The New International Encyclopædia/Modjeska, Helena

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

MODJESKA, mṓ-jĕs'kȧ, Helena (1844—). A noted actress, of Polish origin, since 1876 a resident of the United States. She was the daughter of Michael Opido, a musician, and was born in Cracow, October 12, 1844. Married in 1860 to a manager named Modrzejewski, from the contraction of whose name comes that by which she is known, she became in 1865 the leading actress in the theatre of her native city. Three years later she was married to her second husband, Count Bozenta Chlapowski, and became the star of the Imperial Theatre of Warsaw. Political difficulties and ill health led her with her husband to go in 1870 to California, where they established a Polish colony. This did not succeed, and after only a few months' study of English the Polish Countess made her début in San Francisco (July, 1877) as Adrienne Lecouvreur. She won a surprising success, and was soon seen in New York in the same play. In 1880 she made her London début in the part of Camille. In 1889 and 1890 she starred with Edwin Booth, with whom she had already in 1883 appeared in Romeo and Juliet. The list of her rôles is a long one, but her greatest devotion has been to Shakespeare, from whom are many of her mast notable impersonations, among them Ophelia, Rosalind, Viola, Imogen, Cleopatra, and Lady Macbeth. Her great natural gifts, always ordered by high ideals and the most careful study of her art, have gained her as a tragic actress a foremost rank upon the American stage. Consult: Strang, Famous Actresses of the Day in America (Boston, 1899); McKay and Wingate, Famous American Actors of To-day (New York, 1896); Gilder, in Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States, ed. by Matthews and Hutton (New York, 1886).