Wenche Foss

Wenche Foss (full name Eva Wenche Steenfeldt-Foss Stang, born December 5 1917 in what was still named Kristiania, dead March 28 2011 in Oslo) was a Norwegian actress, often characterised as the great diva of the post-war years in Norwegian theatre.


(Objekt ID 8820)
Object type Person
Born December 5, 1917 (dead March 28, 2011)
Functions Actor
Nationality Norwegian
Gender Female

Wenche Foss made her debut in 1935 as Ingrid in Vilhelm Dybwad's operetta Taterblod* (Gypsy Blood) at Søilen Teater.

She was employed at Carl Johan Teatret 1936–39, The National Stage 1939, Centralteatret (now part of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre), at the time independent) 1940–49, Det Nye Teater 1949–51 (now part of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre), at the time independent), The National Theatre 1952–67, Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre) 1967–78 and again at The National Theatre from 1978 to 1989, when she officially retired. After this time she also accepted several roles as a freelancer.

As early as 1939 she interpreted the role of Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow with great charms and confidence, showing (as she also did in other operettas) her sense of style and musicality. She also was a character actress, whose roles included Rebekka West in Rosmersholm in 1942.

Her acting was characterised by incredible versatility. Her scope included roles from across the full range of the theatre repertoire, from comedy such as Lysistrata, Helene in Carousel, Lavinia in The Happy Choice and the four women in Twigs, to roles in modern, serious drama, including Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba, the mother in The Glass Menagerie and Maggie in After the Fall (The Norwegian Critics' Award 1965).

Further she interpreted great classical female drama characters such as Mary Stuart, Hedda Gabler, Viola in Twelfth Night, Fanny and Ella in John Gabriel Borkman and Mother Aase in Peer Gynt. Within newer musical theatre her roles included the shrew of Kiss me, Kate, the old woman in Cabaret, the title role of Hello Dolly and she played in the TV version of Cocteau's and Poulenc's one woman opera The Human Voice.

She made her movie debut in Tørres Snørtevold (1940), and starred in comedies during the 1940es, including Den farlige leken (literally: The Dangerous Game) and En herre med bart (literally: A Gentleman with a Mustache) (both in 1942). Later she got The Norwegian Film Critics' Award for the role of the bishop's wife in The Master and His Servants (1959), and during the 1980es she took part in a number of Wam and Vennerød's movies, most importantly Victoria L. (1982), in which the leading role was written particularly for her diverse talent. Later she had major roles in I Am Dina and Music for Weddings and Funerals, both in 2002. She won Honorary Amanda in 1991.

After publicly retiring in 1989 she made her mark in productions including Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring, in interaction with Aud Schønemann, and The Old Lady's Guide to Survival by Mayo Simon, both at Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre). At The National Theatre her roles include Mrs. Campbell in Dear Liar (1995), Mrs. Helseth in Rosmersholm (1998) and the nanny Anfisa in Chekhov's Three Sisters (2002).

Wenche Foss had the role of the old grandmother in the TV series Western Wind (1994–95) and was the aging Suzannah Ibsen in Jon Fosse's TV play Suzannah (2004).

The openhearted book Etterpå (literally: Afterwards) (1999) she wrote in collaboration with Sturle S. Nærø and in 2004 Nærkontakt (literally: Close Contact) - with conversations between Wenche Foss and Arne Næss was published - written by Petter Mejlænder. A statue of her in gilded bronze, made by Per Ung, was placed outside of The National Theatre in 2007.

Wenche Foss won Honorary Hedda in 2002.


Store Norske Leksikon on Wenche Foss, www.snl.no, 08.11.2012, http://snl.no/Wenche_Foss

Sceneweb on The Hedda Award 2002, www.sceneweb.no, 06.11.2012, http://www.sceneweb.no/en/awarding/23900/The_Hedda_Award_2002-2002

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.

Artworks (1)
Title Publiseringsdato Role
Etterpå 1999, Literature, Biography – Author