we thought we’d include some of the juicier bits from the life of Julie d’Aubigny.

  • Shortly preceding her marriage to Maupin at the tender age of 14, she was having an affair with her dad’s boss.
  • She struck up an affair with her fencing master, Sérannes, after her new husband headed to the south of France.
  • She got bored with Sérannes, and began an affair with a young woman, whose parents responded by shipping the girl off to a convent. Julie responded in turn by stealing the body of a dead nun, putting it under her lover’s bed, and setting the convent on fire so they both could escape. Three months later, Julie’s lover had had enough, and she went back to mum and dad. Julie had been charged for her crimes in absentia, but the authorities apparently didn’t catch her because they thought she really was a man.
  • Dressed in men’s clothing, she fought a duel with a nobleman who turned out to be an important guy. After stabbing him in the shoulder, she went to his place to apologize, where they slept together (tit for tat?) and subsequently began a long-standing friendship. That old chestnut.
  • So that she could work legally for the Paris Opéra, Julie managed to clear her criminal record (arson, kidnapping, general violence, that kind of thing) by getting her dad’s old boss (the one she slept with) to talk to the king and grant her a pardon.
  • She beat up her landlord in Paris.
  • She went in drag to a party at Louis XIV’s house, and duelled with three noblemen who were angry that she was stealing all the attention of the women there. She fled to Brussels, and subsequently started up an affair with a German Prince ruling over the Spanish Netherlands.

Seriously, if even half of this stuff is true, we’re surprised there’s no opera writetn about her already.

There’s a novel, though, by Théophile Gautier, called Mademoiselle de Maupin, plus a 2004 TV miniseries (Julie, chevalier de Maupin) and a 1966 Italian film (Madamigella di Maupin).

Libretto fodder, anyone?

Related Content


Unlike other sites, we're keeping Schmopera ad-free. We want to keep our site clean and our opinions our own. Support us for as little as $1.00 per month.