Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine

Sarah Bernhardt : la Divine

Posted by   Joanna Calla   12/04/2024     Inspiration    0 Comments

Born in Paris on October 22, 1844, Sarah Bernhardt, a French actress, painter, and sculptor, is recognized as one of the most influential actresses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Her youth was marked by the abandonment of her mother, Judith-Julie Bernhardt, a penniless milliner and courtesan, leaving her to spend a solitary childhood first with a nurse in Brittany, then at the Grandchamp convent in Versailles.

There, she played her first role as an angel in a religious play, converted to Catholicism, and considered becoming a nun. However, at the age of 14, she abandoned monastic life to enter the Conservatoire de Paris, where she was admitted in 1859.

In 1862, after winning a second prize in comedy, she joined the Comédie Française but was dismissed in 1866 after slapping another member.

Sarah then joined the Théâtre de l'Odéon, where she made a name for herself in 1869 in "Le Passant" by François Coppée. During the Siege of Paris in 1870, she transformed the Odéon into a military hospital..

In 1872, she triumphed in the role of the queen in "Ruy Blas," where Victor Hugo dubbed her "Golden Voice." This success led to her being recalled to the Comédie Française, where she became a full member in 1875.

She left the Comédie Française in 1880 to found her own theatrical company, performing internationally until 1917. She often played male roles, inspiring Edmond Rostand's play "L’Aiglon" in 1900.

Sarah Bernhardt performed in London, Copenhagen, the United States, Peru, Chile, and Russia, where her lyrical performances and unique diction captivated audiences. She met Thomas Edison in New York to record a reading of "Phèdre" on a cylinder.

In 1893, while performing in "Les Rois" at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, she befriended Édouard de Max, inviting him to join the Théâtre de la Renaissance, which she took over.

Sarah revisited some of her greatest successes there, such as "Phèdre" and "La Dame aux camélias," and created works like "Gismonda" by Victorien Sardou, "La Princesse Lointaine" by Edmond Rostand, "Lorenzaccio" by Alfred de Musset, and others.

In 1899, she took over the Théâtre des Nations, which was renamed "Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt".

Aware of the importance of publicity, Sarah Bernhardt staged every moment of her life and did not hesitate to associate her image with various consumer products.

Her style and silhouette influenced fashion and decorative arts, notably the Art Nouveau aesthetic, with the help of Alphonse Mucha for her posters.

After a theatrical career featuring over 120 shows, she turned to silent film.

In 1915, despite the amputation of her right leg due to osteal tuberculosis, she continued to perform, refusing to wear a prosthetic.

Sarah Bernhardt died on March 26, 1923, from acute renal failure during the filming of "La Voyante" by Sacha Guitry.

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