Monday, December 6, 2010

Don César de Bazan

Who the heck was Don César de Bazan?

As a character, he first appeared in the Victor Hugo play Ruy Blas in 1838. For some reason, this side character became the star of a play titled Don César de Bazan by Adolphe d'Ennery and in a different production also called Don César de Bazan by Jules Massenet. And finally, from that opera came another, grander one called Maritana which then became the standard-bearer for the Don Cesar story.

A man named Thomas Rowe (the same guy as the Australian architect? I'm not sure) was so obsessed with Maritana that he built Florida's Don CeSar palace in its honor.

But why all this fixation about this Don Cesar guy? Was he a real person? How did this side-character from a failed Victor Hugo play end up having such a lasting reverberation through the 19th and early 20th centuries? It's like if a whole theatrical cult of Mercutio had splintered off into a life of its own - which maybe, some say, Shakespeare in fact did by pinching him from The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet.

(Photo above: cigar box illustration promoting Maritana.)

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