Fanny Westerdahl

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Fanny Westerdahl
File:143-Fanny Westerdahl-PST7.jpg
Born Fanny Amalia Westerdahl
21 February 1817
Stockholm, Sweden
Died 27 March 1873
Stockholm, Sweden
Other names Fanny Hjortsberg
Spouse(s) Carl Edvard Hjortsberg

Fanny Amalia Westerdahl, also Fanny Hjortsberg (21 February 1817 - 27 March 1873), was a Swedish stage actress,[1][2] who performed from 1829 to 1862.[2] She also participated in some opera performances. She is counted as one of the most notable dramatic actresses at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in mid-19th-century Sweden.[3]


Fanny Westerdahl was accepted as a student at Dramatens elevskola in 1828. Her father was a concert conductor.[2] She debuted in 1829 (at age 12), and had her breakthrough in 1831, as "Carolina" in Baschan in Suresne.[2] She was made premier actress at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in 1836.[1]

Fanny Westerdahl belonged to the elite of dramatic actors on the Swedish stage of her time, which can also be seen at her salary: in 1843, she had a salary of 1400 $. In comparisson, she had the same salary as Anders Selinder, the Ballet master of the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the stars Emilie Högquist and Nils Almlöf had 1600.[3] She retired in 1862, but continued as a guest actor for several years.

Westerdahl was a dramatic actress, but she also occasionally participated in some opera performances, such as when she replaced Elisabeth Frösslind in Cendrillon.[2] In dramatic parts, she is considered to have filled the place of Sara Torsslow in the theatre.

Her best-known roles include: "Louise" in Kabal and Kärlek, "Johanna af Montfaucon" or "Griselda", Amalia in Röfvarbandet, and "Katarina Månsdotter" in Erik XIV.[1] Her singing roles include "Cendrillon" and "Papagena" in Trollflöyten, and "Bettly" in Alphyddan.[2]


Fanny Westerdahl was described as beautiful, with good voice technique, both while speaking and singing, with a fast and skillful mimick and a good comprehension of her part.[3] In 1838, she made a study trip to Paris. In 1849, she was named as the only one of the theatre's actresses truly suited for great drama and recommended for her natural warmth and "mild passion".[3] Westerdahl gave a sample of her improvisation skills in one of her popular parts, where she played a bandit: in one of her scenes, she was to shoot her co-actor, Georg Dahlqvist, but the gun did not work as it should. Instead, she hit him with it, which caused him to faint for real. When he came to, he complimented her with the words: "You are sublime!"[3]

In 1858, Westerdahl was considered an example of the outdated old recitative way of acting. When she wished to play one of her old heroine parts, she was told: "Madam is too old!"[3] At this point, she was described as overweight, a drunk and with a frivolous mouth, but talented in comedy, and she was recommended by August Bournonville as an example of good instinct and fantasy in contrast to mere education.[3]

Private life

Fanny Westerdahl was born in Stockholm, Sweden on 21 February 1817.[1][2]

She was married in 1837 to the actor Carl Edvard Hjortsberg, son of Lars Hjortsberg, and divorced in 1849.[1] After her divorce, she called herself Mrs Westerdahl.[3]

Fanny Westerdahl died in Stockholm, on 27 March 1873.[1][2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 (Swedish) Nordisk familjebok, Volume 17. V - Väring, Projekt Runeberg (, 2011, p. 689/690, webpage: RB349.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 (Swedish) Europas konstnärer (Europe's Art), Projekt Runeberg (, July 2011, p. 629, webpage: RB633.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 (Swedish) Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III til våra dagar. Första bandet 1773-1842 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days. First book 1772-1842)
  • (Swedish) Georg Nordensvan: Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare. Första bandet 1773-1842 (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors from Gustav III to our days. First book 1772-1842).