There were many female figures in Debussy’s life, starting with his family at a young age. As mentioned last week, his family went to live with his aunt to escape the war and his aunt paid for his piano lessons.
At the age of 18, he started an affair with Marie-Blanche Vasnier. A married woman and singer, Debussy worked for her as an accompanist. Her husband introduced Debussy to the writings of prominent French writers, influencing some of his song writing.
Nadezhda von Meck was another influence. She was a patroness of Tchaikovsky. Debussy spent a few years travelling with her and her family around Europe. He played four-hand pieces with her, taught music to her children, and performed in private concerts.
When Debussy returned to Paris from his Prix De Rome residency, he became involved with Gabrielle Dupont, the daughter of a tailor. They lived together for a time. He was also briefly engaged to Thérèse Roger. Eventually he left Gabrielle and married her fashion model friend, Rosalie Texier.
At the age of 44, Debussy met Emma Bardac. Married to a Parisian banker, her son was a student of Debussy’s. Debussy decided to end his marriage with Texier. Texier survived an attempted suicide and eventually they were divorced in August of 1905, though the scandal would cost Debussy several of his friends.
Bardac and Debussy lived together in Paris and stayed together until Debussy’s death. They were not legally married until 1908. Their daughter Claude-Emma was born in 1905 and was an inspiration to Debussy. Unfortunately, she died from diphtheria not too long after her father passed. Debussy, Bardac, and Claude-Emma are all buried together in the Passy Cemetery in Paris.