"This is the only man's part taken by a woman
I have ever seen that does not look ridiculous, M. Marcel Proust told us as
he handed us the photograph. Just think of all those Siebels in Faust 2 , and so many
others! That is a result of the way a great actress, Mme Réjane,
like the greatest painters from any era, has not aimed for a
simple material imitation, a trompe l'oeil. Notice how she has
retained her skirt and her pearl earrings. The allusion to M. de
Sagan is no less striking by being subtle: what a marvellous way
of "imitating" the hairstyle! Or should I say
"hairdo" as everybody is saying at the moment. That
will be over in one or two years when we are all tired of
imitation and fashions. And now in the world of literature and
art there are fashions which only last for a few years.
Fortunately those works by the masters that rise above this are
the ones that endure. All the same, when it becomes laid down
that one is to think less about the public, then one no longer
feels obliged to alternately write operas that take at least
three days to listen to and then, when the fashion has changed,
write others that must be no longer than ten minutes in length.
"Do not damage the photograph. I value it greatly. I have a cult for Réjane, that great lady who has worn by turns the twin masks 3, who has put all her intelligence and all her heart into her innumerable magnificent "creations", amongst which we should not forget her son and her daughter. Many years ago, after witnessing Réjane perform Sapho and Germinie Lacerteux 4, I contracted a recurring sadness, intermittent attacks of which, after so many years, still return to me."
1. These remarks by Proust were reported by Louis Handler in the journal Comoedia (20 January 1920). Proust possessed a photograph of the actress Réjane dressed as the prince de Sagan, and the journalist had come to ask Proust permission to reproduce it. The photograph has been published in Proust, William Sansom p.99 and Marcel Proust, 1871-1922 A Centenary Volume, Peter Quennell VIII5 among others.
2. Faust by Gounod.
3. The masks of Comedy and Tragedy.
4. Heroines of two plays of books by Alphonse Daudet and Edmond de Goncourt respectively.
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