BORN 21 Jan 1858, Paris - DIED 18 Mar 1937, Sarcelles, Val d'Oise|
BIRTH NAME Bonis, Mélanie Hélène
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Cimetière de Montmartre, 20 Avenue Rachel (Division 24, ligne 09, numéro 12, avenue du Tunnel)
Mélanie Bonis was a composer from the late-Romantic era. She received a Catholic education and taught herself to play the piano. Her parents weren't enthousiastic about her musical ambitions, but a professor of the Conservatory persuaded them to let her take formal music lessons when she was twelve years old. At the age of sixteen she entered the Conservatory, where César Franck was one of her teachers and Claude Debussy was a fellow student.
Also at the Conservatory, she fell in love with the poet Amédée Hettich. But her parents disapproved of their relationship and took her away from the Conservatory in 1881. In 1883 they made her marry the businessman Albert Domange (1936-1918) who was 22 years older and already had five children. She entered into a domestic live and they had three children together, but her husband didn't like music. She was painted by Charles-Auguste Corbineau in 1885.
In the 1890s she met Hettich again, who was now a vocal teacher and a well known music critic. He was married to a harpist from Poland. He encouraged Mélanie to take up composition again and they started a secret affair. In 1899 they had an illegitimate daughter, Madeleine. She was taken into the care of a former chambermaid. In 1901 Mélanie's piano quartet was first performed and Saint-Saens was deeply impressed and could hardly believe it was written by a woman. She became a member of the Société des compositeurs de musique in 1907 and was its secretary from 1910 to 1914. After her husband died in 1918 she was finally able to take care of Madeleine. When her son Édouard entered into a romantic relationship with Madeleine, she was forced to reveal she was her mother.
Mélanie Bonis composed over 300 pieces of music in many genres. She used the name Mel Bonis because female composers weren't taken seeriously at the time. After the First World War her work was largely forgotten. She was bedridden as a result of arthritis, but she continued to compose in the 1920s. She died in 1937, one month before Hettich. In the 1960s he work and that of other female composers received attention again and her reputation was restored.
was pupil to Franck, César