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Lithography by Johan Cardon
22 November 1772
|Died||8 July 1843
|Spouse(s)||Sofia Katarina di Dosmo|
Lars Hjortsberg (22 November 1772 – 8 July 1843) was a Swedish actor. He is often called the greatest male actor in his country in the 19th century; he and Emilie Högquist are the best known Swedish actors from the first half of that century.
Lars Hjortsberg's father Laurentius (Lars) was employed at the court and his mother Maria Lovisa Schützer as a singer at the Opera; of their six children, two sons and two daughters where employed at the theatre or the Opera, and two of them was to become famous; Hedda Hjortsberg as a dancer, and Lars Hjortsberg as an actor.
Lars Hjortsberg was born in Stockholm, and first appeared as a child actor at the Royal Swedish Opera in 1778, at the age of six, when he played an angel with a couple of lines at the celebration of the birth of the Crown Prince in Athalie. He was noticed by the theatrically interested king, Gustav III of Sweden, who saw a great dramatic talent in him, and also hired him at the royal court as a so-called garçon bleu, a common (non noble) page boy, reader and librarian. He was employed at the Opera in 1780, and appeared in a mute part as the brother of Cora in Cora och Alonzo by Naumann at the premier of the new Opera in 1782; in 1783–1785, he was a student of Caroline Frederikke Müller, and from 1785, he was a student in the French Theatre of Bollhuset under Monvel, like other Swedish actors such as Fredrique Löwen, Maria Franck and Inga Åberg, and in 1787, he was a student in Dramatens elevskola and a member of its troupe, which performed for the king the same year.
When the Royal Dramatic Theatre was founded in 1788, he was employed there, became a member of the board of directors and continued to be counted as one of the greatest talents there, a position he kept until his death. He continued to be employed at court until the death of the king; he accompanied king Gustav to Finland during the war in 1790, on his trip to Belgium in 1791, and read to him to amuse him at his death bed after the assassination. When the actors board of directors was replaced in 1803, the fame of Hjortsberg forced the directors, who were in general very strict with the actors, forced to tolerate him to criticize them. He quit his position at the theatre after the second strike of Ulrik Torsslow and Sara Torsslow in 1834, but he soon returned and gave his last performance in 1842. He died in Nyköping.
Lars Hjortsberg was very appreciated in comedies, and one of his most popular roles were as Polycarpus in Kronfogdarne, a play in which he made a great success.
In 1793, the old building of Bollhuset was torn down, and the Royal Dramatic Theatre moved to the old palace Makalös, called the Arsenal Theatre. In 24 November 1825, the Arsenal Theatre burned down; the fire begun in the middle of the performance, and Lars Hjortsberg discovered it, went out on the stage, interrupted the play and informed the audience from the stage. The building was old and built in such a way, with narrow passages and only one exit, that could have led to many casualties; but Hjortsberg led the evacuation with such calmness and efficiency that no one was killed, which made him a hero in the eyes off the public, who greeted him with great applause at his next performance at the building at the Royal Swedish Opera, were the Royal Dramatic Theatre would now also be located.
Lars Hjortsbeg was the brother of the popular ballet dancer Hedda Hjortsberg; his brother, Magnus Hjortsberg, was also an actor, but never as well known as his brother ans sister. He married the dancer Sofia Katarina di Dosmo, daughter to an Italian employee of the royal stables, and became the father of Carl Edvard Hjortsberg, (1804–1857), also an actor at the Royal Dramatic Theatre (from 1826) and married to the noted actor Fanny Westerdahl.
- Erik Näslund and Elisabeth Sörenson, "Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern 1788-1988".
- Agneta Pleijel, "Kungens komediant"
- Georg Nordensvan, "Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare".
- Svenska män och kvinnor, uppslagsverk
- Gidlunds förlag, "Ny svensk teaterhistoria. Teater före 1800."