Vestris, Lucia Elizabeth (Bartolozzi)

Vestris, Lucia Elizabeth (Bartolozzi) bärtōlôt´sē vĕs´trĭs [key], 1797–1856, English actress and manager, the first woman to be a lessee of a theater. The daughter of a music and fencing teacher, she made an unsuccessful marriage at 16 to Armand Vestris, her ballet master. Following her debut (1815) in Italian opera, she acted at the Comédie Française with Talma, who suggested to her the ideas on realism in costuming that she was later to develop. After her success as Don Giovanni in a burlesque of Mozart's opera in 1820, Vestris became known for her natural style as a ballad-singing comedienne in light opera and in breeches parts (male roles). Not satisfied with contemporary methods of production, she leased the Olympic Theatre, London, in 1831, and was an instant success as manager and director. At great expense, she redecorated the theater and used realistic stage settings and real props; she was perhaps the first to use the box set complete with ceiling. Vestris produced Shakespearean comedies, with attention to text and historical accuracy, as well as burlesques and farces. She married Charles James Mathews in 1838 on the eve of what was to be an unsuccessful American tour and from 1839 to 1842 managed Covent Garden with him. In 1841 they produced Boucicault's London Assurance. In 1847 they took over the Lyceum, where they introduced French plays to England.

See R. Gilder, Enter the Actress (1931); W. W. Appleton, Madame Vestris and the London Stage (1974).

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