Elvira Madigan (4 December 1867 – 20 July 1889)
was a Danish tightrope walker and trick rider, whose illicit affair and dramatic death at the hands of her lover were the subject of the Swedish film of 1967. She was born Hedvig Antoinette Isabella Eleonore Jensen in Flensburg in northern Germany. Her mother was a Norwegian circus performer and her father a Danish stablemaster. Her mother later lived with the American circus manager John Madigan. While performing in Sweden with her stepfather’s circus, she met a Swedish cavalry officer, Lieutenant Count Bengt Edvard Sixten Sparre (27 September 1854 – 20 July 1889). Sparre and Madigan fell in love, but their love was impossible, partly due to the fact that Sparre was married and the father of two children. After exchanging love letters for a year, they ran away together to Denmark in June 1889, where they spent about a month. When they ran out of money, they packed a picnic basket, went out to the Nørreskov (“North forest”) on the island Tåsinge, Denmark, and had a last meal, after which Sparre shot Madigan and himself with his service revolver. Madigan was 21 years old and Sparre 35 years old. Madigan’s and Sparre’s grave is situated on the cemetery of Landet on Tåsinge and is still today visited by tourists and lovers from all over the world. Their tragic love story has some resemblance to the Austrian Mayerling drama, where Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover took their lives in January 1889. The story of Elvira Madigan and Sixten Sparre has been the subject of three films. The Swedish film of 1967, directed by Bo Widerberg, is the best known. The soundtrack features the Andante from Piano Concerto No. 21 in C (K 467) by Mozart, which is now sometimes informally known as “Theme from Elvira Madigan” .
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