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Born Jan. 15, 1763, in Paris; died there Oct. 19, 1826. French actor.
Talma attended the Ecole Royale de Déclamation in Paris before making his debut with the Comédie Françhise in 1787. He himself taught drama at the Paris Conservatory beginning in 1806. Influenced in his artistic thinking by the Enlightenment, Talma in the early days of the French Revolution sought to turn the theater into a forum for revolutionary ideas. In 1791, for example, he headed a troupe of actors who, as supporters of the Revolution, had quit the Comedie Francaise to found their own Theatre de la République. In his portrayals of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, of Lasalle in Chénier’s Jean Calas, and of Mucius Scaevola in Lancival’s play of that name, he personified the courage with which those historical figures had fought against fanaticism and tyranny in the name of humanism.
An actor of classical tragedies, Talma introduced into the French theater a heightened level of emotionality that broke through the abstract confines of classicism. In 1799, after the defeat of the Jacobin dictatorship, he returned to the Comedie Franchise. Among the principal roles of his career were the title roles in Shakespeare’s tragedies Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet, which Talma performed in J. F. Ducis’s adaptations. In order to achieve historical accuracy and a faithful representation of national types, Talma brought about reforms in stage costuming and makeup, introducing, for example, the dress of the classical period, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, as well as that of the East.
WORKSIn Russian translation:
Tal’ma o stsenicheskom iskusstve. Moscow, 1888.
Memuary. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
REFERENCESPanov, V. Fransua-Zhozef Tal’ma (1763–1826). Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 3. Moscow, 1963.