SONNENTHAL, ADOLF RITTER VON:
Austrian actor; born at Budapest Dec. 21, 1834. He was the son of humble parents, and spent his boyhood as a tailor's apprentice, working at his trade until his sixteenth year, when he went to Vienna to better his condition. On his first evening in the Austrian capital the boy visited the Hofburgtheater and witnessed a performance of "Der Erbförster," which made such an impression upon him that he sought out Dawison, then in the zenith of his fame, and announced his determination to become an actor. Dawison, at first amused by the lad's audacity, soon became interested in him, and finally placed him in the care of Laube, who permitted him to study at the Hofburgtheater.
Having gleaned a superficial knowledge of acting, Sonnenthal made his début Oct. 30, 1851, at the Stadttheater, Temesvar, as Phöbus in "Thürmer von Notre-Dame." The next five years he spent in touring various small towns of Hungary, and after three stays of considerable duration at Hermannstadt (1852), Gratz (1854), and Königsberg (1855) respectively, he made his Vienna début at the Hofburg-theater (May 18, 1856) as Mortimer in "Maria Stuart." He failed to please either public or critics, and would have been dismissed if he had not triumphed the next evening as Herzog in Hackländer's "Der Geheime Agent." When he repeated his success as Don Carlos, Laube engaged him for the next three years; and on the expiration of that time, for a life tenure.
In 1870 Sonnenthal was appointed assistant manager, and in 1884 chief manager, of the Hofburgtheater; and from 1887 to 1888 he acted as its director. His twenty-fifth anniversary at this theater was celebrated by all Vienna, and the emperor conferred an order of nobility upon the former Jewish tailor's apprentice. In 1896 the celebration of his fortieth anniversary was marred by the anti-Semitic feeling of the Vienna city council, which, because of his race, refused to extend the freedom of the city to him.
Sonnenthal's repertoire is most extensive, and in spite of his unattractive features he has succeeded in rôles that demand a pleasing personality, such as Romeo, Kean, and Egmont. Of other parts played by him may be mentioned: Hamlet, Macbeth, Wallenstein, Uriel Acosta, Nathan der Weise, Othello, Bolingbroke, Fiesco, Marcel de Prie in "Wildfeuer," Rochester in "Waise von Lowood," Bolz, Narciss, Graf Waldemar, Fürst Lübbenau in "Aus der Gesellschaft," Fox in "Pitt und Fox," Ringelstern, Pasa, Raoul Gérard in "Aus der Komischen Oper," König in "Esther," Faust, Tell, Clavigo, Nero, Fritz Marlow, Kerbriand, Mellefont in "Miss Sara Sampson," Marc Antony, Richard II., Henry VI., Fabricius, and Graf Trast.
- Ludwig Eisenberg, Adolf Sonnenthal, Dresden, 1900;
- A. Bettelheim, Biographische Blätter, 1896, pp. 441 et seq.;
- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon;
- Das Geistige Wien, i. 535-536;
- Kohut, Berühmte Israelitische Männer und Frauen, pp. 227 et seq.;
- Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1891, p. 190.