Broadway Features and Reviews
Notes of Inspiration: The Real Hedda Gabler?
By Chanelle Sicard, Broadway Magazine
A new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is currently playing on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre starring Tony Award winner Mary-Louise Parker. Playwright Henrik Ibsen was notorious for engaging in artist-muse relationships with many young ladies, so much so that author Joan Templeton wrote a book detailing his flirtations, and called it Ibsen's Women.
In Ibsen's Women, Templeton writes of the stunning socialite Emilie Bardach: "Ibsen's unfulfilled longing for her was so great that it resulted in a decisive turning point in his work," accordingly accompanied by the creation of Hedda Gabler. Speculation has surrounded Ibsen's relationship with Bardach for decades, insinuating that the artist may have fallen in love with his muse and written Hedda Gabler to purge himself of his feelings.
The unanswered questions about Ibsen's inspiration for the character of Hedda Gabler are bound to surface again with the new Broadway revival. When an artist such as Ibsen entertains a relationship with a beautiful young woman, such as Bardach, then produces what was arguably one of his greatest works, the circumstances simply confirm the rumours; that the artist had more than an artistic interest in his muse. Speculation has it that Ibsen may have very well been in love with Emilie Bardach and as an act of regaining his self-control ended their 'friendship' and unburdened himself on the pages that became Hedda Gabler.
In one of Ibsen's requests that Emilie cease correspondence with him, Ibsen biographer Adolf Zucker writes that Ibsen attached a copy of Hedda Gabler "with the injunction 'Receive it in a friendly spirit - but in silence'". When he sent her the script of Hedda Gabler some speculate that Ibsen sent Emilie all the passion he had for her, written and bound for her to keep. Many of the circumstances under which Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler point a decisive finger at Emilie Bardach as his model for Hedda.
According to Templeton, "during the months that followed his letter breaking off with Bardach, he planned and wrote Hedda Gabler." For the most part, followers of Ibsen agree that Bardach was Ibsen's real life Hedda, or at least as Zucker states "like most of Ibsen's figures,...a composite from several models, but it seems beyond question that he gathered some traits from his observation of the Viennese society girl (Bardach)."
The correspondence between Ibsen and Bardach changed Ibsen's work, she was his muse and he had fallen in love with her. You experience the fervour of Ibsen and Emilie for yourself on Broadway, and decide for yourself whether Christopher Shinn's adaptation of Hedda Gabler can capture Ibsen's passion for Bardach on the stage at the American Airlines Theatre. Performances run through March 29.
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