Inga Åberg

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Inga Åberg
Born Ingeborg Elisabeth Åberg
Died 1837 (aged c. 64 )

Inga Åberg (Ingeborg Elisabeth; 1773–1837) was a Swedish actress and opera singer, one of the most popular and well known actors of her time in Sweden. She was active both as an actress at the Royal Dramatic Theater, and as an opera singer at the Royal Swedish Opera between 1787 and 1810.


Inga Åberg was born to Jonas Åberg, footman and later economy master at the royal court, and Fredrika Maria Svahn. Her father is thought to have been the son of Beata Sabina Straas, the first professional native actress in Sweden to perform on a public stage in 1737; Straas, at the time of her marriage to Anders Åberg, had been a chambermaid at the royal court before she joined the stage, and after a short career returned to the royal court with her husband, where they were both to remain employed on the royal staff to their death. This is not confirmed, however.

She and her younger brother Gustav was enrolled as students at the French theatre of Bollhuset in 1781 as children; Both Inga and her brother Gustav are described as beautiful, which was to have a great importance to both their careers. Just like many other Swedish actors of her generation, such as Maria Franck and Lars Hjortsberg, she trained as an actor in the troupe of the French Theatre in Bollhuset under Monvel, and performed as a student in the French troupe until 1787. She debuted at the Opera at the age of fourteen. After her performance in "Gustav Adolf and Ebba Brahe" (Gustav Adolf and Ebba Brahe), a play written by Gustav III, in verse by Kellgren and composed by Vogler the following year, she was admired by the theatrically interested king (he was also the author of the play) as having great promise. In 1787, she was also employed at the Swedish Ristell Theatre in Bollhuset, which was the year after made the Royal Dramatic Theatre.


She performed a variety of parts in both theatre and opera and was famed for her grace, her voice and her "seductive pleasantness"; many critics also mentions her "livelyness and finess". Her beauty attracted a lot of attention, but was also considered to have a negative effect on her career; it was estimated that, although she did have natural talent, she neglected to develop it because she had been told that her beauty was enough, and that it was not necessary to develop herself, and her talent therefore remained undeveloped and "raw"; a contemporary judgement of her ability was that she "would have been a great singer and an excellent actress, if her unusual beauty had not been an obstacle for her education as an artist and she had been led to see this as a source for income, richer but in the long term not more secure than Art". She was used much as an ornament on stage, and was later made out to be a bad example for aspiring female actors. She was widely regarded as a courtesan, which is said to have been the reason to why her younger brother, the popular actor Gustav Åbergsson, who were himself used mostly in lover-parts because of his good looks, changed his last name from Åberg to Åbergsson to avoid being connected to his notorious sister's name.

Nevertheless, she had a successful career, was recommended for "fully taking on the character of the person she plays", and was one of the few actors of her generation that was not considered to be too old by the harsh critic Livijin at the end of the first decade of the 19th century. In the capacity of a singer, she was later given the recognition of being the only native female opera singer in her generation of any note between Elisabeth Olin, of and Jeanette Wässelius; between the retirement of Olin in 1784 and the debut of the later in 1800, the female stars of the Swedish Opera was mainly foreigners, such as Caroline Müller (opera singer), Franziska Stading and Sophie Stebnowska.


She and Euphrosyne Löf were among the first named Swedish actresses to play breeches roles when they had the two leading male parts in August and Theodor eller De bägge kammarpagerna (August and Theodor or The Two Valets), by Kexel inspired by a French theatre comedy, in the 1794-95 season. She made a success in Olof Åhlström's Tanddoktorn (The Dentist) with Lars Hjortsberg in 1800, and played the leading part in the opera Le calife de Bagdad by Boieldieu with her brother Gustav Åbergsson and Jeanette Wässelius in 1806. In 1796, she played opposite famous singers such as Christoffer Christian Karsten, Caroline Halle-Müller, Louis Deland and Carl Stenborg in the opera La caravane du Caire by Grétry, which was held to celebrate that the young king had been declared of legal majority. In 1810, she launched the opera buffa Markis Tulipano (Marquess Tulipano) by Gourbillon translated by Carl Magnus Envallsson with music by Giovanni Paisiello, in her benefit performance at the Opera. Among her other parts were "a spirit" in Armide by Gluck and Yngve in Frigga by Gustav III composed by Olof Åhlström (season 1786–87), Carl in Folke Birgersson till Ringstad (Folke Birgersson of Ringstad) by Kexel after a work by Monvel (1792–93), Carl Sjöcrona in Det farliga förtroendet (The dangerous trust) by Grétry (1793–94), Gustafva in De gamla friarna (The old/two suitors) by Dalayrac (1795–96), Agarenne in Panurge dans l'île des lanternes by Grétry (1799–1800), and Madame de Brillon in Monsieur Des Chalumeaux by Pierre Gaveaux (1807–08).

Later life[edit]

She resigned from the Royal Dramatic Theater and the Royal Swedish Opera in 1810, and then toured both Sweden and Finland in travelling theatre companies; she was a part of J.A. Lindqvists troup in 1816–1817, a troup that counted also her daughter Vendla and Henriette Widerberg as members, and where she performed male roles in Le petit matelot by Gaveaux translated by C. Nordforss, and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (play), acted as a tragedienne and always showed "a fresh and cheerful temper". In 1825, she played the part of Elizabeth Tudor in Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart in the company of K.G. Bonuvier's theater in Åbo in Finland against Finland's then prima donna Maria Silfvan.


A well-known incident in her life was when the millionaire Hall from Gothenburg, one of the richest men in Sweden, placed his young teenage son Johan under her care; he found his son out of control and, for some reason, he thought Inga Åberg capable of disciplining him and making him understand the ways of the world and virtuous customs. Inga Åberg accepted the offer; she gave him large bills to pay during the time when his son was in her care, which Hall, far from opposing, instead considered as proof of the high quality care she gave his son. Exactly what Inga taught this teenager is not so much spoken of, only that "he did not learn delicacy".