This was also the feeling of the Duchess of Berry, who, during all the Restoration, fled from surly politics to live in the region, radiant and sacred, of art and charity. The taste of this Italian lady for painting and music was a veritable passion. She was forever to be found in the museums, the expositions, the theatres. She caught the melodies by heart and was always interested in new works. An expert, a dilletante, was no better judge of pictures and operas; the great artists who shone in the reign of Charles X. received from the amiable Princess the most precious encouragements. Nor did she forget to encourage the efforts of beginners. “Who, then,” she said, “would buy the works of these poor young people, if I did not?”
THE THEATRE OF MADAME
One of the most agreeable theatres of Paris, the Gymnase, owed its prosperity, not to say its existence, to the high protection of Madame the Duchess of Berry. Our old men recall its vogue, at the time when they used to applaud Ferville, Gontier, Numa, Leontine Fay, Jenny Verspre, and when they used to gaze at the greatest ladies of the court, the most fashionable beauties; and they remember that on its facade, from the month of September, 1824, to the Revolution of 1830, there was this inscription in letters of gold: “Theatre de Madame.” Placed under the patronage of the Princess, this fortunate theatre was a meeting-place of the most elegant society of Paris. It had the same audiences as the Opera and the Italiens, and they enjoyed themselves as much in the entr’actes as during the acts. The spectacle was in the hall as well as on the stage.
The origin of the Gymnase goes back to 1820. According to the privilege accorded to the new stage under the Decazes ministry, it was to be only a gymnase composed of the young pupils of the Conservatoire, and other dramatic and lyric schools, and was authorized only to present fragments from the various repertories. But from the beginning it transgressed the limits set for it. Not content with simple pupils, it engaged actors already well known. In place of borrowing debris of the repertories of other theatres, it created one of its own. At first the authorities shut their eyes. But when M. de Corbiere became Minister of the Interior, he tried to enforce the regulations and to compel the new theatre to confine itself to the limits of its privilege. The Gymnase asked for time, was very meek, prayed, supplicated. It would have succumbed, however, but for the intervention of the Duchess of Berry. Scribe composed for the apartments of the Tuileries a vaudeville, called La Rosiere, in which he invoked the Princess as protectress, as a beneficent fairy. She turned aside the fulminations of M. de Corbiere. The minister was obstinate; he wished the last word; but the Princess finally carried the day. The day after he had addressed to the director of the Gymnase a warning letter, he was amazed to hear the Duchess of Berry say: “I hope, Monsieur, that you will not torment the Gymnase any longer, for, henceforth, it will bear my name.”