Talma, François-Joseph

born Jan. 16, 1763, Paris, France
died Oct. 19, 1826, Paris

French actor and theatre manager.

He made his debut at the Comédie-Française in 1787. Influenced by the painter Jacques-Louis David, he became an early advocate of historical costuming, and he created a sensation by appearing onstage in a Roman toga. After political dissension split the company (1789), the pro-republican Talma established a rival troupe. He developed realism in his staging and insisted on a naturalistic rather than a declamatory acting style. In 1799 his troupe was reunited with the Comédie-Française; as head of the company, he became recognized as the supreme tragedian of the era, winning the admiration of Napoleon.

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▪ French actor and theatrical manager
born Jan. 16, 1763, Paris
died Oct. 19, 1826, Paris
 French actor and theatrical company manager whose reforms in acting styles, stage costuming, and scenery made him a leading precursor of 19th-century French Romanticism and Realism.

      Although Talma's father, a dentist, wanted his son to become a dentist as well, young Talma spent his time instead in amateur theatricals and made his professional debut at the Comédie-Française on Nov. 21, 1787, as Seide in Voltaire's Mahomet. Influenced by his friend the painter David, he became one of the early advocates of historical costuming when he appeared in a Roman toga and headdress in the small role of Proculus in Voltaire's Brutus.

      Until Nov. 4, 1789, Talma had taken only minor roles; on that day he took over the title role in Marie-Joseph-Blaise de Chenier's anti-monarchical Charles IX after it had been turned down by other actors, who feared political difficulties. As expected, the play caused demonstrations in the theatre and aroused such dissension in the company that the pro-republican Talma established a rival troupe known as the Théâtre de la République. There he developed realism in staging and costuming while producing classical French drama and translations of Shakespeare. In acting he insisted upon a realistic rather than a declamatory style and made speaking pauses follow the sense of speeches rather than their metre.

      In 1799, when the two companies were reunited at Talma's theatre as the Comédie-Française, he emerged as the supreme tragedian of the era, winning the admiration and patronage of Napoleon. Talma wrote “Réflexions sur Lekain et l'art théâtral” as a preface to the memoirs of the French actor Lekain. His last appearance was in Delaville's Charles VI on June 3, 1826.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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