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Thanks to her scores found at the bottom of a trunk, Adèle Hugo, daughter of Victor, is reborn in music


Of this woman, we know the cruel fate. The daughter of the great writer has spent the last forty years of her life in a psychiatric institution. But we know less that she was also a composer. Some of his works unearthed by chance will have their world premiere on 31...

"A very difficult name to bear

," she would have said at the end of her life.

Adèle Hugo, daughter of Victor Hugo's tragic destiny, will be resurrected in music thanks to scores found almost by chance at the bottom of a trunk.

An exalted character, Adèle Hugo (1830-1915) spent the last 40 years of her life in a psychiatric institution, as if stifled by the enormous celebrity of her father, who died in 1885. But the poet's daughter was also a composer, whose works will be performed

“in world premiere”

on March 31 in Besançon, birthplace of Victor Hugo.

Adèle Hugo was of a nature

"passionate, even a little mythomaniac"

, says of her Jean-François Verdier, artistic director of the Victor Hugo Franche-Comté Orchestra, who will interpret her scores in Besançon then in Dole (Jura) on April 2.

When Victor Hugo went into exile after the coup d'etat of the future Napoleon III in 1851, Adèle joined him on the Channel Island of Guernsey.

Nothing to brighten the daily life of the young woman, already depressed by the tragic death of her older sister, Léopoldine, drowned in the Seine at the age of 19.

So Adèle devotes herself to music.

opera dream

“She played the piano very well

, reports Jean-François Verdier.

She was also an extremely gifted self-taught composer.

She dreamed of writing an opera.

As for Victor Hugo,

"he found his music quite charming"

, adds the conductor.

The author, who did not want music on his verses, even made an exception for his daughter: he wrote her texts for his compositions.

“She was the first to set excerpts from Les

Misérables to music,

long before the successful musical we had after

,” notes Verdier.

But Adèle,

"a very romantic, very Hugolian character"

, falls in love with a British lieutenant, who rejects her advances.

Adèle doesn't care and joins him in Canada, where she pretends to be his wife before sinking into madness.

She will only find France ten years later and her father, who will have her interned.

A sad story brought to the screen in 1975 by François Truffaut in

L'Histoire d'Adèle H.

, with Isabelle Adjani in the title role.

In a trunk

A century and a half after his exile in Guernsey, in 2004, the composer Richard Dubugnon rediscovered the scores there in a trunk at Hauteville House, the family home.

“I went there with a priori

, says the composer.

I thought to myself that if for 150 years it hadn't interested anyone, why would it have any value?

It was an absolute surprise to discover that not only did it have value, but there was enough to make at least one record.

A rediscovery which

"comes at the right time, at a time when we are beginning to take an interest in creative women with difficult destinies"

, such as Clara Schumann or Alma Mahler, he notes.

Is Adèle Hugo a textbook case?

“She couldn't develop her talent to the end because her father was against it.

He never really encouraged it”,

assures the composer.

The poet will never have his daughter's music published.

In total, with other scores found at the Hugo's Parisian home on Place des Vosges, Richard Dubugnon has put together 17 melodies for voice and piano, after having archived, corrected and completed them.

Among them, various texts from his father, excerpts from Les


or Les


, such as Gavroche's song,

On est laid à Nanterre


Adèle's music is

"quite simple, but suddenly there is a surprising nostalgia, a mysterious chord, a rhythm... Perhaps that's what shows us the charm of this sacrificed artist", comments the

one who orchestrated these scores.

They will therefore be played in Besançon by around fifty musicians.

Nearly 20 years after the rediscovery of Adèle's notes,

"I am very relieved and happy to see that it will be reborn almost in apotheosis"

, enthuses Richard Dubugnon.

Before concluding:

"I don't think poor Adèle Hugo ever dreamed that her music could be orchestrated."

Source: lefigaro

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