Talma, François Joseph (fräNswäˈ zhôzĕfˈ tälmäˈ) [key], 1763–1826, French actor. The greatest tragedian of his time, he broke with tradition and foreshadowed the romanticists. He continued Lekain's reforms, paying close attention to costume, and employing gestures and a more emotive and less declamatory style of acting. In 1787 he made his debut at the Comédie Française in Voltaire's Mahomet and in 1789 gained fame in Marie-Joseph Chenier's Revolutionary play, Charles IX. Avoiding controversy during the Revolution, Talma left the Comédie Française and set up his own theater, called the Théâtre de la République, which was eventually united (1799) with the Comédie Française. He was the leading actor during the Empire, and a favorite of Napoleon.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.