Angelique-Madeleine Cenas

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Entry by Jean-Philippe Van Aelbrouck, 2005

Angélique-Madeleine Cénas was born in Stockholm on 14 May 1757. Her mother, Barbe-Marguerite Henry, was an actress in the theater troupe of the king of Sweden, in which country she married Jean-Baptiste Coudurier, a silk merchant, on 4 May 1755. After his death she married Gaspard Cénas, dancing master at the Swedish court, in 1770.Accompanied by her mother and younger sister Thérèse-Antoinette, Mlle Cénas performed in Rouen in 1773, and the following year in Lille, where she received "thunderous applause" playing ingénues. Her mother then tried to get the family hired in Brussels. In a letter addressed to Louis Compain, director of the Theatre de la Monnaie, Mme Cénas suggested that her daughter could play ingénues and leading lady in comedies and comic operas, as well as youthful roles in tragedies. In turn, she could play leading confidents in tragedies, supporting roles, grimes (elderly comic characters), rôles à baguette (queen parts) and peasants in comedies; the younger sister could play minor soubrettes, while the husband could appear in ballets. [Royal General Archives in Brussels, Manuscript collection, 3847]. The director of the Théâtre de la Monnaie does not seem to have taken up the offer. We next find Mlle Cénas on her own in The Hague in 1778 and 1779, where she gave several performances for her own profit, playing for instance in Marivaux's School for Mothers and in Monsigny's La Belle Arsène.

Starting with the 1779-80 season, she was hired as head singer in Brussels where on 5 November 1781, she married the countertenor Pierre-Henri de Moulinneuf, known as Montroze (not to be confused with the Barizain family of actors, who went by the name of Monrose); she became the leading soubrette during the 1782-1783 season. She then obtained an order to make her debut in Paris, appearing at the Théâtre Italien on 23 May 1783. A week later, she made another debut at the Comédie-Française. In spite of the lessons she took from Mlle Doligny, she was not accepted in either of the two theatres. From 1784 to 1787 the couple performed in Amsterdam, where they had three children, then from 1788 to1790 in Liege. After that we lose all trace of Mlle Cénas-Montroze, who apparently left the stage. Contemporary chroniclers said little about the talents of this actress, whose relatively short career was primarily in minor theatres. Today, her name has disappeared from the histories of the theatre dealing with 18th century actors and actresses.

(translated by Michelle Sommers)

Selected bibliography

- Koogje, A. J., «Répertoire du Théâtre français de La Haye, 1750-1789». Studies on Voltaire and the eighteenth century, Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 327, 1995.

- Lhotte, G., Le Théâtre à Lille avant la Révolution. Lille, Danel, 1881, p.53.


- «La timidité d'une Débutante intéresse toujours, quand elle est jointe au talent; on s'empresse de la lui faire perdre à force d'encouragemens, à peu près comme on ôte à un vase précieux le voile qui en cache la beauté. Mlle Monrose, élève de Mlle Doligny, a dû s'apercevoir le 23 Mai [1783], lorsqu'elle s'est essayée dans le rôle d'Angélique de l'Epreuve. L'esprit & la vérité avec lesquels elle en a rendu les principaux endroits, lui ont attiré des éloges. Si elle avoit eu plus d'assurance, elle auroit mis plus de vivacité dans son débit & de variété dans son jeu. Docile aux avis qui l'ont guidée, elle s'est défaite d'un certain mouvement de tête qui la déparoit, & dont à la longue les Spectateurs auroient pu être fatigués» (D'Origny, Annales du Théâtre italien, Paris, Veuve Duchesne, 1788, t.III, p.82-83).

Angelique-Madeleine Cenas
Spouses Pierre-Henri de Moulinneuf, dit Montroze
Also known as Mademoiselle Cénas
Mademoiselle Cénas l'aînée
Mademoiselle Coudurier
Birth date 1757
Death After 1790
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