Johanne Luise Heiberg
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|Johanne Luise Heiberg|
|Born||Johanne Luise Pätges
22 November 1812
|Died||21 December 1890
|Spouse(s)||Johan Ludvig Heiberg|
Johanne Luise Heiberg (née Pätges) (22 November 1812 – 21 December 1890) was one of the greatest Danish actresses of the 19th century. She is most famous for her work at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, where she achieved great success.
Heiberg was the daughter of a stallholder and innkeeper and his Jewish wife, very early she showed artistic gifts and entered the ballet school 1820. By the help of patrons she was promoted to the rank of an actress and made a successful debut 1827. From then on she was considered the best leading actress of Danish theatre.
In 1831 she married the famous and much older critic and dramatist Johan Ludvig Heiberg, a marriage that raised her position even further and just made her known as “Mrs. Heiberg”. “The Heibergs” became a Copenhagen concept and their home was a cultural centre. In return the dual position of the Heibergs as the leading lady of the theatre married to its main playwright also aroused much jealousy and accusations of favouring. Her great popularity within the public did not prevent her of getting opponents and her sometimes aggressive and arrogant one-sidedness (revealed in her autobiography) must be blamed for some of this. Her husband’s time as the director of the Royal Theatre 1849-56 ended in an open conflict with her colleagues and for a short period she even left the theatre. The death of her husband 1860 and her age caused her retirement as an actress 1864 — still at her height — though she worked as a stage director until 1874.
Mrs. Heiberg played about 275 roles. Her exotic beauty combined with culture and elegance secured her position though she was not the only talented Danish actress of her age. Among her roles must be mentioned some Shakespeare characters (Viola in Twelfth Night) and especially in French comedies and dramas. In Danish dramas she shined in Holberg’s and Oehlenschlägers plays and especially in her husband’s dramas, her performance in Elves' Hill (Danish: Elverhøi) was a classic. Her strength was intelligence, controlled passion and wit but she did not show the same talent for the tragedy. To a whole generation of Danish dramatists she was the muse and especially she inspired Henrik Hertz to write many of his main female roles for her. She also wrote some few (not especially important) vaudeville acts herself; the most popular is En Søndag paa Amager (“A Sunday at Amager”, 1845).
Søren Kierkegaard wrote a tribute to her in 1847, The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress. Her autobiography, Et Liv gjenoplevet i Erindringen ("A Life Relived in Memory", ed. 1891-92) is a major literary work from the Danish Golden Age. It has often been criticised for its subjective descriptions but is still regarded a pioneering work because of its interest of the process of acting.
Though she was closely connected to the romantic tradition Mrs. Heiberg is still regarded a key figure of Danish drama, like for instance Sarah Siddons in England. Beyond any doubt she contributed to the rise of the public social and moral opinion of Danish actors as play-actors to artists and cultural personalities.
The drama Rain Snakes (Från regnormarnas liv, 1981) by the Swedish author Per-Olov Enquist fictitiously deals with the relationship between Mrs. Heiberg and Hans Christian Andersen.
- Henning Fenger: The Heibergs. Edited and translated by Frederick J. Marker. 1971.
- Risum, Janne (2003). "Johanne Luise Heiberg". Dansk Kvindebiografisk Leksikon [Danish Encyclopedia of Women's Biography] (in Danish). Retrieved 7 September 2010.