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OPERA 1879 - L. MEOLA 1
PLAY- SARDOU - 1884 5


SOURCE: Stieger, Franz., Opera Lexikon. Tutzing, 1975.

Theodora Orat. Händel London, 16.3.1750


SOURCE: Stieger, Franz., Opera Lexikon. Tutzing, 1975.

Théodora Drama 5 Jules Massenet Vict. Sardou Paris 26.12.1884, Porte St.Martin


SOURCE: Stieger, Franz., Opera Lexikon. Tutzing, 1975.

Theodora Op. W.H. Fürst San Francisco, 8.1889


SOURCE: Clément, Félix & Larousse, Pierre., Dictionaire des Opéras, Paris, 1904(?).

Teodora, opéra-comique italien, livret de Landi, musique de L. Meola*, représenté au théâtre Nuovo de Naples le 1er juin 1879. Chanté par Fiumara, Mongini, Lamonca, Merly; Mmes Corte, Massini.

{Trans: Theodora, Italian opera-comique, libretto by Landi, music by L. Meola, produced at the Nuovo theatre in Naples on June 1 1879. Sung by...}


*L. Meola, 1845-1918 according to Manferrari, Dizionario delle Opere melodrammatiche


SOURCE: Bordèse, L., Théodore, Grand Scène. Paroles de Louis de Peyre, Paris, 1885. {BM H 2490 g (12)}

{Bordèse has in catalogue various other scenes based upon historical characters - e.g. Attila, Ophélie, Cordélie, Athalie, Desdémone, etc.}


J'arrive enfin si haut,
moi qui viens de si bas,
Que les voix des plus grands
jalousent ma puissance!
C'est Théodora, c'est Théodora
C'est une femme.
La misère m'a prise enfant
Et personne, petit ou grand
Ne s'est occupé de mon âme.
Maintenant j'impose ma loi
Et l'on s'incline devant moi.
La reine brillante honorée.
On me célèbre en prose, en vers,
Et je suis dans tout l'univers
Comme une sainte vénérée.
I am finally arrived so high,
I who come from so low,
Let the voices of the great
cry in jealousy over my power!
It is Theodora, it is Theodora.
It is a woman
Misery adopted me as a child
and no one, great or small,
worried for my soul.
No I impose my law
And people bow down to me.
The shining and honoured queen.
I am celebrated in prose, in verse,
And throughout the whole world
I am like a venerated saint.
Ces hommages, et bien,
Ils ne me sont pas dus!
Puis-je le méconnaître?
Il a trouvé son maître
Le coeur qui pousse, hélas,
des soupirs superflus!
Such hommage, in truth
is not owed to me!
Could I spurn it?
The heart which gives out,
alas, sighs in vain,
has found its master.
O mon bel athénien, Andréas,
toi que j'aime.
Pour moi ton amour est sans prix
A celle que je te voue
une tendresse extrême,
Ne réponds pas, ne réponds pas
par le mépris.
O my beautiful Athenian, Andreas,
you whom I love.
For me your love is priceless,
To she who confesses
utter tenderness
Do not reply, do not reply
with scorn.
Un jour je l'ai juré
ton âme sera mienne,
Et pour y parvenir
Hier j'ai pris des mains d'une magicienne
Un puissant élixir!
Oui, quand tu l'auras bu,
Succombant au délire
D'un merveilleux transport
Tu viendras à mes pieds,
tu viendras pour me dire
Aimons jusqu'à la mort!
Jusqu'à la mort.
One day, I have sworn,
your soul will be mine.
And to achieve that
Yesterday a sorceress gave me
a powerful elixir!
Yes, when you have drunk it,
and are succumbing to the delirium
of a marvellous transport,
You will come to my feet,
you will come to tell me -
Let us love until death,
until death!
O mon bel athénien, Andréas
toi que j'aime.
Pour moi ton amour est sans prix.
A celle qui te voue
une tendresse extrême
Ne réponds pas,
ne réponds pas par le mépris!
O my beautiful Athenian, Andreas,
you whom I love.
For me your love is priceless,
To her who confesses
utter tenderness
Do not reply, do not reply
with scorn.



SOURCE: Roosevelt, Blanche., Victorien Sardou, London, 1892 {BM010662 g 6}

{p 265 ff} When Sardou's "Théodora" was produced at the Porte Saint-Martin Theatre the theatrical world had been anxiously awaiting its production. Sarah Bernhardt {1845-1923}, who played Théodora, had not appeared on the stage for about six months --not since the failure of Jean Richepin's version of "Macbeth." Tickets sold as high as sixty francs. So successful was the play that Bernhardt was destined to appear as Théodora nearly nine hundred times.

The time of the play is in the sixth century, when Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor, was at his wits' end with insurrections, one of which resulted in the burning of the original church of Saint Sophia. The first scene, a gorgeous hall in the imperial palace, is in the nature of a prologue, in which the audience is told of the political intrigues. As the curtain rises, Théodora enters from a chapel, whence comes the throbbing notes of an organ. Her costume is a replica of the celebrated mosaic of the Byzantine Virgin in the Church of Ravenna -- her robe is yellow satin embroidered with topazes; her coiffure is ablaze with jewels, and in her hand she carries a white lily, which tradition says was Théodora's favourite flower. The Empress seats herself on a couch of tigers' skins, and gives audience to her courtiers and to ambassadors from foreign lands. With her is Antonina, her trusted friend and former companion in the circus. Théodora effects a reconciliation between Antonina and her husband, Belisarius, commander of the imperial forces, who has left his wife because of her infidelities. At last Théodora dismisses the courtiers, and is once more free. The courtesan appears beneath the golden robes of the Empress. Taking two mute slaves, she departs, heavily veiled, to meet her lover, Andréas, who knows her only as "Myrrtha," a young widow, about to be married to a rich old miser.

The second scene is laid in the vaults beneath the Hippodrome, filled with wild beasts in cases. Here Tamyris, an old and withered witch, gives to Théodora a love-philtre with which to win Andréas. Tamyris is an ex-circus-rider. A familiar dialogue takes place between the two, while lions and tigers pad softly up and down.

The next scene is in the atrium of Andréas, the simple lines of its pure Greek architecture contrasting strongly with the bastard Byzantine of the other scenes. Here a love scene takes place between Théodora and Andréas, who tells her that he is one of a band of conspirators; headed by Marcellus, Captain of the palace guards, they intend to take Justinian prisoner and carry him off to the coast of Asia. Suddenly a murmur from the streets is heard, gradually increasing, till, above the confused noise, voices can be distinguished. The mob is shouting a ribald song about Théodora. Andréas is laughingly taking up the refrain, when Théodora presses her hand on his lips, crying, "Oh, not you! not you!" The mob passes on, and Théodora hastens to the palace to warn Justinian of his danger.

In the next scene, the stage is divided into two compartments: the one, a cabinet, elegantly furnished in carved woods inlaid with gold and precious stones; the other, a gallery hung with Chinese tapestries, with a large window at the back, through which can be seen the Bosphorus. In the cabinet a brilliant light falls from a magnificent flambeau of beaten gold. The gallery is lighted only by a single shaft of moonlight. In the cabinet is seated Justinian, resplendent in his embroidered robes, and wearing the large pearl ear-rings of the emperors of Byzantium. Théodora enters. Justinian's suspicions have been aroused by her long absence; he is determined to know why she has gone forth at this hour of the night. But she stops his questions by informing him of the plot against his life. The roar of the approaching crowd is heard; Justinian is about to accept the advice of Belisarius, and fly to some place of safety until his troops can be collected. But Théodora declares that she will remain to be killed as an empress in her palace, not fleeing like a hunted beast. Justinian at last determines to face the mob. But an unlooked for danger threatens him. Marcellus, having free access to the palace, has introduced his fellow-conspirator, Andréas, who is on his way to the Emperor's apartments. Théodora sees him, divines the danger, and suddenly locks him into the secret gallery. Marcellus, supposing Andréas is behind him, is making his way stealthily into Justinian's cabinet, when he is surprised and bound by Belisarius and his aids.

Justinian orders that Marcellus be tortured to force him to reveal the names of his fellow-conspirators. The furnace is brought in, the pincers and branding-irons are heated red-hot. Théodora begs for a moment's private converse with Marcellus. Fearing lest he may divulge her liaison with Andréas, Théodora suddenly stabs him with the golden pin which confines her hair.

As the man falls dead, Justinian cries: "My God! What have you done?"

"He insulted me," Théodora coolly replies, "and I have killed him."

The scene changes to the garden of Andréas's house. The stage is set with giant palm-trees. At the back can be seen an arm of the sea, and in the distance the dim outlines of the Asiatic coast. In this garden, Marcellus is buried with Byzantine rites. During the ceremony, from behind the palm-trees, is heard the chorus of mourners, chanting a solemn dirge.

Théodora enters, and obtains a promise from Andréas not to leave his house until she can provide a safer hiding-place for him. But after her departure his fellow-conspirators convince him that she is an imposter and has betrayed them to the Emperor, thus causing the death of his friend, Marcellus. Andréas vows vengeance, and promises to give the signal for an attack on the Emperor at the Hippodrome on the following day.

The sixth scene represents the imperial box at the Hippodrome; on a raised daïs are the throne of the Emperor and the Empress's chair; around them the courtiers, arrayed in splendid costumes, glittering with embroideries of gold and precious stones. In the Paris production there were two hundred persons on the stage.

The Prætor, resplendent in his white tunic, embroidered with gold, his breast-plate shining with diamonds and rubies, and holding in his hand his golden rod of office,announces the Emperor. The guards arrange themselves in line, and Justinian enters with Théodora, preceded by the thurifers, bearing censers of chased gold. Bernhardt's dress in the scene was of bleu de ciel satin, with a train four yards long, covered with embroidered peacocks, with ruby eyes and feathers of emeralds and sapphires. It was the work of the most cunning embroiderers in Paris, and was a perfect mosaic of precious stones.

At the sight of the Emperor and Empress a tumult breaks out among the people, and Andréas, hurling insults and reproaches on the Emperor, is seized by the guards. He is about to be executed by the Emperor's order, when Théodora stays the officer, saying: "Let him be bound. This man belongs to me." The people now fly to arms, and engage in a conflict with Belisarius's mercenaries.

The next scene is in the crypt of the palace, through whose windows can be seen the flames of the burning city. Justinian believes the Empress guilty, and has determined to kill her, when the news comes that Belisarius has overcome the insurgents.

In the conflict Andréas has disappeared, and is thought to be dead, but Théodora finds him in one of the wild-beast vaults of the Hippodrome, where he has been concealed by Tamyris,who found him among the wounded. Andréas reproaches Théodora for her treachery,and she, in a her despair, calls on heaven to witness that she truly loves him. As he still repulses her,she suddenly remembers the love-philtre given her by Tamyris; taking advantage of the wounded man's weakness, she forces the philtre down his throat. But Tamyris had by mistake given her a poison intended for the Emperor, who had caused her son to be executed among the conspirators. Andréas dies in the most frightful agonies.

Théodora has no time to mourn her lover, for the large portals of the vault swing open; the executioner enters, and presents to Théodora a red silk cord. She understands; removing her pearl necklace, she bares her neck and adjusts the cord. Then, bowing her head over Andréas, she says to the executioner: "Now, I am ready," and Justinian's slave strangles her upon her lover's body.

[pp 136-7] We now arrive at the latest triumphs of the maître, the Bernhardt season at the Royal Opera House, where the famed artist at present writing daily packs one of the largest theatres in London with all that is fashionable, artistic, and cultivated of the great metropolis...

[p 91] ...Then comes [sic] those plays best known to the English public - that sequence of wonderful women with names ending in "a" - "Andrea," "Dora," "Fedora," "Theodora," and "La Tosca."


SOURCE: Plunkett, Jacques de., Fantômes et Souvenirs de la Port St. Martin, Paris 1946 {BM X439/3987}

[p 303] ... elle y rejoua {en 1884} Macbeth sans aucun succès, puis Théodora qui fut l'un des plus beaux triomphes de sa carrière et qui fut joué 200 fois de suite...

{Trans: ...she played again there {in 1884} in the role of Macbeth with no success, then Theodora which was one of the best triumphs of her career and which was played 200 times in succession...}


SOURCE: Bînet-Valmer. Sarah Bernhardt, Paris, 1936. {BM 010665 df 73}

[pp 96-97] La presse est unanime: la pièce de Sardou n'existe pas, seule Sarah existe! Cela suffit pour que Théodora atteigne la deux centième représentation à Paris. Elle sera jouée, avec le même succès, dès le début de l'été, en Belgique et en Angleterre.

{Trans: The press is unanimous: Sardou's play does not exist, only Sarah exists! That is enough for Theodora to reach its two hundredth performance in Paris. It will be played with the same success from the beginning of the summer in Belgium and England.}


SOURCE: Sardou, Victorien., Theodora, London, 1885. {BM 11740 f 20(3)}

{Contains a description of the sets but not of costumes}


SOURCE: Hart, Jerome, A., Sardou and the Sardou Plays, Philadelphia, 1913 {BM 010662 bb 7]

[pp 393-394] "Theodora" was first played in the United States at Niblo's Garden, New York on September 13, 1886. This was the first English translation,made by arrangement between Sardou and Miss Lillian Olcotte who played "Theodora". Other members of the cast were:

Andreas John H. Gilmore
Justinian Hudson Liston
Antonina Carrie G. Vinton
Tamyris Laura L. Phillips

"Théodora" (in French) was played at the Star Theatre, New York, in 1887, by Sarah Bernhardt.

"Théodora" (in French) was played at the Standard Theatre, New York, in November 1891 and at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in April, 1892, on Sarah Bernhardt's fourth American tour, the part of the Empress being taken by Madame Bernhardt.

[p 94] {RE: change of ending in the play - versus the real end of Theodora's life}

{Sardou} "It would be evidently absurd to make Mary Stuart die of consumption, Marie Antoinette of poison, or Jeanne d'Arc in her bed. But an end so obscure as that of Théodora authorizes me, I suppose, in imagining for her a death more Byzantine than the real one."

"Théodore" proved a brilliant success and ran for 257 nights... It has been described as the "greatest effort of mise-en-scène of the century" only surpassed on its revival by Sarah Bernhardt in 1902...


SOURCE: Hart, Jerome, A., Sardou and the Sardou Plays, Philadelphia, 1913 {BM 010662 bb 7]

[p 96] An adaptation of "Théodora" by Robert Buchanan was produced at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, November 1889.


SOURCE: Leroux, Xavier., Theodore, Drame en trois actes et six tableaux de Victor Sardou et Paul Ferrier, Musique de Xavier Leroux. (Dedication: A Son Altesse Sérénissime Le Prince Albert 1er de Monaco) {BM H 610 b}

Représenté pour la première fois au Théâtre de Monte-Carlo, le 19 Mars 1907.


SOURCE: Hartnoll, Phyllis, Ed., The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, London, 1951.

[p 701] Sardou (1831-1908)... Many of Sardou's plays were written for Sarah Bernhardt, to whom they owed much of their success. Sardou, who brought everything to a commonplace level, and judged a play solely as the vehicle for a popular success, has been the cockshy of many critics. Shaw, who disliked everything he stood for, coined the word Sardoodledom to epitomize his 'well-made' plays, while Henry James called him 'that supremely clever contriver.'


SOURCE: Houssaye, Henri., Aspasie, Cléopâtre, Théodora, Paris 1899 (Illustrations de A. Giraldou), {BM KTC 11 a 7}

[pp iii-iv] J'ai dedié ces trois études à trois amis illustres:

...le troisième, à Victorien Sardou, qui a exhumé Théodora de la poussière des chroniques pour la faire revivre dans Byzance relevé de ses ruines.

{Trans: I have dedicated these three studies to three famous friends:

... the third, to Victorien Sardou, who has exhumed Theodora from the dust of the chronicles to make her live again in a Byzantium raised from its ruins}

[See notes to above study for listing of primary sources for Theodora's history.]


SOURCE: Hartnoll, Phyllis, Ed., The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, London, 1951.

[p 76] BERNHARDT [Bernhard], Sarah Henriette Rosine (1845-1923), French actress, and one of the best known,not only in Europe but in American, both North and South, in Australia, and in Egypt, where she frequently appeared on tour. Numerous legends about her eccentricities were in circulation, some provoked by her undoubted unconventionality, others apocryphal. She was probablyone of the finest actresses the world has ever seen, and had a voicewhich, though likened to a 'golden bell', or the 'silver sound of running water', can never be adequately described to those who have not heard it. It constituted one of her main charms, added to a slim romantic figure, dark eyes,and a consummate mastery of her art.... In Paris she managed several theatres, including the Ambibu and the Porte-Saint-Martin, before opening the old Théâtre des Nations as the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. There she revived a number of her former successes and also appeared in some outstanding new plays. Among the plays in which she scored her greatest successes, apart from Phèdre, were La Dame aux camélias, Sarou's Fédora, Théodora, and La Tosca, the plays of Edmond Rostand, particularly L'Aiglon, which which her name is always associated and Hamlet...


SOURCE: Bacchi, Catherine Simon., Sarah Bernhardt: Mythe et Réalité, (n.d.) Paris. {LB 31 C1433}

[p 84] [Three photographs of SB in different costumes. Note quote: Le Théâtre, No 75, février 1902. Nous tous nous répétons à l'envi: "Théodora est la plus belle et plus complète création de la carrière de Madame Sarah Bernhardt. Elle s'y met tout entiére. Elle y est tragédienne et commédienne, énergique et souple, gracieuse et terrible. Elle est incomparable. Elle est extraordinaire.]

{Trans: We all repeat to our heart's delight: Theodora is the most beautiful and most complete creation of Madame Sarah Bernhardt's career. She puts her all into it. In it, she is both a tragedien and a comedien, energetic and supple, gracious and terrible. She is incomparable. She is extraordinary.}


SOURCE: Skinner, Cordelia Otis., Madame Sarah London 1967 {BM X 909 9931}

... She played the exotic Empress with tigerish abandon. Lemaître among the other cheering critics wrote of the aura about her that made one think of Salomé, of Salambô [sic], of the fantastic queens of Gustave Moreau.


SOURCE: The New York Times, 18 September 1892.

London Season Opened. The costume which Mme Sarah Bernhardt will wear in Mr. Oscar Wilde's one-act play "Salome" which was forbidden to be produced in London, consists of two parts, the long flowing under-robe being of cloth of gold of splendid texture, which costs £12 a yard. This golden under-garment is embroidered all over with large pale blue and salmon-colored flowers with pearl centres of delicate shape, outlined with gold. Over this foundations hangs a shorter robe of brilliant yellow silk gauze, also embroidered with huge flowers with jeweled centres. Mme Bernhardt has a special predeliction for embroidery of the richest and most superb designs. Of the more common and less expensive style of appliqué work she will have none on her stage dresses. {My emphasis-RH}


SOURCE: Skinner, Cordelia Otis., Madame Sarah London 1967 {BM X 909 9931}

[p 205] Sardou's enthusiasm for historical authenticity was shared by his star. Weeks before ordering her costumes, she journed to Ravenna and stood long hours in the Church of San Vitale studying the magnificent mosaics with their startling portraits of Theodora and Justinian staring menacingly forth from barbaric gold. She made sketches of every robe, every fold, every detail or ornamentation. When she returned to Paris she had completed in detail a dressmaker's design for each outfit, as well as those for her stage jeweller, even to that death-dealing hairpin. Her wardrobe along cost more than the average production. Her costumer figured out that toiling in her work rooms she and her assistants had sewn on by hand more than 4,500 'gems'.


SOURCE: Stokes, John; Booth, Michael, R, & Bessnett, Susan., Bernhardt, Terry, DuseThe Actress in Her Time, Cambridge, 1988 {BM YH 1988 b 723}

[p 37] It was in Théodora that the collaboration between Sardou and Bernhardt reached its apogée, impressing Emile Perrin, director of the Comédie Française as 'the greatest achievement in mise-en-scène of the nineteenth century.

[p 38] The greatest impact [of the play] came, of course, from its visual effects devised by Félix Duquesnel and some of the most prestigious stage designers of the time, men who had worked at the Comédie Française and the Opéra. The scale of their ingenuity can now only be appreciated by examining the coloured illustrations and detailed descriptions produced at the time in magazines like Les Premières Illustrées.*

*[see also Le Théâtre, February 1902]

Théodora had eight tableaux in all (five in later revivals)...

1. Justian's Palace (design by Carpézat)...
2. The Aisles of the Hippodrome (by Rubé and Chapéron)
3. Andréas's House (by Carpézat)
4. Justinian's Workroom (by Robecchi)
5. The Gardens of Styrax (by Lemeusnier)
6. The Imperial Lodge at the Hippodrome (by Rubé and Chapéron)
7. Palace Room (by Robecchi)
8. Underneath the Hippodrome...

[p 42] All eyes are now on Théodora, who is enveloped in a costume inspired by the Byzantine mosaics in the church of San Vitale at Ravenna: her flower patterend tunic set with precious stones, her blue satin cloak emblazoned with peacocks in sapphires, emeralds and rubies, her head covered by a bejewelled helmet, her face obscured by a yellow veil...

Théodora obviously presages the bourgeois theatre so much derided by Brecht, what Roland Barthes called the 'debauch of imitation,' which 'achieved pandemonium of costume'*

* The Diseases of Costume. Critical essays. Translated by Richard Howard (Evanston Northwestern University Press, 1972


SOURCE: Newspaper cuttings from the Russo-Turkish War {BM 12620-K8}

Un autograph de Sardou. [1885]

"Oui, mon cher Meyer, il y a un Théodora italienne et une Théodora anglaise, et de plus une pièce française intitulée: l'impératrice et la juive; et j'aime mieux avouer toute de suite que, fidèle à mes habitudes, c'est avec ces trois pièces que j'ai fait la mienne."

{Trans: Yes, my dear Meyer. There is an Italian Theodora and an English Theodora, and another French play entitled "Theodora and the Jewess"; and I want to admit straight away that, as is my wont, I have made my play with these three others. - This was in answer to criticisms that Sardou's play was not an original subject and that he included anachronisms it - all of which accusations he rebuffed and proved groundless}


La Soirée Parisienne. 27(?).12.1884 {no page no.}

"Quant à Théodore, il est impossible d'être plus belle, plus charmante et plus imposante à la fois. C'est la reproduction exact de ce type de vierge [sic] byzantine qui est le fond de toutes les images russes. Son corps souple est à peine maintenu par la robe de drap d'or brodé tout au tour de la jupe de têtes d'ange en soie de couleur. Sur les épaules, un splendide manteau en satin jaune vif couvert de broderies d'or et de topazes. La tête est coiffée du bandeau byzantin en pierres précieuses; ce bandeau est, pour aussi dire, le point de départ de la coiffure russe, le kakochnik. Elle porte à la main une branche de lis,la fleur favorite de Théodora, qui paraît-il, aimait les contrastes."

Deuxième entrée de Sarah Bernhardt: costume de petite bourgeoise qui fait ses farces: robe de mousseline crème, brodée de fleurs grises à peine perceptibles, en forme de tunique, fendue sous les bras et laissant voir un corsage de dessous brodé comme la robe.

Troisième* - un étincellent! Tunique brodée de grosses fleurs formées de pierreries de toutes couleurs. Pour coiffeure, un casque couvert de pierreries. Sur la figure, un voile de gaze jaune cachant le bas du visage à la manière des femmes mauresques. Et le fameux manteau impérial, reproduction exacte du manteau de l'impératrice de l'Orient, lequel dit-on, ne valait pas moins de trois millions. Une merveille, ce manteau en satin bleu brodé d'or et semé de paons héraldiques en saphirs, émeraudes et rubis.

* See exhibits for illustrations

La traîne a quatre mètres de long et est portée par deux dames d'honneur...

M. Garnier porte un costume bleu brodé, et Sarah Bernhardt un costume de sultane en soie blanche brodée de fleurs d'or dont le centre est en perles.

{Trans: As for Theodora, it is impossible to be more beautiful, more charming and more imposing at the same time. She is an exact reproduction of that type of Byzantine virgin which is the foundation of all the Russian images. Her supple body can hardly bear the weight of the robe in golden material embroidered all around the skirt with angels heads in coloured silk. On her shoulders there is a splendid cloak in bright yellow satin covered in embroideries of gold and topaz. Her head is ornamented with a Byzantine band in precious stones; this band is, so to speak, the point of departure of the Russian head-dress, the kakochnik. She carries in her hand a lily, the favourite flower of Theodora, who, it seems, liked contrasts.

Sarah Bernhardt's second entrance: the costume of a petite bourgoise 'on the game': a robe of cream muslin, embroidered with barely visible grey flowers in the form of a tunic, split under the arms and showing an underslip embroidered like the robe.

Third - A brilliant tunic embroidered with huge flowers made of precious stones in all colours. On her head, a casket covered in precious stones. Over her face, a yellow gauze veil hiding the lower part of her face in the manner of moorish women. And the famous imperial cloak, an exact reproduction of the cloak of the Empress of the Orient, which, it is said, was worth no less than three million. A marvel, this cloak in blue satin embroidered with gold and strewn with 'heraldic peacocks' in saphires, emeralds and rubies.

The train is four meters long and carried by two ladies in waiting.

Mr. Garnier wears a blue embroidered costume and Sarah Bernhardt the costume of a Sultana in white silk embroidered with golden flowers with pearl centres.}


SOURCE: Arwas, Victor., Alphonse Mucha, Master of Art Nouveau, London 1985.

[Page 10] His work at this time included drawing for the Figaro Illustré, the Revue Mame and L'Illustration... Best of all, however, he became a regular contributor to Le Costume au Théâtre {1890's ?} - CHECK!

Mucha's Art Nouveau period dates from the end of 1894. The legend, created by Mucha himself and elaborated over the years, is set in the offices of Lemercier, a well-known printer. Mucha was there alone over Christmas... Monsieur de Brunoff, Lemercier's manager, rushed in and informed him that Sarah Bernhardt had just telephoned to say she needed a poster to be ready by New Year's Day. It was for Sardou's play Gismonda;... De Brunoff was horrified. He was certain Sarah would reject the poster... The poster and a copy sent directly to the Théâtre de la Renaissance.... Feeling like a condemned man on his way to the scaffold, Mucha went [to the theatre], only to find Sarah entranced by her image in the poster. She loved the work, welcomed Mucha, and soon tied him into a contract with her to design not only posters, theatre cards and programmes, but also costumes and stage sets - a collaboration that often extended to the whole production.

[p 12 - description of Gismonda poster] Mucha took Sarah away from realistic props, and turned the whole image into a contemporary icon. Byzantine gold imagery had been used in other posters for Sarah - notably by Manuel Orazi and Auguste Gorguet -but Mucha's Byzantinism was no mere decoration, but rather an intricately conceived conceit. Lit by church candles and smelling of incense, it subtly transformed Sarah into the Holy Virgin, a role she clearly relished.... Mucha had devised the perfect image for a 'sacred monster', a secular icon. He was not to depart from this formula in the major posters he executed for Sarah over the next few years.


Check - a famous poster of Bernhardt as Theodora - by Alphonse Mucha ?

For photographs of Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora see:


Spivakoff, Pierre., Sarah Bernhardt vue par les Nadar, Published by Herscher, Paris 1982. {BM L 45/2630}

Sarah Bernhardt 1844-1923, Collections Im. Phot, Published by Fildier Cartophiles, Paris 1980. See plates on pages 38, 39, 40, as Theodora.


SOURCE: Sotheby's Catalogue {BM SCS92) 23 October 1980} - Design for Sarah Bernhardt as Théodora in the Hippodrome Scene

Sarah Bernhardt as Théodorain profile and Sarah Bernhardt as Théodora - by Walter Spindler


SOURCE: Arwas, Victor., Alphonse Mucha, Master of Art Nouveau, London 1985. {JM}

See for colour plates of Sarah Bernhardt theatre productions - note use of byzantine mosaic motif and also page 48 L'Estampe Moderne: Salammbô, 1897 Revue


SOURCE: Wilpert,Joseph., Die Römischen Mosaiken und Malereien der kirchlichen Bauten von IV. bis XIII Jahrhundert, Freiburg-im-Bresgau, 1916.

[Vol iv, p 213] Brustbild einer Heiligen. Basilika des hl. Klemens (847-855) See for busts of women - note headdresses generally show a cross made of pearls, not as in Bernhardt's Theodora costume.

[Vol iv p 224] Christus in Paradies zwischen Märtyren. S. Maria in Pallara (973-977) See for costume of S. Sebastian.

Also: [Vol iii p 16]. Moses wird der Tochter Pharaos zurückgegeben: S. Maria Maggiore (352-366)


SOURCE: L'Illustration Théâtrale, Paris, 7 September 1907, {BM PP 4283 m(2)}

THÉODORA, Drame en cinq actes et sept tableaux par Victorien Sardou, de l'Académie française. Représenté pour la première fois au théàtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin le 26 décembre 1885. (frontespiece)

See for drawings by Emile Bayard, photographs by Larcher taken during revival of Théodora at the Sarah-Bernhardt Theatre in January 1902.

Andréas et Théodora écoutant la chanson des verts [ p 17]


Acte III (Scene vii) Marcellus to Théodora, "Yes or no, do you wish to kill me now?"

Théodora's entrance into the great hall of the palace.

Théodora: "And this philtre, have you used it?"

Parthoenis: "We are visiting the menagerie..."

Théodora: "Are you leaving?.. Is there some danger?"

Andréas and Théodora listen to the Greens' song.


VIth Tableau (Scene III) - Théodora on her knees next to Andréas.

Théodora: "Let me take care of him, cure him like a friend."

Death of Théodora.


SOURCE: Berchem, Marguerite van, et Clouzot, Etienne., Mosaïques Chrètiennes du IVme au Xme Siècle, Geneva, 1924 {BM 7808 p 25}

See for Photography of Ravenna mosaics {Alinari numbers - Naples museums collections ?}, plus mosaic portrait presumed to be Theodora preserved in the Baracco Museum in Rome.


SOURCE: Premières Illustrées, Les, (3-4), 1884, {BN 4of 7}

{See for drawings of Sarah Bernhardt in the various costumes of Theodora as well as the sets - as well as a discussion of the 'anachronisms' in the sets. -

Note: Sketches for Sarah Bernhardt's costumes by Monsieur Orazi


SOURCE: Les Premières Illustrées (3-4) 1883-1884 {BN4oyf 7}

See throughout for sketches of Théodora's costumes by Thomas and Orazi, as well as detailed sketches of the sets for each act.




Arwas, Victor., Alphonse Mucha, Master of Art Nouveau, London 1985. {JM}
Bacchi, Catherine Simon., Sarah Bernhardt: Mythe et Réalité, (n.d.) Paris. {LB 31 C1433}
Berchem, Marguerite van, et Clouzot, Etienne., Mosaïques Chrètiennes du IVme au Xme Siècle, Geneva, 1924 {BM 7808 p 25}
Bordèse, L., Théodore, Grand Scène. Paroles de Louis de Peyre, Paris, 1885. {BM H 2490 g (12)}
Bridge, Antony., Theodora, London 1978
Browning, R., Justinian and Theodora, London 1971
Clément, Félix & Larousse, Pierre., Dictionaire des Opéras, Paris, 1904(?).
Demus, O., Byzantine Mosaic Decoration, London, 1948.
Diehl. C., Théodora,Impératrice de Byzance, Paris, 1904.
Houssaye, Henri., Aspasie, Cléopâtre, Théodora, Paris 1899 (Illustrations de A. Giraldou), {BM KTC 11 a 7}
Les Premières Illustrées (3-4) 1883-1884 {BN4oyf 7}
L'Illustration Théàtrale, Paris, 7 September 1907, {BM PP 4283 m(2)}
Leroux, Xavier., Theodore, Drame en trois actes et six tableaux de Victor Sardou et Paul Ferrier, Musique de Xavier Leroux. {BM H 610 b}
Mucha, Alphonse - Bibliography. Bridges, Ann (ed) Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Graphic Works, London 1980. Mucha All Colour Paperback, London 1976. Ovenden, Graham., Mucha Photographs, London 1974.
New York Times, The, 18 September 1892.
Plunkett, Jacques de., Fantômes et Souvenirs de la Port St. Martin, Paris 1946 {BM X439/3987}
Premières Illustrées, Les, (3-4), 1883-1884, {BN 4of 7}
Quitt, J., Der Mosaikzyklus von San Vitale., Wien, 1903 {not seen}
Roosevelt, Blanche., Victorien Sardou, London, 1892 {BM 010662 g 6}
Sardou, Victorien., Theodora, London, 1885. {BM 11740 f 20(3)}
Skinner, Cordelia Otis., Madame Sarah London 1967 {BM X 909 9931}
Stieger, Franz., Opera Lexikon. Tutzing, 1975.
Stokes, John; Booth, Michael, R, & Bessnett, Susan., Bernhardt, Terry, Duse: The Actress in Her Time, Cambridge, 1988 {BM YH 1988 b 723}
Ühle, J., Die Mosaiken von Ravenna, Basel, 1924 {not seen}

 Reference Images

Artist: Gorguet & Orazi French (1862-1927)
Plate: PL. 214

Title: Theodora
Description: Condition A. Original lithograph from "Les Maitre de L'Affiches" series.
Printed by Imprimerie Chaix, Paris, 1900.
Maitre Sheet Size: 11 3/8 in x 15 3/4 in
29 cm x 40 cm

"Although mostly known as a master of subtle colour shadings, Orazi could also surprise us with an entirely atypical design like this one for a play whose theme required a classicist approach. The description of this poster in the 1896 Reims catalogue indicates that the "Byzantine mosaic decor" is by Orazi and the design is by Auguste Francois Gouruet (1862-1927), Maindron declared this important work 'une affiche parfaite' and Sagot, in his 1891 catalogue, said it exhibits a 'Tres belle composition.' It may well be the first poster ever done for Sarah Bernhardt." (Rennert, PAI-XXVII, 541)

Photograph by Downey