Sonnenthal, Adolf Ritter von

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SONNENTHAL, ADOLF RITTER VON (Neckwadel ; 1834–1909), Austrian actor and theatrical director. Apprenticed to a tailor, Sonnenthal decided to become an actor on seeing a performance by Bogumil *Dawison. For several years he acted in theaters in Temesvar, Hermannstadt, and Graz, until he was invited by Heinrich Laube to join the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1856. After an indifferent debut, he triumphed in Don Carlos and was given a contract that kept him at the Burgtheater for life. Though not handsome, he nevertheless excelled in drawing-room comedy, but he gained his great reputation in Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, Ibsen. Among his most impressive roles were Romeo, Hamlet, Macbeth, Wallenstein, Faust, King Lear, Nathan the Wise, and Uriel Acosta. He became Oberregisseur of the Burgtheater in 1884 and its provisional general manager in 1887–88 and 1889–90. Sonnenthal was a practicing Jew and resisted attempts to convert him. More than once he was a target of antisemitic attacks. The emperor made him a nobleman in 1881. He made guest appearances in Russia and the U.S.


L. Eisenberg, Adolf Sonnenthal (Ger., 1900). add. bibliography: J. Bab and W. Handl, Deutsche Schauspieler … (1908); J. Minor, Aus dem alten und neuen Burgtheater (1920); J. Handl, Schauspieler des Burgtheaters (1955).

[Gershon K. Gershony /

Jens Malte Fischer (2nd ed.)]