Frédéric Chopin was of both French and Polish background but grew up in Warsaw. After the 1830 November Uprising in Poland, Chopin settled in Paris at age 21, taking up residence in an inn. He would live in nine other places in Paris until his untimely death at 39. Two months after arriving, he wrote to a friend, “I am slowly launching myself into this world although I have only one ducat in my pocket.” The musical prodigy had no trouble entering the creme of Parisian society. Yet, through personal accounts we know he was more than amazed at Paris, which had ten times the inhabitants of Warsaw. He wrote his friend “This is here the greatest luxury, the greatest pigsty, the greatest virtue, the greatest displays, posters about venereal disease at very step,” he wrote, “There is more shouting, noise and and mud than one can imagine.”
His apartment at 27, rue Poissonnière was known to be a chic address and the area full of artists. “You won’t believe how nicely I live,” he wrote the September evening he moved in, “I have a room beautifully furnished in mahogany on the 5th floor…with a balcony over the boulevards, from where I can see from Montmartre to the Panthéon and the whole lovely world around it (many envy my view, but not the stairs).” We rarely think of classical composers as having a sense of humor, do we?
Today, 27, rue Poissonnière is sadly just one floor with a recent facade renovation. For the life of me I could not understand where these doors led to. Looking inside gave no clues. On one side is a large building with fascinating first floor window pediments in the Greek style. On the other, a Haussmannian building with a two-floor toy store.
By September of 1832, less than a year, he would move across the street do a apartment in cite Bergere, reflecting his improvement in fortune.
All quotes from Chopin In Paris: The Life And Times Of The Romantic Composer by Tad Szulc, also available on Kindle.