Marie-Anne Nonancourt

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Entry by Jean-Philippe Van Aelbrouck, 2004

Mlle de Nonancourt was born in 1741, probably in France, and died in 1819 in New Orleans. She is recorded as early as 1757 in the role of second soubrette in Brussels. She had an affair with the director M. Gourville, bearing him twins in 1758, and then a son in 1760. Chevrier wrote in April 1762 of "the fertile Nonancour, for whom Sieur Gourville now has no more than marital feelings, it seems". Her star was soon outshone on stage by Françoise Charrin, known as Mlle Lucile. In a letter to Count Durazzo dated April 16, 1763, Favart wrote "Demoiselle Nonancourt, whom I wanted to send to Vienna, has been taken on by the Comédie Italienne". However, she was still in Brussels in late 1763, where she signed a marriage contract before a lawyer on Oct. 14. She was then 22; her husband, the knight Joseph Du Bouchet de Préville, was 23. The wedding itself was celebrated on Oct. 17. She made her début at the Comédie Italienne on May 24 1766, but performed only once, returning to Ghent the following year, where she took on roles as soubrettes and duennas, acting under her married name Mme Du Bouchet. She performed in Vienna in 1768 and in Copenhagen in 1771. In 1773, she was in Paris, writing on Aug. 14 to Louis Compain, director of the Théâtre de la Monnaie, "My dear Compain, I have learned from your former companion M. Belville that you will be changing the composition of your troupe almost entirely for next year. Messieurs Broquin [and] Chevalier will be leaving, as will Mesdames Vertueil, Drouin, etc. If I can be of use to you by replacing the latter and sharing with Mme Gontier, who will be staying on, you can call on me as you see fit. I am having a splendid time here because I am great friends with the French and Italian troupes and I come and go freely at both theaters. I heard that Mme de Foix [Suzanne Defoye, née Artus] has broken her contract with you, and that Julien would like to drop out too, but in a more decent manner, to go to the same place, where he is being offered 24 000 livres along with his wife, whom you used to know very well when she was only la petite Ribou; just as you knew Mme Billioni when she was la petite Placide, but who is now bringing so much pleasure in the role of Acajou, an old comic opera accompanied by vaudevilles. The Italians, who have flopped terribly, needed something new to bring in a little money. The French have got the upper hand entirely thanks to their tragedies, and are earning a good income. Today is the sixth performance of M. Dorat's tragedy Regulus and his comedy Feinte par amour: he said he wanted to flop in the two genres, but he has succeeded in both [...] I know all the actors looking for a place in Paris, there are plenty, and several very talented; if I can be of service, to them and to you, by giving you information on those you might need, please don't hesitate, in this or any other matter; people generally listen to me and you will never have the least cause to complain about the acquisitions I could help you make. Since the Parisians are not satisfied with M. Ponteuil, rumor has it as a certain fact that M. Larive will be brought back at Easter to replace him. It is also said that M. Soligni, now in Lyons, whom I met in Copenhagen, will replace M. Fargès in your employ."

Mme Dubouchet, as she was then known, left Europe in 1775 for Santo Domingo, where she married the actor and director Jean-Baptiste Le Sueur, who went by the name Fontaine. She was married under her stage name Mlle Le Prévost, perhaps to conceal the fact that she was already married. The couple separated shortly afterwards, and she left Santo Domingo in 1785 to return to Paris. Some years later, she turned up in New Orleans, reverting to the name Mme Bouchet. She died there on Sept. 5, 1819.

We know very little about this actress beyond a few contemporary accounts. The letter signed Mlle Nonancourt discovered in the Belgian National Archives in Brussels (ms. coll. no 3846) is a precious record, affording a rare glimpse of her personality and her place in the professional theater in the second half of the 18th century.

(translated by Susan Pickford)

Selected bibliography

- Chevrier, F.-A. L'Observateur des spectacles. La Haye, 1762, t.I-II, passim.
- Favart, C.-S. Mémoires et correspondance littéraires, dramatiques et anecdotiques. Paris, Collin, 1808, t.II, p.74 et 101.
- Fouchard, J. Le Théâtre à Saint-Domingue. Port-au-Prince, 1955, p.22-23, p.156.
- Le Gardeur Jr., R. J. The First New Orleans Theatre. New Orleans, Leeward, 1963.


- «On vient de remettre [au Théâtre de la Monnaie] Cithére assiegée opera-comique dans lequel Mademoiselle Nonancour a joué & chanté à son ordinaire, c'est-à-dire superieurement mal; mais toute detestable que soit cette actrice, c'est un sujet utile au Directeur dont elle augmente tous les neuf mois la posterité du coté gauche» (Chevrier, L'Observateur..., voir supra, [janvier 1762], t.I, p.121-122).
- «Nonnancour, Veuve du Directeur, [joue] les secondes soubrettes. Le public continue à la détester, elle entretient modestement et avec tempérance un Chevalier François à qui elle vient de donner une de ses robes pour servir de doublure à un habit d'été» (Chevrier, L'Observateur..., voir supra, [juillet 1762], t.II, p.250).
- «On attend ici [à Paris] mademoiselle Nonancourt, dont on m'a beaucoup vanté le talent; cette actrice étoit de la troupe du sieur Gourville, directeur de la comédie de Bruxelles; M. Godard, qui la connoît, peut en rendre un sûr témoignage; si elle est telle que l'on m'assure, je mettrai tout en oeuvre pour vous la procurer» (Favart, Mémoires et correspondance littéraires..., voir supra, t.II, p.74, lettre au comte Durazzo du 29 février 1763).

Marie-Anne Nonancourt
Also known as Mme Du Bouchet
Mme Fontaine
«Mlle Le Prévost»
Birth date 1741
Death 1819
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