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Claire Bloom was born in London and made her first appearance on the stage with the Oxford Repertory Company at the age of 16. Her first major role came a year later, when she played Ophelia at Stratford-Upon-Avon opposite the alternating Hamlets of Paul Scofield and Robert Helpmann. Her first London appearance was as Alizon Eliot in John Gielgud’s production of Christopher Fry’s “The Lady’s Not for Burning,” opposite Richard Burton. Her performance in Peter Brook’s production of Jean Anouilh’s “Ring Round the Moon,” also starring Paul Scofield, led to the role of Teresa in Charles Chaplin’s 1952 film “Limelight.”
Since then she has divided her career between England and the United States. Her films include “Limelight,” “The Man Between,” “Richard III,” “Look Back in Anger,” “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” “Charley,” “The Haunting,” “A Doll’s House,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Clash of the Titans,” “Sammy and Rosie,” Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and “Imagining Argentina” directed by Christopher Hampton.
Her most notable stage roles have included Juliet, Ophelia, Viola, Miranda and Cordelia at the Old Vic, and in London’s West End she has appeared as Sasha in “Ivanov,” Nora in “A Doll’s House,” Rebecca West in “Romersholm” and Mme. Ranyeskvya in “The Cherry Orchard,” and, at the Almeida in 1990, as Irena in “When We Dead Awaken.” In 1974, for her London portrayal of Blanche du Bois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” she won the three major English theatrical awards. In 1994 Ms. Bloom appeared with the ART as Mme. Ranyevskaya, returning in May 1996 to perform in Eugene O’Neill’s “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
In New York, Ms. Bloom has been seen in leading roles in “A Doll’s House,” “Hedda Gabler,” “Rashomon,” “Vivat! Vivat! Regina!,” the stage version of Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” and, most recently, “Electra” (as Clytemnestra), a performance that earned her an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Tony nomination. Ms. Bloom also appeared as Katherine of Aragon in “Henry VIII,” as Queen Gertrude in “Hamlet,” as Lady Constance in “King John,” and as the Queen in “Cymbeline” for the BBC Shakespeare television series. Her many other television appearances include “Brideshead Revisited,” in which she and Laurence Olivier played Lord and Lady Marchmain, Philip Roth’s “The Ghost Writer,” and “Shadowlands,” for which she won Britain’s BAFTA Award for the best television actress of the year. Recent television appearances include “The Lady in Question,” “The Camomile Lawn,” “The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side,” “Village Affairs,” “Family Money,” and “What the Deaf Man Heard.”
Claire Bloom appears with the flutist Eugenia Zukerman and the pianist Brian Zeger in a recital of “Words and Music”; with her daughter, the soprano Anna Steiger, in a recital entitled “Women in Poetry and Song”; and in another recital with Brian Zeger of texts spoken to music by composers Lee Hoibe, Ned Rorem and Robin Holloway, specially commissioned by the Lila Wallace Foundation.
Ms. Bloom has appeared as narrator with many leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the New Haven Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra (on an extensive American tour), the Jerusalem Symphony (for a performance of Mendelssohn’s incidental music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society and Musica Viva, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, for whom she narrated the first U.S. performance of Georg Anton Benda’s “Medea.” Music festival appearances have taken her to Australia’s Melbourne Festival, Bard College, Jacob’s Pillow, Ojai, Ravinia, Vail, Aldeburgh, the Berkshire Choral Festival and Tanglewood, where she performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa. In May 1999 she appeared with the Boston Pops in a Shakespeare program, and in 2000 she joined soprano Renee Fleming for a recital at the Barbican in London.
Ms. Bloom was seen on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater as Clytemnestra in “Electra,” for which she was nominated for a Tony Award, and in London at the Prestigious Almeida Theater in a new play entitled “Conversations After A Burial.” Ms Bloom also appeared in her first singing role at the Fifth Ave Theatre in Seattle, performing in Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” a role she repeated with New York City Opera.
She is a recipient of the Shakespeare Medal from the Shakespeare Society, and was honored by The American Academy of Arts and Sciences in an evening devoted to her film career in the fall of 2001. In January 2002 she completed filming “The Book of Eve,” playing the title role.
Her bestselling memoir, “Leaving A Doll’s House,” was published by Little, Brown and Company in the fall of 1996.