Mademoiselle Maupin de l’Opéra. French duellist and opera singer Julie d’Aubigny (1670–1707). Anonymous print. Collection Michel Hennin : Estampes relatives à l’Histoire de France
Julie d’Aubigny was born in 1670 to Gaston d’Aubigny, a secretary to Louis de Lorraine-Guise, comte d’Armagnac, the Master of the Horse for King Louis XIV. Her father trained her in dancing, literacy, drawing and fencing, possibly for self-defense. While in her teens she became a mistress of the Count d’Armagnac and through him was introduced to court. The count had her married to Sieur de Maupin of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Soon after the affair ended her husband received an administrative position in the south of France but she decided to stay in Paris.
In the following years, d’Aubigny gathered a reputation as a wild woman who hit shopkeepers and fought duels with young aristocrats. She became involved with an assistant fencing master named Serannes. About 1688, when Lieutenant-General of Police Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie tried to apprehend Serannes for killing a man in an illegal duel, the pair fled the city to Marseille.
In Marseille, d’Aubigny and Serannes gave Duel|dueling exhibitions, and sang and told stories in inns. When dueling, d’Aubigny dressed in male clothing but did not conceal her sex, which served to increase interest in her. While in Marseille it is said she joined the music academy of Pierre Gaultier, singing in the theatre under her maiden name.
Eventually, she grew bored of Serannes and became involved with a young lady. When the girl’s parents put her away in the Visitandines convent in Avignon, d’Aubigny followed, entering the convent as a novice. There she stole the body of a dead nun, placed it in the bed of her lover and set the room afire to cover their escape. Their affair lasted for three months before the young lady returned to her family. D’Aubigny was charged in absentia—as a male—with kidnapping, body snatching, arson and failing to appear before the tribunal. The sentence was death by fire.
D’Aubigny left for Paris and again earned her living by singing. Near Poitiers, she met an old musician named Marechal who began to teach her until his alcoholism got worse and he sent her on her way to Paris. Along the way she continued to earn her living singing dressed as a man.
In Villeperdue, she fought a victorious duel against three squires and drove her blade through the shoulder of one of them. The next day, she asked about his health and found out he was Louis-Joseph d’Albert Luynes, son of the Duke of Luynes. The next evening, one of his companions came to offer the duke’s apologies. She went to his room dressed in female clothing and subsequently they became lovers.
After Count d’Albert recovered and had to return to his military unit, d’Aubigny continued to Rouen. There she met Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard, another singer, and began a new affair with him. They continued together towards Paris. In Marais, she contacted Count d’Armagnac for help against the sentence hanging over her. He persuaded the king to grant her a pardon instead.
In Paris, D’Aubigny began to use the name Mademoiselle Maupin. The Paris Opéra hired Thévenard in 1690, but initially refused her. She befriended an elderly singer, Bouvard, who convinced Jean Nicolas Francin, master of the king’s household, to accept her in the opera. She debuted as Pallas Athena in Cadmus et Hermione by Jean-Baptiste Lully the same year.
Due to both D’Aubigny’s beautiful contralto voice and her flamboyance, she became quite popular with the audience although her relationship with her fellow actors and actresses was tempestuous. From the first she was enamoured with Marie Le Rochois, at the time the Opera’s star. This quickly embroiled her in arguments and even duels with other members of the troupe. She also fell in love with Fanchon Moreau, another singer who was the mistress of the Great Dauphin, and tried to commit suicide when she was rejected.
At the same time D’Aubigny became a professional duelist. When she fought three noblemen in a court ball around 1693, she fell afoul of the king’s law that forbade duels in Paris. She fled to Brussels to wait for calmer times. According to the legend, she was briefly a mistress of Maximilian Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria.
According to documented theatre history, D’Aubigny appeared at the Opéra du Quai au Foin from November 1697 to July 1698, afterwhich she returned to the Paris Opera where she replaced the retiring Marie Le Rochois through the end of the year. Until 1705, La Maupin sang in new operas by Pascal Collasse, André Cardinal Destouches and André Campra. In 1702, André Campra composed the role of Clorinde in Tancrède specifically for her bas-dessus (contralto) range. She later reconciled with her husband and lived with him until his death in 1701 or 1705. She appeared for the last time in La Vénitienne by Michel de La Barre (1705). After she retired from the opera in 1705, she entered a convent in Provence, where she died in 1707.
In addition, all the roles she tooks can be found here