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CHRONEGK, LUDWIG:

German actor; born at Brandenburg-on-the-Havel Nov. 3, 1837; died at Meiningen July 8, 1890. He was the stage-manager and "Intendanzrath" of the famous Meininger troupe established at Weimar by Duke George of Meiningen. Chronegk had but little schooling, as his bent for the stage asserted itself while he was still a boy. At eighteen he went to Paris to study French methods. A year later, 1856, he returned to Berlin, where he continued in histrionic training under Görner, the manager of Kroll's Theater. On being graduated, Chronegk went to Liegnitz, Görlitz, Hamburg (Thalia Theater), and Leipsic (Standttheater), playing juvenile rôles.

In 1866 he joined the Meiningers, with whom he acted until 1870, when he became "regisseur." Two years later he was appointed stage-director, and from that time dates the fame of both company and director. Chronegk, whose eye for stage-realism was far in advance of his time, realized that the puppet-like maneuvers of the supernumeraries were neither natural nor graceful, and he took each individual in hand and converted him or her into an independent force. He reanimated the various individuals of the mobs, caused them to act as human beings, and in so doing revolutionized German stage-methods. This course antagonized the conservative element, and in consequence Chronegk was denounced by members of his profession, and more particularly by a short-sighted press. He persisted, however, and lived to see his methods indorsed and imitated.

But whatever good Chronegk accomplished in this one direction, he almost counteracted by the harm he did in another. In perfecting the ensemble, he sacrificed the individual, and as a consequence the Meiningers gave performances which, though exceptional as a whole, were yet full of flaws when viewed critically and analytically. When the company appeared in London in 1881, this fact was most apparent, especially in "Julius Cæsar," which was produced with a Brutus so pitifully weak as to mar the entire performance. It was the same with "Othello," in which Ludwig Barnay alone escaped being classed as respectably mediocre.

During the twenty-six years that Chronegk was with the Meiningers, from May 1, 1874—when they first appeared at the Friedrich-Wilhelm Theater, Berlin—until 1890, he staged 2,591 plays, in eighteen foreign and eighteen German cities.

Bibliography:
  • The Theatre, iii. 328-332, iv. 102-105;
  • Meyers, Konversations-Lexikon.
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