Gyda Christensen

Also known as: Gyda Christensen Hambro, Gyda Andersen, Gyda Monrad Krohn

Gyda Christensen (née Gyda Martha Kristine Andersen, also known as Gyda Monrad Krogh and Gyda Christensen Hambro 1872-1964) was a Norwegian actress, dancer, pedagogue, choreographer, director and theatre manager. She started the ballet school of The National Theatre in 1910 and for three terms (1932-33, 1935-36 and 1939-1945) she headed Det Nye Teater, later part of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre).

Gyda Christensen was the mother of actress Lillebil Ibsen. She was married thrice, with Georg Monrad Krohn (the father of Lillebil Ibsen), theatre director Halfdan Christensen and editor, leader of The Conservative Party of Norway (Høyre) and president of the parliament Carl Joachim Hambro.


(Objekt ID 21289)
Object type Person
Also known as Gyda Christensen Hambro, Gyda Andersen, Gyda Monrad Krohn
Born May 21, 1872 (dead August 20, 1964)
Functions Director, Choreographer, Actor, Dancer, Pedagog, Theatre director
Nationality Norwegian
Gender Female

Gyda Christensen was active as a concert singer prior to her debut as an actress in The Bells of Corneville (AKA The Chimes of Normandy) at Christiania Theater in the season of 1893/94. She worked for Christiania Theater until she transferred to The National Theatre when it opened in 1899.

At The National Theatre she worked as an actress, dancer and choreographer until 1920, with interruptions to work in Germany, where she took assignments as a choreographer and pedagogue for Deutsches Theater in Berlin, under the direction of Max Reinhardt. During this period her daughter, Lillebil Ibsen, was schooled by Reinhardt and then achieved a position as one of the most important dancers in the ensemble From 1910 Gyda Christensen also managed the ballet school of The National Theatre.

From 1920 to 1928 she worked as an instructor and actress at Centralteatret, and from 1928 to 1945 she was an employee of Det Nye Teater in Oslo, first as an actress and instructor, and for the periods of 1932-33, 1935-36 and 1939-1945 also the head of the theatre.

She received formal and informal dance schooling from The Royal Danish Ballet's pedagogue Emilie Walbom, from Michel Fokine and from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Monte Carlo.

As an actress Gyda Christensen interpreted a varied repertoire. At The National Theatre her very first role was in the theatre's opening performance, Holberg's The Lying-In Room (September 1 1899). Later her roles included Anitra in Peer Gynt (1902), Antigone in Oedipus the King (1907), Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow (1908), Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld (1913) and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion.

During her years at Centralteatret she interpreted leading parts in plays including Ferenc Herczeg's The Blue Fox and Frederick Lonsdale's Spring Cleaning, the role of the mummy in Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata and Nora in A Doll's House (1922), Thea Elvsted in Hedda Gabler and the title role of O'Neill's Anna Christie in 1924. She played the main character of Shaw's Candida when it had its Norwegian premiere the spring of 1928.

During her time as the head of Det Nye Teater she made the Norwegian theatre audiences familiar with a number of European playwrights. She had a strong interest for modern Russian and French theatre, and chose Leonid Andreyev's Thought and Edouard Bourdet's Times Have Changed, among other texts, to be performed during the season of 1933/34. But she also staged classics such as Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, The Wild Duck and The Lady from the Sea, Holberg's Jeppe of the Hill, and plays by more recent Norwegian playwrights, including Axel Kielland's The Man Everybody Wants to Murder and Hans Aanrud's The Stork. Directed by her, Marcel Pagnol's Marius became one of Norwegian theatre's very most popular audience successes in the years between the wars. Gyda Christensen was also unafraid of staging more controversial fare, such as Kjeld Abell's The Melody That Got Lost, Erwin Piscator's adaption of Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk and Clare Boothe Luce's The Women.

It was not unusual that she directed her daughter. Lillebil Ibsen acted in central roles in her mother's Ibsen productions of The Wild Duck (Det Nye Teater 1942), Hedda Gabler (Det Nye Teater 1943), The Lady from the Sea (Det Nye Teater 1945) and When We Dead Awaken (Det Nye Teater 1947). Among a large number of other mother/daughter collaborations at Det Nye Teater we also find Bayard Veiller's The Trial of Mary Dugan, Agatha Christie's Love from a Stranger (1940), Moss/Kaufman's The Man Who Came to Dinner (1940) and Noel Coward's Private Lives (1945).

Gyda Christensen's last period as the head of Det Nye Teater, from 1939 to 1945, put her into a difficult situation of trying to balance different considerations. In May 1941 she was interrogated by Gestapo for hours. In 1942, the year she turned 70, she wished to leave her position, but she was stopped by the Norwegian Nazi government, threatening her to close the theatre. During this time Gyda Christensen was in a long-lasting love affair with the President of Parliament, C. J. Hambro, who lived in exile, like other central Norwegian politicians. The two of them got married in 1946.

Even after officially retiring Gyda Christensen took assignments as a visiting director. In 1949 she staged Somerset Maugham's Jane for Det Nye Teater, with Lillebil Ibsen in the title role, and in 1950, aged 77 years old, she staged Jean Anouilh's Cry of the Peacock for the same theatre, with Ibsen as the countess.


The performance archive of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre)

The National Theatre on Gyda Christensen,

Store Norske Leksikon on Gyda Christensen,

Norsk Biografisk Leksikon on Gyda Christensen,

Norsk Biografisk Leksikon on C. J. Hambro,

Affiliations (3)