|The Italian actress Adelaide Ristori, seen here as Medée.
The Italian actress Adelaide Ristori was born at Cividale del Friuli on 30 January 1822, the daughter of strolling players. She appeared on the stage from an early age, achieving her first success as Francesca da Rimini in Silvio Pellico's tragedy of the same name. She was eighteen when she first played Marie Stuart in an Italian version of Schiller's play. In 1846 she was married to the marchese Giuliano Capranica del Grillo (d. 1861) and retired from the stage for a short while, though she soon returned. It was not until 1855 that she paid her first professional visit to Paris. Her début in the part of Francesca was rather coldly received, but she took the city by storm in the title role of Alfieri's Myrrha. Furious partisanship was aroused by the appearance of a rival to the great Rachel, and Paris was divided into two camps, with playgoers fighting at gallery doors over the merits of their respective favourites.
In 1856 Ristori toured in various other countries, which she followed with a fresh visit to Paris, appearing in the title role of Legouvé's Medée [Medea], the success of which she then repeated in London. In 1857 she visited Madrid, playing in Spanish to enthusiastic audiences, and in 1866 she paid the first of four visits to the United States, where she won much applause, particularly in Giacometti's Elizabeth, an Italian study of the English sovereign. She finally retired from professional life in 1885, and died on 9 October 1906 in Rome. She left a son, the marchese Georgio Capranica del Grillo. Her Studies and Memoirs (1888) provide a lively account of an interesting career, and are particularly valuable for the chapters devoted to the psychological explanation of the characters of Mary Stuart, Elizabeth, Myrrha, Phaedra and Lady Macbeth, in her interpretation of which Ristori combined high dramatic instinct with the keenest and most critical intellectual study.
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