Hofmannsthal, Hugo von

(1874-1929)
   Playwright. Hofmannsthal is closely associated with—even, in the minds of some critics at the time, embodied—the decadent culture of Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, when Vienna "acutely felt the tremors of social and political disintegration" (Carl Schorkse, Fin de siècle Vienna [New York: Knopf, 1979], xviii). Hofmannsthal's voluptuously lyrical and melancholy short plays of the period, written in some cases while still a teenager, included Der Tor und der Tod (The Fool and Death, 1893), Der Kaiser und die Hexe (The Emperor and the Witch, 1897), and Der weisse Fächer (The White Fan, 1897). They were infrequently performed, but attracted widespread attention among critics as serious literature. Hofmannsthal began adapting Greek tragedies in 1904 with Elektra, followed by König Ödipus (King Oedipus) in 1907, employing a more disciplined, less extravagant verse in both. His work with Greek material contributed to his work as a librettist for the operas of Richard Strauss, of which Elektra and Ariadne auf Naxos are good examples. Hofmannsthal's most popular work with Strauss, however, was Der Rosenkavalier of 1911; it featured a conventional plot of love intrigues and has remained an enormously popular perennial with audiences and opera companies around the world. Later in the 1920s Hofmannsthal wrote his two best comedies, DerSchwierige (The DifficultMan) and Der Unbestechliche (The Incorruptible Man).
   The collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 shattered Hofmannsthal's perception of Austrian culture and his place in it. Determined to help rebuild it, he was a leading figure in the founding of the Salzburg Festival in 1919. Salzburg, as Mozart's birthplace and the geographical center of Europe, seemed to Hofmannsthal, Strauss, Max Reinhardt, and other festival founders to be the logical place for renewal, beginning with Hofmannsthal's refurbished adaptation of the medieval morality play Jedermann (Everyman, 1920) and Das Salzburger grosse Welttheater (The Great Salzburg Theater of the World, 1922) based on Calderon de la Barca's The Great Theater of the World. Productions of Mozart operas followed. The Salzburg Festival remains an important venue for German-language theater and European culture to this day.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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  • Hugo von Hofmannsthal — (February 1, 1874 – July 15, 1929), was an Austrian novelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, and essayist. Life Hofmannsthal was born in Vienna, the son of an upper class Austrian mother and an Austrian Italian bank manager. His great… …   Wikipedia

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