Croatian theatre actress Leposava Kangrga, better known as Bela Krleža, was born in Senj on 26 October 1896. After matriculation, she initially worked at the University Library and as a school teacher in Duga Rijeka on Mount Kalnik. But her early wish to act never left her, so she took lessons with actress Milica Mihičić and actor Ivo Badalić to audition with a role from Romains’s comedy Dictator for a theatre in Zagreb in 1928. Her true big acting opportunity came in the role of Baroness Castelli, the main female character in Miroslav Krleža’s drama Gospoda Glembajevi (Messrs. Glembay) at its premiere in 1929, when a successful interpretation earned her membership of the Croatian National Theatre (HNK) drama company. This role would gradually turn out to be emblematic of her entire career. Bela Krleža performed in many comedies, especially those by Branislav Nušić and Marin Držić. She played in dramas by Ibsen, Tolstoy and Gorky and particularly excelled in conversational plays by Wilde and Shaw. She also performed in a number of dramas by contemporary playwrights, such as Williams, Helmann and Anouilh. Among her top achievements are interpretations of Krleža’s characters, including Laura Lenbach and Madlen Petrovna in U agoniji (In Agony), Melita and Klara in Leda and Livia Ancila and Klara Anita in Aretej (Aretheus).
She was detained in April 1941, along with several other members of the HNK Company who were not ethnic Croats, but was soon to return to the stage and became a sort of favourite of theatre critics.
Krleža met his future wife in Zagreb in 1916 on returning from the frontline back during World War I. They spent a lifetime together and even died the same year. Bela and Miroslav Krleža’s home was a meeting-point and a scene of lively intellectual activity. The apartment at Gvozd 23 in Zagreb in which they had lived since 1952 has been turned into an exhibition space open to visitors. Bela died in Zagreb on 23 April 1981.