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Aleksander Moisiu


Famous Albanian Actor


Acting is something that is very much of its place and time. The actors of yesteryear, if remembered at all, would seem quaint or overblown to us, and the French style of acting (for example) is always very different from the English or the German. In the early years of the 20th century one of the most famous actors was an Albanian: Aleksander Moisiu (sometimes known as Alexander Moissi).



Moisiu was born in Durrės, of an Albanian father from Kavajė in Central Albania, and an Arbėresh mother (Arbėresh are the Albanians in South Italy). After a childhood in Durrės (Northern Albania), Trieste and Graz, the twenty-year-old Aleksander finally settled with his mother and two sisters in Vienna. It was there, with the encouragement and support of Austrian actor Josef Kainz (1858-1910), that Moisiu's career as one of great European stage actors of the early years of the twentieth century began. The following years took him to Prague and then to Berlin, where he became a protégé of Max Reinhardt (1873-1943).
Moisiu followed the Reinhardt Ensemble to Russia in 1911 and was acclaimed in St. Petersburg by critic and dramatist Anatoliy Lunacharsky (1875-1933) for his interpretation of Œdipus.
Travelling all over Europe and the Americas, his most famous rōle was Fedya in Tolstoi's Buried Alive (or The Living Corpse) - performed 1400 times by him, and seen by more than one and a half million people.

Moissi in the role of Fedya
in Tolstoi's Buried Alive, Berlin 1913

His repertoire of leading rōles encompassed the whole spectrum of European dramaturgy from Greek tragedy to twentieth century modernism. He was the first in Europe to interpret characters from Strindberg, Tolstoi, Chekhov, Pirandello, and Hofmansthal.
His interpretations in the leading roles of Hamlet, Œdipus, Faust, Dubedat (in George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma), and many others, were celebrated at the time - as were his voice and emotional range.

Though primarily a stage actor, Moisiu also appeared in ten film productions from 1910 to 1935, of which seven were silent.

Given an Albanian passport at his own request in 1934, Aleksander Moisiu died on March 22, 1935, and lies buried at the Morcote cemetery overlooking Lake Lugano in Switzerland. In his honour the High College of Drama in Tirana, and the Professional Theatre of Durrės, Albania, are named "Aleksander Moisiu." The 60th anniversary of his death was remembered in Albania in 1995, with an "Artistic Year" dedicated to him, sponsored by the Aleksander Moisiu Foundation in Durrės.


Moissi in the role of Hamlet at the Vienna Volksteater, 1922

"The voice and gestures of Moissi presented us with something hitherto unseen on the European stage." - Franz Kafka
"Hamlet is written for Moissi, and Moissi was uniquely born to interpret the Prince of Denmark." - Max Brod

With Camillo Piloto, in Lorenzo de Medici, his last movie, 1934-35
"I salute Alexander Moissi to whom I am forever grateful, as one of the most brilliant interpreters of my characters." - Luigi Pirandello

Alexander in the role of Romeo, Berlin 1907

"Man of the South, always Man of the South. In order not to be frozen he takes the sun of his country whenever he goes. Whenever you are with him you'll learn something new about life in this world."
- Stefan Zweig


Bibliography: Moisi, V.: Aleksander Moissi, Paris 1979.

Moisi, V.: Alexander Moissi, (in German), Tirana, 1980

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