Signe Hebbe: Skådespelerska, operasångerska, pedagog

Inga Lewenhaupts akademiska avhandling handlar om operasångerskan Signe Hebbe som hade ett unikt inflytande på nordiska scentraditioner – både som mönsterbildande sångerska på 1860- och 70-talen och som pedagog för operasångare, operettsångare och talskådespelare 1877- 1925. Hon anses ha fört in realismen på svensk scen.

Signe Hebbe hade en för Norden och även internationellt sett ovanlig utbildning vid Kungliga Teaterns elevskola, vid konservatoriet i Berlin, vid konservatoriet i Paris samt för sångpedagogen Francesco Lamperti i Milano och skådespelarna Adelaide Ristori och Ernesto Rossi.

Modem, Sveriges första kvinnliga journalist, författaren Wendela Hebbe och Aftonbladets grundare Lars Johan Hierta gav starkt stöd, men av olika anledningar blev sångkarriärvägen mer kantad av törnen än av rosor. Ekonomiska och sociala skäl gjorde skådespelaryrket otänkbart. Hon ansågs som Jenny Linds arvtagerska och hennes vackra röst kom från hjärtat, men var mindre stark och stod inte i paritet med hennes starka dramatiska uttrycksmedel i övrigt. Glansrollerna var Valentine i Hugenotterna, Fidelio, Margareta i Faust, Alice i Robert av Normandiet, Sus anna i Figaros bröllop och La Traviata.

Signe Hebbes pedagogiska metod var en sammansmältning av äldre svenska traditioner, gammal franskklassisk skådespelarkonst, Delsarteskola och italiensk s.k. realism colore. Hon skapade en brygga mellan 1850-talets och sekelskiftets konstideal som speglats genom hennes främsta elever inom opera, operett, teater och film: Matilda Jungstedt, Anna Pettersson-Norrie, John Forsell, Hilda Borgström, Gerda Lundequist, Anders de Wahl och Lars Hanson.

Med fog kan hon kallas “Nordens Stanislavskij”. De stod på samma grund, men hon kom sextio år före honom.

Innehåller repertoar- och elevförteckning.


Inga Lewenhaupt’s Ph.D. dissertation aims to contribute towards a knowledge of performance traditions on both speech and opera scenes with emphasis on the period between 1850 and 1930. The Swedish opera singer Signe Hebbe has been described as having had a far reaching influence during this period and is considered to have introduced realism to the Swedish stage. As little comparative material is available, a more thorough analysis of her influence has been summarily dealt with in favour of a detailed survey of her training, particularly at the conservatory of Paris, her career, role interpretations and pedagogic method. Research sources are primarily letters, theatrical documents, reviews and interviews.

Signe Hebbe’s training was uniquely comprehensive: the Royal Theatre Drama School in Stockholm, the conservatories of Berlin and Paris, studies with Francesco Lamperti in Milan, actors Adelaide Ristori and Ernesto Rossi and role studies with composers. Her career is dealt with from her debut in 1855 as an actress and in 1862 as an opera singer, to her retirement from the stage in 1879, focusing on difficulties as well as typical aspects of an international career in those times. Important roles were Valentine in The Huguenots, Marguerite in Faust, Fidelio and La Traviata and her repertory also included many Scandinavian folk songs.

In the 1860’s, her realistic role characterizations seemed foreign. She was an actress on the opera stage. As a singer she was regarded as a successor to Jenny Lind, but her a somewhat week voice was not on level with her ability to convey drama and emotion. Also, her views on costume were novel in that she combined French tradition with a modem realistic outlook.

A long and highly active second career as a pedagogue, between 1877 and 1925, set standards for many generations in Sweden as well as in other Nordic countries. Her method was based on Swedish and French traditions, Delsarte’s training methods and Italian “realism colore”, and her fields of instruction – deportment, speech and singing technique and role/performance analysis, are discussed, and comparisons are drawn with other contemporary pedagogues. The similarities of her ideas with those of Stanislavsky, half a century before his time, are pointed out.

Although unthinkable for Signe Hebbe to have directors analyzing actor’s parts, her method proved useful for silent film directors Stiller and Sjöström, and her teachings were to link the artistic ideals of the 1850:s with those of the tum of the century as reflected through her foremost students: Matilda Jungstedt, Anna Pettersson-Norrie, John Forsell, Hilda Borgström, Gerda Lundequist, Anders de Wahl and Lars Hanson.