Thursday, December 4, 2014

Montmartre Cemetery and the Tragic Diva


A number of years ago, before meeting a group of Wesco Fabrics customers in Paris we had an experience we still talk about today. After checking into our hotel room, I poured a glass of wine and looked out at the amazing view of Paris and the majestic Eiffel Tower in the distance. We were staying at the Hotel Terrass, high on a hill in Montmartre. After a few minutes of wonder I focused my eyes down a bit and noticed a fascinating cemetery below our hotel with a particularly beautiful statue of a woman.  The next morning we set out to explore the magical Montmartre Cemetery.


Opening in 1825, the Montmartre Cemetery is the final resting place of famous artists who lived and worked in Montmartre. Luminaries like Hector Berlioz, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Offenbach, and many others reside in this special place. The Pere Lachaise cemetery is larger and more famous but doesn’t quite have the unique charm of the Montmartre Cemetery. It is easy to stroll for hours looking at the beautifully crafted monuments to creative souls who enriched France and the world.


And now for the tragic diva…
When we first looked down at the cemetery from our hotel window we could see a number of people bringing flowers and potted plants to a modern style monument with the sculpture of a woman in front of a radiating, golden sun. The grave is of “Dalida” (1933-1987), a famous singer who emigrated to France from Egypt with her Italian parents. She sang in over 10 languages and sold over 170 million records. Though she had millions of fans around the world during her career, her life was extremely tragic.  She took her own life in 1987. Thousands of admirers and the curious still visit her final resting place today. When we visited there were many fresh flowers of remembrance.


“Place Dalida” in the 18th arrondissement of Paris is named after her.


I can spot a Degas painting from across the room, but the monument for “Famille de Gas” took me a minute to connect the dots for this famous artist.


The monument for Vaslav Nijinsky is enchanting. Nijinsky was one of the most famous dancers of his day, appearing often with Sergei Diaghilev’s “Ballet Russes.” The sculpture shows him as “Petrushka”, the lovesick puppet in Igor Stravinsky’s ballet. One often finds dancer’s pointe shoes left on his grave. He died in 1950.


The bronze sculpture resting on the “Famille Kamiensky” monument is mesmerizing.

***Watch Dalida sing at a concert. This chanteuse knows first-hand about the sadness of her songs.

Photo credits:  Karlo Cordova, Paris Scribe, Sleeping Gardens

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