Rachel (räshĕlˈ) [key], stage name of Élisa Félix ālēˈzä fālēksˈ, 1821–58, French actress, b. Switzerland. Exploited by her father in her childhood, she sang in the streets with her sister Sarah. In Paris, showing great promise at the Théâtre Molière school, she entered the Gymnase (1833) and in 1838 made her debut with great success at the Comédie Française in Corneille's Horace. In 1841–42, after a sensational success in London, Rachel gained acclaim throughout Europe. She was applauded in all the major works of Racine and Corneille, Phèdre (1843) being her best role. She created the title role in Scribe's Adrienne Lecouvreur in 1849. Rachel appeared in the United States with fair success in 1855 (she knew little English) and on this visit aggravated the tuberculosis that led to her death three years later. Regarded as the greatest actress of her day, her clear diction, rhythmic speech, and economy of gesture contrasted with the exaggerated style of the time.
See M. Cost, I, Rachel (1957).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Theater: Biographies