Sara Torsslow

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Sara Torsslow
File:Sara Torsslow-1847.jpg
Born Sara Fredrica Strömstedt
11 June 1795
Died 18 June 1859
Other names Sara Strömstedt
Spouse(s) Ulrik Torsslow

Sara Fredrica Torsslow, née Strömstedt (11 June 1795 - 18 June 1859) was a Swedish actress at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm and one of the most popular and notable actors in Swedish history.


As the daughter of a spice merchant, Strömstedt was accepted as a student in the theatre school Dramatens elevskola in 1807, where she received an invaluable education, in particular from Maria Franck, one of the greatest stars on the Swedish stage in the first decade of the 19th century; in 1811, she was employed as an actress and, in the following year, she was contracted as a premier actress. She did, however, by no means start out as a "great promise"; she had been a student-actor for four years before she was contracted, and the Theater direction hired her with some reluctance, with the intent to only use her in supporting parts. Her talent matured slowly, but by the 1820s, she was one of the most important members of the Theater's staff.

She was described as an intelligent person with good judgement and energy that was only encouraged by resistance. Her strength lay in emotional, passionate parts. Her voice was a powerful and deep alto, and she was compared with Adelaide Ristori in her style. Although it was once said that she was capable of playing any part, and she triumphed both in comedy and tragedy, it is as a tragedienne that she is most remembered. She played an appreciated Lady Macbeth and Lucrezia Borgia. She was also often used for breeches roles, in which she was described as very handsome.

There was no rivalry with the other female star of her generation, Charlotta Eriksson, as their style of acting differed to a degree that avoided any invidious comparison. Rather, Torsslow and Eriksson were considered to complement each other well and played very well together; Crusenstolpe claimed in the press that nothing was lacking when he saw them do so: "The illusion is so complete, that one thought one lived in reality" with the characters they portrayed. Wikström called her performances "an almost terrible natural truth". She was most frequently used in tragedies, where "her male voice, the grand figure, the deep emotions and the grotesque gestures could display themselves freely".

In the press, Sara Fredrica Strömstedt-Torsslow, Charlotta Eriksson and Elisabeth Frösslind were compared to a rose or a tulip, a jasmine or a daisy, and a lily or a myosotis; Torsslow was claimed to represent "the deeply moving", Eriksson "the sensitive pleasantness and the female lovability" and Frösslind "the small sweetness, wittiness and naivety".

In 1825, the Swedish audience adopted the French habit of calling in individual actors after a performance, and Sara Torsslow was the first actor called out on stage in this way after the play Virginia, performed 16 January 1825.


In 1830 she married actor Ulrik Torsslow (1801–1881), who was six years her junior. Together they were called "Twin stars of the first order in the sky of Art" and were regarded as the most notable male and female stars of their generation. They had both the fame and the position that they needed to launch two major strikes - indeed, the biggest strikes in the theatre's history - known as "the first Torsslow argument" (in 1827) and "the second Torsslow argument" (in 1834): the first concerned an unpopular director and the second related to an issue of wages, when the actors were displeased with the theatre's plans to replace their percent of the income with wages. They succeeded with their first strike, but the authorities were prepared for the second and, determined to avoid a repetition, crushed the unity of the actors by raising the wages of some and dismissing the others with a pension.

The first strike in 1827 was caused by reforms planned by the director Puke. He planned to abolish the recett (benefit) performances (which gave the whole income from one play to one of the participants) and the actors' shares in the theatre and replace them with a fixed salary. This did not have the support of the actors, as fixed salaries were in most cases low, and the benefit performances and shares were necessary to their personal budgets. Puke had also made himself unpopular with a frequent use of the old disciplinarian rules against the actors, such as the right of the director to place an actor in house arrest in his or her dressing-room. The strike prevented the reform, but all the old rules were kept, as well as the disliked disciplinarian rules; for example, the arrest was abolished only for female actors. The discontent of the old system was voiced by Elisabeth Frösslind, who, when director Puke asked her if she was satisfied with the settlement, answered; "Oh yes, the only thing it lacks is flogging." The next strike was therefore near, and it took place in 1834. This time, the shares was abolished, the salaries were fixed, and the participants of the strike were fired. Some of them, such as Charlotta Eriksson, were only fired so they could be hired again at lower wages.

Breaking the royal theatre monopoly

The Torsslows left the Royal Dramatic Theatre after the strike of 1834, bringing with them a large number of the most popular actors of the day. The theatre monopoly of the royal stages banned other theatres, but they performed in Djurgårdsteatern, a theatre which was normally used only in summer by travelling companies and therefore not regarded as a threat to the monopoly. The Torsslow couple overtook the special right of this theatre from the former director with Pierre Deland, from 1837 alone; firstly, they performed in Djurgårdsteatern in summer and toured the country in winter, but from 1839, they challenged the Royal Theatre's monopoly in Stockholm by performing at Djurgårsteatern also in winter, and thus creating a new theatre. Here they entered upon a period of renewed success in their careers: their initiative broke the Royal Theatre's monopoly in Stockholm and it was abolished in 1842. In 1843, they became part owners in the new theatre founded by Anders Lindeberg when the monopoly was abolished, Nya Teatern, and managed this theatre between 1846-1854.


In 1853, Sara Torsslow was forced to retire after a number of repeated colds that devastated her health, colds she is said to have contracted during the many performances in thin clothes on drafty and cold stages. She died six years later. Her husband Ulrik Torsslow returned to the Royal Dramatic Theatre in 1856 and retired in 1861. Their private life was said to have been very happy, but their income poor.

Her daughter, Helfrid Kinmansson, and her granddaughter, Valborg Moberg, also became known actresses.

See also


  • Carin Österberg: Svenska kvinnor (Swedish Women) (In Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan, "Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar; Första bandet, 1773-1842." (Swedish),(Swedish Theatre and Swedish actors from the days of Gustav III to our days, First book, 1772-1842.")
  • Georg Nordensvan, "Svensk teater och svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar; Andra bandet, 1842-1918." (Swedish),(Swedish Theatre and Swedish actors from the days of Gustav III to our days, Second book, 1842-1918.")