Laura Gundersen

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Laura Gundersen
Born Laura Sofie Coucheron Svendsen
27 May 1832
Died 25 December 1898
Oslo, Norway
Spouse(s) Sigvard Gundersen

Laura Sofie Coucheron Gundersen (née Svendsen) (27 May 1832 – 25 December 1898) was a Norwegian actor, counted as the first native-born tragedienne, and also, in some aspect, as her country's first professional native actress and prima donna.


Laura Gundersen had firm ambition to be an actor from her early years. In 1849, at the age of seventeen, she borrowed money from a relative and traveled to Oslo to make her dream come true.

In 1849, Norwegian actors was not employed at the official theatres in Oslo; the greatest theater in the 1840s, the Christiania Theatre, was founded by Danes and only employed Danish actors, and the language of the stage was Danish. The reason given was that the Norwegian actors lacked education, as there were no acting school in Norway. This year, however, Laura Gundersen was employed as the first and only Norwegian actor to play at the Christiania Theatre in Oslo, and became as such historical.

She starred as Svanhild (alongside her husband Sigvard as Falk) in the premiere of Henrik Ibsen's Love's Comedy at the Christiania Theatre in 1873.[1]

Gundersen spent most of her time there, where she became the first native prima donna in Norway and counted as one of the greatest artists in her country. She played a long row of tragedies; one of the most famous was the premier of the melodrama Bergljot by Grieg in 1885. She played according to the Danish romantic tradition.

Her employment was the start of a new age in the cultural history of Norway, and towards the end of the 19th century, the Danish and foreign dominance were broken; from 1872, Norwegian was the language of the stage, and the Norwegian stage was taken over by Norwegian actors, who also favoured a more realistic way to play, a development that led to fewer parts for Gundersen in the end of the century.

Laura Gundersen married the actor Sigvard Gundersen and is buried with him at Vår Frelsers gravlund.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Meyer (1974, 402-403).