Eleonora

Duse

1893-

"Her society friends also worked behind the scenes, and society opened its doors to Duse—the same doors it had kept closed to Sarah Bernhardt for 'fear of being tainted by her old-world depravity, her being a Jew, and her shameless love of publicity.' Duse’s Venetian friend Katherine de Kay Bronson had arranged for Duse to meet her sister, Helena de Kay Gilder, wife of Richard Watson Gilder. The Gilders were at the pinnacle of New York social and artistic life. Richard Gilder, a close friend of President Grover Cleveland, was the editor of The Century Magazine. His sister Jeannette Gilder was a brilliant journalist and founder of The Critic, and had been the first in her circle to shed the hoop skirt and wear a man’s shirt and coat. The Gilders hosted informal Friday receptions at their Clinton Place home for prominent New York friends and for visiting artists like Paderewski, Kipling, and Sargent. Mingling with the people who controlled the press was much more effective than talking with mere reporters.

The Gilders’ daughter Rosamond, who later became the editor of Theatre Arts Monthly and a noted theatre scholar, described the bond between her mother and Duse, who communicated in French: 'It was as though twin souls had met and spoken.' Duse would form many such intimate friendships. Even though she had come from abject poverty and Helena Gilder from wealth and privilege, each woman had something the other one wanted—Duse longed for a stable home and family life, and Helena Gilder envied the free life of an artist. Duse 'came and went in my mother’s house,' Rosamond Gilder remembered, 'a lovely, graceful figure of trailing lines and bubbling laughter. She appeared at odd hours and in every possible mood, strolling in for a cup of tea at two o’clock in the morning, spending an afternoon curled up in the corner of the library sofa, or a morning playing with the children in the nursery.' American audiences saw Duse for the first time on January 23 at the Fifth Avenue Theatre at Twenty-eighth and Broadway."

1903-

"Although A Doll’s House had been announced, Duse performed neither it, Antony and Cleopatra, nor Magda during her American tour. The American theatre and American audiences were decades behind Europe, and Duse relied on her old French repertory and a double bill of Cavalleria rusticana and La locandiera. To placate the producers, Duse played Sudermann’s Magda, and the spangles, pearls, and ermine of her showy white costumes dazzled critics and fans. Because of the size of the auditorium, Duse wore makeup, and the famous blush described by Shaw was not in evidence. Her direction of Magda’s final moment, which placed Magda at the back of the stage instead of downstage center, was pointed out as a radical departure from what was expected of a star. 'Time and again,' said the New York Times critic, 'she does absolutely nothing but wait for the last word or action to sink in more deeply.' For her final performance, she played the virtuosa, a role she hated, and performed a medley of acts from La Femme de Claude, Magda, and La città morta. Once again, she said good-bye to her friends Helena and Richard Gilder, whose home had been a refuge. One evening she had stayed until 2 a. m. and advised Richard to write a poem, so he wrote one to her: 'Loving and lonely / Ours, and ours only.' Duse responded, 'She’s more lonely than ever!' Before she sailed on the La Savoie on January 22, 1903, she telegraphed d’Annunzio: 'This cruel winter is ending—and my solace is that I have kept my word.”

From- Eleonora Duse : A Biography by Helen Sheehy
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