Réjane, Gabrielle (1857–1920)

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Réjane, Gabrielle (1857–1920)

French actress. Name variations: Gabrielle Rejane; Gabrielle Charlotte Reju. Born Gabrielle-Charlotte Réju in Paris, France, in 1857 (some sources cite 1856); died in 1920; studied at the Conservatoire, Paris; married M. Porel (a theater director), in 1902 (divorced 1905); children: a daughter, G. Réjane.

The daughter of an actor, Gabrielle Réjane was born in Paris in 1857 and studied acting under Regnier at the Conservatoire, where she won second prize for comedy in 1874. She made her first stage appearance in 1875, at the Théâtre du Vaudeville, after which her reputation as a player of light comedy grew steadily. Her first great success was in Henri Meilhac's Ma camarade (1883), and she soon became known as an emotional actress of rare gifts as well, notably in Divorçons, Sapho, La Dame aux Camélias, Germinie Lacerteux, Ma cousine, Amoureuse, Lysistrata, and even Ibsen's A Doll's House.

Réjane played in theaters throughout Paris, and made her London debut in 1894. The following year, she visited New York, appearing in the title role of Victorien Sardou's Madame Sans-Gêne, believed to be her most notable part, although she was called "provoking and irresistible" as Clotilde in Henri Becque's La Parisienne and was famed for her performances in Zaza and La Passerelle. In her day, she was compared favorably to Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt, but most of the comedies in which she was the toast of Paris are now forgotten, along with their authors. From 1892 to 1905, the actress was married to M. Porel, the director of a vaudeville theater. She opened her own theater, the Théâtre Réjane, in Paris in 1906, and continued acting until the year of her death, when she appeared in Henri Bataille's La Vierge Folle.

Réjane was known for her French vivacity and animated expression, which made her unrivalled in the parts she had made her own. In every critique of Réjane there is a pointed reference to her wonderful fluency and flexibility of style, her prolific inventions, her natural transitions of mood, and her refined tastes. Sarcey called her "the very essence of the Parisienne."