Woman of the Century/Helena Modjeska

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MODJESKA, Mme. Helena, actor, born in Cracow, Poland, 12th October, 1844. Her maiden name was Helcia Opido. She is a daughter of Michael Opido, a cultured musician, a teacher in Cracow. In childhood and youth she felt a longing for the stage, but her parents would not permit her to become an actor. At an early age she became the wife of Mr. Modrzejewski, now abbreviated to " Modieska," and she then was permitted to carry out her wish to go on the stage. HELENA MODJESKA A woman of the century (page 521 crop).jpgHELENA MODJESKA. Helena appeared successfully in a charity performance in Bochnia, Austrian Poland, and her husband was so impressed by her talents that he organized a company, and they traveled through Galicia, playing in the towns with considerable success. During the last part of 1862 she played a three-month engagement in the government theater in Lemberg. She next managed a theater for herself in Czernowice, taking the prominent roles and assisted by her younger sister and two half-brothers. In 1865 she returned to Cracow, and her reputation at once made her leading lady in the chief theater in that city. Her fame spread to France and Germany, and she received invitations to play in other countries. Alexandre Dumas, fils, invited her to go to Paris to play the rôle of Marguerite Gautier in his "Dame aux Cameras," but she preferred to remain on the Polish stage. Her husband died, and in September, 1868, she became the wife of Charles Bozenta Chlapowski, a Polish count. In 1869 they settled in Warsaw, where Madame Modjeska played the principal parts in the standard dramas of Shakespeare, Gothe, Schiller and Moliere, as well as in new Polish dramas. They remained in Warsaw until 1876. Her repertory in her native language included two-hundred-eighty-four plays. Failing health and discontent under the Russian censorship induced her to leave the stage, and she and her husband came to the United States in 1876. With the aim of founding a Polish colony, they settled on a ranch near Los Angeles, Cal. In the spring of 1877 she went to San Francisco to study English, and after four months of study she was able to appear as Adrienne Lecouvreur in the California Theater. Her success was instant, and she at once entered upon her remarkably brilliant American career. She has made six tours of the United States and three short tours in Poland, and has played several seasons in London and the English provinces. Her repertory on the American stage includes twenty-live roles. She has literary talent of a fine order, and among her achievements are successful adaptations of " As You Like It" and "Twelfth Night " for the Polish stage. In common with all patriotic Poles, Madame Modjeska burns with indignation over the tyranny exercised by Russia over Poland. Both Madame Modjeska and her husband are naturalized citizens of the United States