Benoit Constant Coquelin

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Coquelin, Benoit Constant

 

(also known as Coquelin aîné). Born Jan. 23, 1841, in Boulogne; died Jan. 27, 1909, in Couilly-Saint-Germain. French actor.

In 1859 and 1860, Coquelin attended the Paris Conservatory, where he studied drama under F. J. Régnier. From 1860 to 1892 he was an actor at the Comédie Française (not continuously). He first earned recognition as Figaro in Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro and the Barber of Seville. Coquelin acted in Molière’s comedies and in romantic plays (for example, the role of Don César de Bazan in Hugo’s Ruy Blas), he also played lyrical and dramatic roles in contemporary dramas. While he was affiliated with the Comédie Française, he founded his own troupes. Coquelin toured throughout Europe and America; he performed in Russia in 1882, 1884, 1889, 1892, and 1903. In 1895 he became a member of the Renaissance Theater. From 1897 until his death, he was the director of the Theatre de la Porte St. Martin in Paris.

Coquelin’s most brilliant performance was in the title role of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. During the second half of the 19th century, he was among the leading exponents of realist traditions in the French theater. Coquelin possessed a high degree of technical skill, a flexible voice, and a mobile face. He was able to create extremely individualized portrayals. His realism was limited by his objectivism and indifference toward social and political questions. K. S. Stanislavsky ranked Coquelin among those actors who cultivated the “art of performing,” or effective acting that showed the result and not the creative process.

Coquelin’s brother, Ernest Alexandre Honoré (also known as Coquelin cadet, 1848–1909), was also a well-known actor at the Comédie Française.

WORKS

In Russian translation:
Iskusstvo aktera. Leningrad-Moscow, 1937.

REFERENCE

Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatro, vol. 5. Moscow, 1970.

E. L. FINKEL’SHTEIN