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Madame Pauline Viardot the host, is a retired international singer, composer, pianists and social figure. She had an extensive career and had performed in opera houses around Europe. She studied the piano in her youth with Liszt and later on with Chopin, had collaborated with composers such as Gounod and counted Robert and Clara Schumann, George Sand and Ivan Turgenev amongst her close friends. She hosts a salon on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. She has various protegées and this evening she is presenting both the rising composer Gabriel Fauré and young violinist Emily Harper. Viardot is keen to promote them but all does not go to plan.
Monsieur Gabriel Fauré is a young and mostly unknown composer at this stage. In addition to his first violin sonata, some of his songs have been published, but he relies mostly on teaching for his income. His colleagues and friends the composers Saint-Saëns, Duparc, Lalo, Messager are also present in the various salons both as performers and composers. He had been introduced to Madame Viardot a decade earlier by his teacher and friend Saint Saëns. Fauré takes an immediate fancy to the young violinist he is introduced to and delights in performing with her some of his recent violin works.
Miss Emily Harper a fictitious figure, is an American, young and rising star violinist who has made a name for herself around the world. Her busy career keeps her away from the salons, however she has made a special exception and agreed to perform at the salon of Madame Viardot because of her patron's special standing. Harper's father is a wealthy lawyer and a great admirer and supporter of Fauré. She was born in London, raised in New York and captures everyone's attention just as Americans did in that period. Harper greatly enjoys the colourful and provocative characters she meets and is flattered by Monsieur Fauré's and Monsieur Mallarme's attentions.
Monsieur Félix Lévy is a well known amateur tenor and a good friend of the composer Saint Saëns. He gave the first performance of Fauré's song Hymne. Lévy and his wife host a salon on Wednesday evenings and their guests are usually celebrated artists such as the violinists Sarasate and Ysaýe and Saint-Saëns. Lévy has been invited to Madame Viardot's salon by Fauré. He is aware that he is up with some mighty intellectual forces in the room but his secret wish is to make a mark as an artist in the Paris scene.
Monsieur Stéphane Mallarmé one of the great symbolist poets of the period and a well known critic. A great admirer and follower of the writing of the poet Charles Baudelaire. He hosts his own very famous salon on Tuesday evenings and gathers around him many famous social and artistic figures. His gatherings are considered the heart of intellectual activity in Paris at the time. He is the black sheep of this salon and enjoys provoking the rest of the characters.