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Julie Aimée Joseph VANSTEENKISTE
Julie Aimée Joseph VANSTEENKISTE

  • Born 7 September 1805 - 59300 Valenciennes
  • Deceased 8 February 1896 - 75000 Paris,aged 90 years old
  • Cantatrice
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  • Marchand Graissier (1796), Lieutenant dans la Grande Armée, Professeur de musique, Chef d'orchestre
  •  Spouses



    Individual Note

    DORUS-GRAS, JULIE (1805-1896)Soprano
    Née à Valenciennes le 7 septembre 1805, Julie-Aymée-Josephe Dorus-Gras (née Van Steenkiste) étudie le chant au Conservatoire de Paris, et fait ses débuts au Théâtre de la Monnaie à Bruxelles en 1825. Elle chante Elvire dans la première représentation à Bruxelles de La muette de Portici (1829) d'Auber, et prend part à la représentation historique de cet opéra le 25 août 1830 qui marqua résoluement la révolution belge.
    En 1831, elle est engagée à l'Opéra de Paris, et durant plus de 15 ans, elle créa les principaux rôles, dont celui d'Alice dans Robert le diable (1831), Euoxie dans La Juive (1835), Marguerite de Valois dans Les Huguenots (1836), Teresa dans Benvenuto Cellini (1838) et d'autres rôles pour Auber et Halévy.
    En 1839, elle apparait dans le cercle des concerts londoniens (1), et dans l'année 1847, elle chante le rôle titre de Lucia di Lammermoor en anglais à Drury Lane, sous la direction de Berlioz (2) (3).
    En 1849 [24 mai], quand elle chante à Covent Garden dans trois de ses plus célèbres rôles, Elvire (La muette de Portici), Alice et Marguerite de Valois, elle est encore, selon Chorley, "une excellente artiste, combinant fermeté et volupté d'exécution qui n'a jamais été dépassée, et qui était particulièrement bienvenue dans la musique française". Elle n'était semble-t-il pas une actrice convainquante, mais la précision de son chant et la brillance de sa voix assurèrent son succès (4).
    Elle meurt à Paris, le 6 février 1896.

    Cene remarquable cantatrice a débuté à Paris le 9 novembre1830 dans le Comte Ory ; depuis 1835 elle a repris tous les rôlescréés par Mme Damoreau. Elle a créé Eudoxie, de la Juive; la Reine,des Huguenots; Ginevra, dans Guido, etc... L'arrivée et le règneabsolu et autocratique de Mme Stoltz à l'Opéra causèrent la retraiteprématurée de Mme Dorus en 1845.

    Dorus, Julie (Aimée), Mlle, [true maiden name van Steenkiste], Mme Gras (Dorus-Gras, Gras-Dorus). Solo. 122. Born 7 September 1805, Valenciennes. Died Paris 8 February 1896.
    Sociétaire: 28 February 1831
    2d prix, vocalisation, 1823. 1r prix, chant, 1823. Opéra 1830-45 (created Alice in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, Marguerite in Les Huguenots, 1836). Mme Victor Gras (037), 19 April 1833. Sister of Louis Dorus, flute (no. 175).
    Sources. Primary sources for the personnel listings are the official records of the Société des Concerts, primarily the official registers of personnel (F-Pn D 17262 and a third, most recent copy, left at the Orchestre de Paris on the dissolution; see also D 17331). Dates of appointment and separation for individuals are also contained in the procès-verbaux of committee sessions and Assemblées Générales.

    (1) London Age Sunday, May 26, 1839 - London Age Sunday, June 02, 1839 : "Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Under the patronage of her Grace the Duchess of Beaufort, her Grace the Duchess of Roxburgh, the Most Noble the Marchioness of Tavistock, and several other ladies of distinction. — On Friday next, June the 7th, a Performance will take place at this Theatre, for the benefit of the widow and children of the late Thomas Haynes Bayly Esq. The entertainments will consist of two of Mr Bayly's popular dramas. The following ladies and gentlemen have most kindly offered their gratuitous services: —Mme. Vestris, Mr. Charles Mathews, Mr. J. B. Buckstone, Mr. Strickland, and Miss Taylor. And, between the dramas, a grand miscellaneous concert, in which Mesdames Dorus-Gras, Albertazzi, Stockhausen, and Bilstein; Misses Fanny Wyndham, M. B. Hawes, and Romer; Sig. Ivanoff, Mr. Balfe, Mr. Harrison, Sig. Giubilei, and Mr. H. Phillips, will appear. The Russian family will sing in character one of their national melodies, and the celebrated Spanish dancers will exacute a Boleros in the picturesque costume of their country."

    "Concerts Of The Week.—Though every day brings tidings of musicians departing for the Continent or the provinces, there is, as yet, no visible diminution in the number of musical entertainments. M. Thalberg's last concert, which is to take place on Tuesday, will, however, in somewise, close the concert-season. Yesterday week the Hanover Square Rooms were filled by the friends of Mrs. William Seguin and Mrs. John Hullali. The latter lady is an excellent pianiste, choosing the best of music for her performance—witness the Beethoven sonata in F, in which she was joined by Mr. Blagrove, and the capriccio by Mendelssohn—in performing both, too, she exhibited something far "worthier" than welltrained fingers, namely, true and delicate musical feeling. The vocal star of this concert was Madame Dorus-Gras, who has since left London. In the evening the Sacred Harmonic Society repeated Handel's ' Joshua,' which had been performed in the preceding week with great success..." (The Athenaeum July 1839 p. 510)

    (2) Berlioz’s first visit to London, between November 1847 and July 1848, was the longest of his five visits. He came on an invitation by the French-born director of the Drury Lane Theatre, Louis-Antoine Jullien (known simply as Jullien). Berlioz was engaged to conduct concerts and the orchestra of the Grand English Opera which Jullien had in mind to establish at the Royal Theatre, to provide London with its first national opera in English. The terms of the engagement seemed very attractive and offered the prospect of a secure future in London. The appointment also gave Berlioz his first chance to conduct opera in an opera house. There was also a poignant personal connection: it was in Drury Lane that many years before Harriet Smithson had made her début in London.

    At first everything looked very promising, and Berlioz’s letters to his friends and relatives at the time reflect his excitement. Soon after his arrival, he wrote to his father, in what turned out to be the last known letter he wrote to him (Correspondance générale no. 1134, hereafter abbreviated to CG):

    I am writing these few lines to you in something of a hurry, to tell you of my arrival in London and give you my address. […] We will be spending the rest of this month and a few days of next month in preparations and rehearsals, as the Grand English Opera can only open around 10 December. I have already seen my orchestra at work and it is one of the best I could have wished. I found in it a good number of French and German musicians I know, and they welcomed me with great displays of joy. I have every reason to believe that everything will go perfectly in my department. I will now busy myself with writing a piece on the theme of God Save the Queen for the opening day of the theatre. I had not thought of it, but Jullien, who has an eye and an ear for everything, would like me to repeat here the scene of the Hungarians in Pesth by working in the same way on English national feelings. Besides it is customary for this famous anthem to be performed in all great ceremonies of this kind. [Note: this particular project never materialised]

    My concerts will only start around mid-January; the English translator of my scores will have time to perfect his work, I will know my performers better and we will have settled down. This delay consequently suits me, and prudence suggested it. I am very surprised at how much English I know; I can say almost everything I need to and without too much of an accent, but I have difficulty in understanding half of what is said to me. There is serious work to be done here. […]

    A few days later, on 10 November, he writes to the cellist Tajan-Rogé whom he had recently seen in St Petersburg (CG no. 1135):

    […] You do not have a clear idea of my life in this dreadful city [Paris], which claims to be the artistic centre of the world. I have at last escaped from it. Here I am in England with an independent position, from the financial point of view, such that I had not dared to aspire to. My task is to conduct the orchestra of the Grand English Opera house which will open in Drury Lane in a month; I am also hired to give four concerts composed exclusively of my works, and finally to write a three act opera intended for the 1848 season. The English Opera will only be running for three months this year and will only have a very incomplete company for six because of the rush in which it has just been organised and a fatal circumstance which will deprive us this year of the participation of Pischek (a wonderful German musician on whom we were relying). The director is prepared to make every sacrifice and is only counting on the second year. Jullien, the director, is a man of boldness and intelligence who knows London and the English better than anyone else. He has already made his fortune and has got it into his head to make mine. I am letting him go ahead, since to achieve this goal he proposes to rely exclusively on methods that satisfy art and good taste. But I have my doubts… […]

    I have come to London on my own, and you can guess the reasons why. Besides I had a prodigious need for the kind of liberty of which until now I have always and everywhere been deprived. To seize it back required not one but a series of coups d’état. And yet so long as we have not started our large-scale rehearsals the isolation in which I am living seems strange to me. […]

    The rest of the month was taken up with preparations and rehearsals. The Drury Lane season eventually opened with Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor on 6 December under Berlioz’s baton; Marie Recio had travelled from Paris accompanied by James Davison to attend the occasion. It was a great success, as Berlioz relates to his friend Auguste Morel two days later (CG no. 1149; cf. 1151, 1152):

    […] And now I must tell you that the opening of our Grand Opera has scored a huge success; the whole of the English press is in agreement in singing our praise. Mme [Dorus-]Gras, and the tenor Reeves (in Lucia) were called back 4 or 5 times with frenzied applause. In truth they both deserved it. Reeves is a priceless discovery for Jullien; he has a charming voice which has genuine quality and is agreeable, he is a very good musician, has very expressive looks and performs with his native Irish fire. When I entered the orchestra the audience gave me a wonderful reception. We started with a superb performance of Beethoven’s fine overture Leonora no. 1 [probably what we know as no. 2?]. In Lucia the great sextet in D flat which begins the finale of Act II was encored, and at the second performance this evening, the audience also asked for the chorus in E flat in Act III to be repeated. […]

    The English are astounded to hear in an English theatre this vast body of 120 choristers and this fine orchestra, and to have an outstanding tenor and such a prima donna. Only the ballets are miserable, but we will soon have something better. Try to get all this favourably noticed in the Monde Musical, the Gazette des Théâtres and the Gazette Musicale, and elsewhere if you are able to. […]


    (3) Jullien, le directeur de l'Opéra de Drury Lane, l'engagea comme prima donna avec un salaire de 2.000 livres (Contrat de Julie Dorus-Gras avec Louis Jullien, 26 octobre 1847 - BNF).

    (4) THE YEAR 1849 (Royal Italian Opera.) pp. 85-110, in Thirty Years' Musical Recollections Volume 2 by Henry Fothergill Chorley (Cambridge University Press 2009): "”Massaniello” was, at last, creditably performed in London, with Signor Mario for its hero (singing and looking the Neapolitan fisherman delightfully)—for its Fenella, Mdlle. Leroux, and for its other two principal characters, Madame Dorus-Gras and M. Massol,—another proof how, year by year, our foreign musical theatres have had more and more to draw on other lands than Italy for their singers.—Madame Dorus-Gras, though never able to lay by her nationality so as to group well with her playfellows—and though deficient in that last elegance, which distinguished Madame Cinti and Madame Sontag—was, nevertheless, an excellent artist, with a combined firmness and volubility of execution which have not been exceeded, and were especially welcome in French music, heard in a concert-room. On the stage she pleased less.—Her appearance was not significant. She was lifeless as an actress. She never mastered Italian—having never mastered French, owing to her Low-Country extraction. For all this, her Alice in “Robert” was excellent. She sung the opening song, “Va dit elle” and the semi-Scottish romance, “Quand j'ai quittai la Normandie” more thoroughly in the metallic, exact style which M. Meyerbeer's music demands, than any other singer whom I have heard attempt the part.—M. Massol, an effective baritone, less thoroughly trained than the lady, was found useful, but not interesting.

    We had a Greek lady, too—Mdlle. Angri—in the place of Mdlle. Alboni,—one to whose talent the epithet of eccentric must be applied. Her voice, a contralto, was unique in its quality,—even, easy, hollow, without lusciousness—a little hoarse, without much expression—but it was a voice that told."

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    Jean François Joseph VANSTEENKISTE 1740 Jeanne Françoise Joseph BRICQ ca 1740  

    Aimé Joseph Ghislain VANSTEENKISTE 1772 Catherine LIONNET 1772

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    Julie Aimée Joseph VANSTEENKISTE 1805-1896