Charlotta Eriksson

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Charlotta Eriksson
Born Charlotta Maria Lambert
11 February 1794
Sweden
Died 21 April 1862 (aged 68)
Düsseldorf, Germany
Other names Charlotta Wikström
Spouse(s) Johan Fredrik Wikström

Charlotta Maria Eriksson (11 February 1794 – 21 April 1862) was a Swedish actress, one of the most popular and notable actors in Sweden in the first half of the 19th century. She was also a translator, an actor-instructor, a vice principal, and a painter.

Background[edit]

Eriksson's father was an innkeeper with the surname Lambert, but in 1797, her mother married E. Eriksson, a servant in the royal household, who later became a pad-maker, and Charlotta took her stepfather's name. She was accepted as a student at Dramatens elevskola in 1805, and was contracted as an actress in the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm in 1812, at the same year as the other female star of her generation, Sara Torsslow. That same year, she married the choirmaster Johan Fredrik Wikström. In the first years of her career, she was considered pretty and nothing more; she had her breakthrough in 1820, when she played Ophelia instead of Carolina Kuhlman and was highly admired for her realistic interpretation of insanity.

Career and judgements[edit]

The public, it seems, could not get enough of her, judging by the critics; they appeared to be in awe of her beauty, admiring of her graceful movement, which was described as relaxed, soft and elegant, and of the sensitive, delicate way she interpreted the parts she was given. In the press, Sara Fredrica Strömstedt-Torsslow, Charlotta Eriksson and Elisabeth Frösslind were compared to a rose or a tulip, a jasmine or a daisy, and a lily or a myosotis; Torsslow was claimed to represent "the deeply moving", Eriksson "the sensitive pleasantness and the female lovability" and Frösslind "the small sweetness, wittiness and naivety". The paper Freja said that she was: "far superior to all the other actresses" at the Royal Dramatic Theatre.

In the beginning of her career, her way of acting was described as "naive" and "pure", and by the end as "noble." Her roles were solemn, sensitive, but cold and elegant; she also did comedy, and the press called her "the darling of the public". Her most appreciated role, Sömngångaren (Sleepwalker) by Piccini, can describe the style she had; here, she walked, talked, and finally danced, during which she showed no feelings whatsoever, just like a sleepwalker, and stared with eyes wide open, unseeing and expressionless.

She played Papagena, Ophelia and the Queen in Hamlet and was the first in Sweden to play Schiller's Mary Stuart in 1820. She also translated French plays for the theatre, often what were called French salon-comedies, and she was often used for such roles, a repertoire later taken over by Emilie Högquist. She was given the same salary as the prima donna Henriette Widerberg: 1.600 kronor, when the highest salary for a male actor was 1.800 and the lowest salary of an actress was 200.

In 1821, she divorced her husband to marry her lover, Edvard du Puy; he died a year later, which was a great personal sorrow to her. After the divorce, she called herself Mrs. Eriksson. Among her colleagues, she was sometimes considered scheming and relentless, and her many affairs sometimes shocked them, but she was not called a courtesan, a term often used to label other actresses who had affairs.

Together with Sara Torsslow, she was perhaps one of the greatest female stars of her generation in Sweden, and as these two actresses had completely different styles, they were not rivals; Torsslow was used in "warm" parts, Eriksson in "cold" parts. Torsslow and Eriksson were rather considered to complement each other well and played very well together; Crusenstolpe claimed in the press that nothing was lacking when he saw them do so: "The illusion is so complete, that one thought one lived in reality" with the characters they played. She travelled abroad and studied at foreign theatres, especially in Paris, where she paid particular attention to Mademoiselle Mars, whom she admired, and together with Sara Torsslow, Ulrik Torsslow and Nils Almlöf she introduced a new way to act that succeeded the Gustavian way of acting.

Later career[edit]

In 1834, Eriksson sided with Sara Torsslow in the strike called "The second Torsslow argument". After the strike, several of the participants were fired, including the most popular ones such as Eriksson. The director admitted they were fired because they had participated in the strike, but gave other reasons as the formal motivation. It was also clear that the most popular actors were fired in a somewhat strange way, which forced them to return. For example, Eriksson and Elisabeth Frösslind were both fired: Frösslind because of her health, Eriksson simply because the theatre claimed they could no longer afford her. They were granted pensions only with the condition that they were always to be available if they were called. During this period, the theatre monopoly made it impossible to secure employment elsewhere. In 1836 they both asked to be taken back; the theatre accepted them back immediately, but with a salary lowered from 1,600 to 825, and thereafter gave Eriksson the part of Amalia in Världsförakt och ånger (Worldcontempt and regret) by Kotzebue.

In the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Eriksson had to replace Sara Torsslow in the roles given to her. This harmed her career as her style of acting was not suited to the emotional parts previously given to Torsslow, and exposed her to criticism. Therefore these parts were taken over by the new actor Emilie Högquist, who became the new star within Torsslow's former repertoire. Eriksson could now return to her own repertoire, and her career became more successful; her new contract allowed her to play only the parts she herself chose to play and thought suitable, and she worked only freelance - a status she took advantage of to play in many other scenes. She toured the country with Wallinska sällskapet and played at the theatres of Djurgårdsteatern and in Dramatiska Teatern, the theatre of the Torsslow couple.

In 1837–1841, she was vice principal and an instructor of declamation at the theatrical school Dramatens elevskola. In 1842, she became an entirely freelance actor and was very active as such in the following three years. In the 1847-48 season she was a guest artist at Torsslow's at the theatre Mindre teatern where she "continue[d] to be what she has always been--an example for every younger actress"; she then travelled abroad, during which she witnessed the siege of Milan during the Revolutions of 1848 in the Italian states, and when she returned, she was again a guest artist at Mindre teatern the 1849–1850 and admired for her interaction with Sara Torsslow in Vänskap i döden (Friendship in death).

Eriksson retired in 1855, spent some years in Italy and moved to Düsseldorf in Germany, where her son studied art; she studied painting with him and died there in 1862.

References[edit]

  • [1] Wilhelmina Stålberg: Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor (Notes on Swedish women) (Swedish)
  • Carin Österberg: Svenska Kvinnor; Föregångare, pionjärer (Swedish Women; predecessors, pioneers) (Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar. Första bandet 1772-1842 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days 1772-1842) (1917) (Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar. Andra bandet 1842-1918 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days 1842-1918) (1918) (Swedish)