Some celebrities remain in memories even after their death, and one such 19th-century theatre artist was helena modrzejewska, also known as the “International Queen of Theatre.” Shakespeare’s dramas are top-rated, and this Polish actress was a charismatic queen who played more than 300 roles in various performances of Shakespearean drama. She is one of the essential artists of that particular century, known well for her beauty, performance, and roles.
The early life of Helena Modrzejewska:
12th October 1840 is the birth date of helena, and she was born to a wealthy widow Josefa Benda in Krakow. There were controversies regarding her birth, and some stated that she was the illegitimate daughter of her mother. In later days, she was baptized as Helena Opid, followed by her godfather’s surname.
Her interest in acting made her a legend in theater, and she was always keenly interested in keen interest to improve her acting skills. She had an acting interest right from an early age and started joining the drama troupes and continued her journey with the troupes. Her interim interest made her perform on various provincial stages in Stanistawow, Bochnia, Przemyst, Brezezany, and Nowy Sqcz.
Later her acting interest was noticed by Gustaw Zimajer; an actor come director of numerous minor Galician theatres. He became her patron and helped her improve her acting skills. The acting training brought them closer, and they both had a relationship, and then she gave birth to Rudolf Modrzewski in 1861.
Her relationship with Gustaw Zimajer had come to an end for unknown reasons. Then she married a wealthy landowner, Karol Chlapowski, and she broke the contrary custom of that period by continuing her acting profession.
Grabbed The Attention Of Critics:
Earlier, she received moderate reviews for her performances. She took the checks and criticism in a sportive way, and her passion for acting and dedication took her to the peak of fame. The performance in Lwow in 1862 grabbed the attention of critics and changed her image.
She was not acting in any lead roles, so she decided to move on to some other troupes in search of lead roles. In the middle of the 1860s, she started performing in Krakow and Warsaw, and it was the period that she gained the status of a real actress or star. She achieved the status at an exhibition held in Zacheta.
From then onwards, her portraits were displayed as Ophelia from the famous play “Hamlet.” All her photographs were sold and slowly started gaining popularity.
In 1876, She took the bold step of moving to North America with a group of Poles with the intention of forming a colony. But due to the political atmosphere in that period, the colonists returned to their homes, but she decided to stay overseas as she studied English diligently.
Then Helena Modrzejewska started her performance on English and American stages by adopting Shakespearean roles successfully, which later became her specialty.
Ambition Of Helena Modrzejewska:
Interestingly, She was ambitious to play the most memorable roles in Shakespeare’s plays, particularly in his homeland. She accomplished her goals very well and played all the successful roles in Shakespeare’s dramas.
She attracted her audiences with her exclusive recitation skills, interestingly to get the exact pronunciation; she recited the Latin alphabet with a Polish accent, drawing the audience so far.
The audience could connect with the role as her performance was pretty good, and they could feel the performance and react to it amazingly. She was called upon at the World’s Fair Auxiliary Congress in Chicago, held in 1893, for the changes and improvement of Polish women during the Russian and Prussian partition.
Modrzejewska is known for her hard work and self-improvement; helena modrzejewska was aware of her weakness and improved it by doing various practices. She knew that her voice was her drawback, and she did different exercises to strengthen it and tried to expand her vocal range through regular practice. She improved her English language skill by learning them and always tried to fit into the roles she played.
She was more cautious about her physical fitness, and she was a deliberate actress known for her control over emotions. Her performances were too good that he attracted the audience at the entry of her first scene but revealed her proper caliber of acting in the finale.
Critics and audience appreciated her acting technique and magnetic personality, and she received the best comments for her acting. She acted in a wide range of roles in the theatre, including romance, tragic, and comic roles. She also tried to convince the portraits of the familiar heroines of contemporary drama, and later she evolved her acting skill to be more realistic with her best performances.
In 1880, She was established as an actress in America and started giving guest performances in England. She was very well received by the English, making her revisit England in 1881, 1882, and even 1885.
Helena became a native of The United States of America in 1883 and continued her acting career there till 1907. She was known for her hard work, and she went on 26 tours with her company from 1897; she became a guest performer in Poland.
Famous Roles Performed By Helena Modrzejewska:
It is known that she is best known for her Shakespearean roles. The most notable roles played by her in Shakespeare’s drama are
- Juliet in Romeo Juliet
- Ophelia in Hamlet
- Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing
- Rosalind in As You Like It
- Lady Macbeth in Macbeth
- Viola in Twelfth-Night
- Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra
- Imogen in Cymbeline and so on
These are a few roles she played, and there is much more to state about her acting skill.
Though she is rich, helena modrzejewska is not interested in financial gains; instead, she spends most of her wealth on charity and patriotic causes. She supported her relatives financially and did financial help for education too.
Ethel Barrymore, a famous American actress, considers her godmother. In the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries, Modrzejewska became a world-famous actress. People admired her a lot and started to dress like her.
She was honored in various ways; there is a mountain and waterfall in The United States with her name. It is an honor to her achievements in the acting field. She died as an actress and remained in the memory of her audiences as the roles she performed.
End Of The Legend:
On 8th April 1909, helena modrzejewska died in California. She was an actress for over half a century, did various roles, and graced the roles with her best performances.
Her funeral ceremonies were taken place in The United States. Per her will, she was buried in the cemetery of her hometown in Krakow. She is the inspiration of today’s actresses and will remain the best theatre artist forever.
In short, Helena was the trendsetter of today’s theatre artists and gave life to her roles. She is the legend of theatre plays and ended her life as an actress. Her acting passion molded her into the best actress, and she fits the phrase “International Queen of Theatre perfectly.”