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Bernhardt, Sarah(bûrn`härt, Fr. bĕrnär`), 1844–1923, stage name of Rosine Bernard, French actress, b. Paris. At age 13 she entered the Paris Conservatory, and later attracted attention during appearances at the Odéon (1866–72). With the Comédie Française (1872–80) she attained full stature with her superb portrayals of Phèdre (1874) and of Doña Sol in Hugo's Hernani (1877). In 1880 she began her tours of Europe and the United States. She managed several theaters in Paris before leasing the Théâtre des Nations, renaming it the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. Here she revived some of her former successes and appeared in the title role of Hamlet (1899) and in Rostand's L'Aiglon, which was written for her in 1901. In 1912 she appeared in the silent films La Dame aux camélias and Queen Elizabeth. She also wrote plays in which she appeared. Among them were L'Aveu (1898) and Un cœur d'homme (1909).
See her memoirs (tr. 1907); biographies by J. Huret (1899), M. Baring (1934), L. Verneuil (1942), A. W. Row (1957), C. O. Skinner (1967), G. Taranow (1972), R. Brandon (1992), and R. Gottlieb (2010); biography of her and Eleonora Duse by P. Rader (2018).
Born Oct. 22, 1844, in Paris; died there Mar. 26, 1923. French actress.
Bernhardt graduated from the drama class of the Paris Conservatoire in 1862 and worked in the following theaters: Comédie Française, Gymnase, Porte-Saint-Martin, and Odéon. In 1893 she acquired the Théâtre de la Renaissance and in 1898 a theater on the Place du Châtelet, which received the name Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. Many outstanding figures in the theater—for example, K. S. Stanislavsky—considered Bernhardt’s artistry to be a model of technical perfection. However, virtuoso craftsmanship, refined technique, and artistic taste were combined in Bernhardt with a studied, affected quality and a certain artificiality in her acting.
Among Bernhardt’s best roles were the following: Doña Sol (Hugo’s Hernani), Marguérite Gautier (La Dame aux camélias by Dumas fils), Theodora (in Sardou’s play of that name), the Dream Princess (in Rostand’s play of that name), the Duke of Reichstadt (in Rostand’s L’Aiglon), Hamlet (Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name), and Lorenzaccio (Musset’s play of that name). Beginning in the 1880’s, Bernhardt toured many countries in Europe and America, in addition to appearing in Russia (1881, 1892, and 1908–09). In 1922 she retired from the stage.
WORKSMa double vie: Mémoires de Sarah Bernhardt. Paris. 1907.
L’art au théâtre. Paris, 1923.
In Russian translation:
Memuary Sary Bernar. St. Petersburg, 1908.
REFERENCESSeller, G. Sarah Bernhardt. Paris [n.d.].
Kugel’, A. Teatral’nye portrety. Moscow, 1929.