Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Definition

Theater

  • (1874 - 1929) Austrian dramatist, poet, and essayist, whoalso wrote libretti for several operas by the German composer RichardStrauss. Hofmannsthal's first collection of poetry was published underthe pseudonym Loris when he was 16. These poems, dream-like and highlylyrical, created something of a stir in German and Austrian literarycircles. The following year his first verse play, Yesterday,appeared. Between 1891 and 1899 Hofmannsthal produced a number ofthese short poetic dramas, the most notable being Death and theFool (1893) and The Adventurer and the Singer (1898).

    In 1902, however, Hofmannsthal published an influential essay,Ein Brief, in which he renounced purely lyrical forms of writing.It later became evident that this essay represented not only a crisisof faith for Hofmannsthal personally, but was symptomatic of a largerdisturbance involving both the expressionist and symbolist movements.Following the publication of Ein Brief Hofmannsthal experimentedwith several forms of drama, adapting and modernizing several classicalworks, such as Euripides's Electra as Elektra(1903) and Sophocles's Oedipus as Odipus und dieSphinx (1905). Hofmannsthal also produced an adaptation of Otway'sVenice Preserv'd as Das gerettete Venedig (1905). Jederman(1911), later translated as Everyman, was an early 20th-centuryversion of the medieval morality play; it was the first of a seriesof plays involving social and religious themes, which culminated inDer Turm (1925).

    Hofmannsthal's works have failed to make much impact in theEnglish-speaking world and his international stature rests mainlyon his libretti for Strauss. He adapted his own play Elektrain 1909 and provided libretti for Der Rosenkavalier (1911)and Ariadne auf Naxos (1912). He was also one of the founders(with Max Reinhardt) of the Salzburg Festival in 1920.

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