Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Hugo Laurenz August Hofmann von Hofmannsthal (German: [ˈhuːɡo fɔn ˈhoːfmanstaːl]; 1 February 1874 – 15 July 1929) was an Austrian prodigy, a novelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, and essayist.

Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Hofmannsthal 1893
Born1 February 1874
Landstraße, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died15 July 1929 (aged 55)
Rodaun, Liesing, Austria
OccupationNovelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, essayist
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
SpouseGertrud Schlesinger
ChildrenChristiane, Franz, Raimund

Early life

H. von Hofmannsthal2
The house where Hofmannsthal was born, at Salesianergasse 12, Landstraße, Vienna 3[1]

Hofmannsthal was born in Landstraße, Vienna, the son of an upper-class Christian Austrian mother, Anna Maria Josefa Fohleutner (1852–1904), and a Christian Austrian–Italian bank manager, Hugo August Peter Hofmann, Edler von Hofmannsthal (1841–1915).

His great-grandfather, Isaak Löw Hofmann, Edler von Hofmannsthal, from whom his family inherited the noble title "Edler von Hofmannsthal", was a Jewish tobacco farmer ennobled by the Austrian emperor.

He began to write poems and plays from an early age. Some of his early works were written under pseudonyms, such as Loris Melikow and Theophil Morren, because he was not allowed to publish as a student. He met the German poet Stefan George at the age of seventeen and had several poems published in George's journal, Blätter für die Kunst. He studied law and later philology in Vienna but decided to devote himself to writing upon graduating in 1901. Along with Peter Altenberg and Arthur Schnitzler, he was a member of the avant garde group Young Vienna (Jung Wien).


In 1900 Hofmannsthal met the composer Richard Strauss for the first time. He later wrote libretti for several of his operas, including Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier (1911) with Harry von Kessler, Ariadne auf Naxos (1912, rev. 1916), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919), Die ägyptische Helena (1928), and Arabella (1933).

In 1911 he adapted the 15th century English morality play Everyman as Jedermann, and Jean Sibelius (amongst others) wrote incidental music for it. The play later became a staple at the Salzburg Festival.

During the First World War Hofmannsthal held a government post. He wrote speeches and articles supporting the war effort, and emphasizing the cultural tradition of Austria-Hungary. The end of the war spelled the end of the old monarchy in Austria; this was a blow from which the patriotic and conservative-minded Hofmannsthal never fully recovered.

Nevertheless, the years after the war were very productive ones for Hofmannsthal; he continued with his earlier literary projects, almost without a break. He wrote several new libretti for Richard Strauss operas. In 1920, Hofmannsthal, along with Max Reinhardt, founded the Salzburg Festival. His later plays revealed a growing interest in religious, particularly Roman Catholic, themes. Among his writings was a screenplay for a film version of Der Rosenkavalier (1925) directed by Robert Wiene.

Personal life

In 1901 he married Gertrud "Gerty" Schlesinger, the daughter of a Viennese banker. Gerty, who was Jewish, converted to Christianity before their marriage. They settled in Rodaun (now part of Liesing), not far from Vienna, and had three children, Christiane, Franz, and Raimund.

On 13 July 1929 his son Franz committed suicide. Two days later, shortly after attending Franz's funeral, Hugo himself died of a stroke at Rodaun. He was buried wearing the habit of a Franciscan tertiary, as he had requested.

In early 1929 his daughter Christiane married German indologist, Heinrich Zimmer, who taught at University of Greifswald, Heidelberg University, and Balliol College, Oxford (1939–1940). After they moved to New Rochelle, New York, her husband became a Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at Columbia University.

On 21 January 1933 his son Raimund married Ava Alice Muriel Astor, daughter of John Jacob Astor IV and Ava Lowle Willing. After divorcing Ava in 1939, Raimund later married Lady Elizabeth Paget, daughter of the sixth Marquess of Anglesey.


On 18 October 1902 Hofmannsthal published a fictive letter in the Berlin Daily, Der Tag (The Day) titled simply "Ein Brief" ("A Letter"). It was purportedly written in 1603 by Philip, Lord Chandos to Francis Bacon. In this letter Chandos says that he has stopped writing because he has "lost completely the ability to think or to speak of anything coherently"; he has given up on the possibility of language to describe the world. This letter reflects the growing distrust of and dissatisfaction with language that so characterizes the Modern era, and Chandos's dissolving personality is not only individual but societal.

Growing up the son of a wealthy merchant who was well connected with the major artists of the time, Hofmannsthal was raised in what Carl Schorske refers to as "the temple of art". This perfect setting for aesthetic isolation allowed Hofmannsthal the unique perspective of the privileged artist, but also allowed him to see that art had become a flattened documenting of humanity, which took our instincts and desires and framed them for viewing without acquiring any of the living, passionate elements. Because of this realization, Hofmannsthal’s idea of the role of the artist began to take shape as someone who created works that would inspire or inflame the instinct, rather than merely preserving it in a creative form. He also began to think that the artist should not be someone isolated and left to his art, but rather a man of the world, immersed in both politics and art.

Hofmannsthal saw in English culture the ideal setting for the artist. This was because the English simultaneously admired Admiral Nelson and John Milton, both war heroes and poets, while still maintaining a solid national identity. "In [Hofmannsthal’s] view, the division between artist (writer) and man of action (politician, explorer, soldier) does not exist in England. Britain provides her subjects with a common base of energy which functions as equilibrium, a force lacking in fragmented Germany" (Weiss). This singular and yet pragmatic identity must have appealed to Hofmannsthal to a certain degree due to the large scale fragmentation of Austria at the time, which was in the throes of radical nationalism and anti-Semitism, a nation in which the progressive artist and the progressive politician were growing more different and hostile to each other by the day.


The Austrian author Stefan Zweig wrote in his memoirs The World of Yesterday (1942) on Hofmannsthal's early accomplishments and their influence on Zweig's generation:

The appearance of the young Hofmannsthal is and remains notable as one of the greatest miracles of accomplishment early in life; in world literature, except for Keats and Rimbaud, I know no other youthful example of a similar impeccability in the mastering of language, no such breadth of spiritual buoyancy, nothing more permeated with poetic substance even in the most casual lines, than in this magnificent genius, who already in his sixteenth and seventeenth year had inscribed himself in the eternal annals of the German language with unextinguishable verses and prose which today has still not been surpassed. His sudden beginning and simultaneous completion was a phenomenon that hardly occurs more than once in a generation.

— Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von Gestern, Frankfurt am Main 1986, 63–64

Selected works


  • Der Tor und der Tod (1893)
  • Der Tod des Tizian (1892)
  • Elektra (1903)
  • Ödipus und die Sphinx (1906)
  • Die Frau im Fenster (1909)
  • Jedermann (1911)
  • Der Schwierige (1921)
  • Das Salzburger große Welttheater (1922)
  • Der Turm (1925)


Narrations and fictitious conversations

  • Das Mädchen der 672. Nacht (1895)
  • Reitergeschichte (1899)
  • Erlebnis des Marschalls von Bassompierre (1900)
  • Ein Brief (Brief des Lord Chandos an Francis Bacon) (1902)
  • Die Wege und die Begegnungen (1907)
  • Die Briefe des Zurückgekehrten (1907-1908)
  • Das fremde Mädchen (1911)
  • Reise im nördlichen Afrika (1925)

Novel (fragment)

  • Andreas oder Die Vereinigten (1907-1927)

Essays, speeches, prose

  • Zur Physiologie der modernen Liebe (1891)
  • Poesie und Leben (1896)
  • Über Gedichte (1904)
  • Der Dichter und diese Zeit (1907)
  • Appell an die oberen Stände (1914)
  • Krieg und Kultur (1915)
  • Wir Österreicher und Deutschland (1915)
  • Österreich im Spiegel seiner Dichtung (1916)
  • Preuße und Österreicher (1917)
  • Die Idee Europa (1917)
  • Buch der Freunde, Aphorismen (1922)
  • Früheste Prosastücke (1926)
  • Wert und Ehre deutscher Sprache (1927)
  • Das Schrifttum als geistiger Raum der Nation (1927)


  • Siehst du die Stadt? (1890)
  • Spaziergang (1893)
  • Ballade des äusseren Lebens (1894)
  • Gedichte in Terzinen (1894)
  • Traum von großer Magie (1896)
  • Gedichte (1922)


  1. ^ Volke 1967, p. 10.

Further reading

  • This article incorporates material from the German Wikipedia article.
  • Broch, Hermann (Author), Steinberg, Michael P. (Translator). Hugo von Hofmannsthal and His Time: The European Imagination, 1860–1920, University Of Chicago Press, 1984, ISBN 978-0-226-07516-7.
  • Burks, Marlo (translator, introduction). Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Writings on Art / Schriften zur Kunst. German and English. German texts in English translation, Volume II. Hans-Günther Schwarz and Norman R. Diffey (editors). Iudicium, 2017. Translation of and introduction to Hofmannsthal's writings on visual art.
  • Gottfried, Paul. "Hugo von Hoffmannsthal and the Interwar European Right." Modern Age 49.4 (2007): 508+ online.
  • Junk, Anke. Andreas oder Die Vereinigten von Hugo von Hofmannsthal – eine kulturpsychoanalytische Untersuchung. Hannover, Impr. Henner Junk, 2015, OCLC 1002264029.
  • McClatchy, J. D. (editor). The Whole Difference: Selected Writings of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Princeton University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-691-12909-9. Chapter 1 contains a brief biography.
  • Schorske, Carl E. Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, 1980'
  • Stork, Charles Wharton. The Lyrical Poems of Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, 1918.
  • Volke, Werner (1967). Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Rowohlt.
  • Weiss, Winifred. Comparative Literature. Vol 25, no. 1. (Winter, 1973) pp. 60–67
  • An Impossible Man (Der Schwierige) translated with an introduction by Alexander Stillmark (Modern Humanities Association, Cambridge, 2016, ISBN 9781781882740).

External links


Arabella, Op. 79, is a lyric comedy, or opera, in three acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration.

Arabella discography

This is a list of recordings of Arabella, a three-act opera by Richard Strauss with a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It was first performed on 1 July 1933, at the Dresden Sächsisches Staatstheater.

Ariadne auf Naxos discography

This is a list of recordings of Ariadne auf Naxos, an opera by Richard Strauss with a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The work was first performed at the Hoftheater in Stuttgart on 25 October 1912. A radically revised version was performed in at the Hofoper in Vienna on 4 October 1916. (All the recordings listed on this page are of the revised version.) This list is incomplete.

Café Griensteidl

Café Griensteidl was a traditional Viennese café located at Michaelerplatz 2 across from St. Michael's Church and St. Michael's Gate at the Hofburg Palace in the Innere Stadt first district of Vienna, Austria. The cafe was founded in 1847 by former pharmacist Heinrich Griensteidl. In January 1897, the original building was demolished during the course of the renovation of Michaelerplatz. During the early twentieth century, the café was frequented by many artists, musicians, and writers, including Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, Arnold Schoenberg, Alexander Zemlinsky, Hermann Bahr, Friedrich Eckstein, Rudolf Steiner, Hugo Wolf, and Stefan Zweig.In 1990, the café was reopened and became a popular location among the Viennese coffeehouse culture.

As they could not afford the rising rents any more, Griensteidl closed in June 2017.

Der Rosenkavalier (1926 film)

Der Rosenkavalier is a 1926 Austrian silent film of the opera of the same name by Richard Strauss (music) and Hugo von Hofmannsthal (libretto). Directed by Robert Wiene, it premiered on 10 January 1926 at the Dresden Semperoper, which had also hosted the actual opera's premiere 15 years earlier. Hofmannsthal considerably changed the storyline for the film version (which included a final scene in the formal gardens behind the Field Marshal's residence) and Strauss' score included music not only from the opera but also sections of his Couperin Suite and a march for the Field Marshal, who appears in this version.

The music during the film's performances was provided by an orchestra. At the premiere, this was conducted by Richard Strauss himself. The film's projection speed had to be adjusted by the projector in order to fit the speed of the orchestra. This task fell to the film's cameraman, Hans Androschin, because only he knew the exact length of each scene and cut. In later performances, a special recording, also conducted by Strauss, provided the music. Strauss conducted the Vienna and London premieres (and recorded excerpts from the film score on the Victrola label at that time. A planned tour of the United States in 1927 by Strauss and his orchestra failed to go ahead because of the emergence of sound films.

The American premiere took place at Yale University's Woolsey Hall with the Yale Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri (who received special permission from Strauss' son) on March 29, 1974. A copy of the film was found in the Czech National Archive and Mauceri translated the titles with Glenn Most into English. The final sequence was missing from the print and was performed with orchestral music and titles alone. The score and parts were held by the Library of Congress. The audience at Yale included the famed Strauss soprano Maria Jeritza, who was living in New Jersey at the time.

Der Rosenkavalier discography

This is a select list of recordings of Der Rosenkavalier, a three-act opera by Richard Strauss with a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The work was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911 under the direction of Max Reinhardt.

Die Frau ohne Schatten discography

This is a list of recordings of Die Frau ohne Schatten, a three-act opera by Richard Strauss with a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The work was first performed in Vienna on 10 October 1919.

Die Insel

Die Insel (in English "The Island") was a German literary and art magazine that was published in Munich from 1899 to 1901 by Otto Julius Bierbaum, Alfred Walter Heymel, and Rudolf Alexander Schröder.

Despite its short life, it is considered one of the most important German literary magazines of early modernism. The magazine published texts from already well-known authors like Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Rainer Maria Rilke as well as from new voices like Robert Walser.

The symbol of the magazine, a sailing boat, was designed by Peter Behrens. It is still the logo of the Insel Verlag publishing company, which arose from the magazine.

Elektra discography

This is a list of recordings of Elektra, a one-act opera by Richard Strauss with a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The work was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on 25 January 1909.


Hofmannsthal may refer to:

Isaak Löw Hofmann, Edler von Hofmannsthal (1759–1849), Austrian merchant

Augustin Emil Hofmann von Hofmannsthal (1815–1881), industrialist

Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929), Austrian prodigy, writer, and librettist

Christiane von Hofmannsthal (1902–1987), married Heinrich Zimmer in 1929

Franz von Hofmannsthal (1903–1929), committed suicide

Raimund von Hofmannsthal (1906–1974), married Ava Alice Muriel Astor in 1933

Romana von Hofmannsthal (born c. 1935), married Rory McEwen in 1958

Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal, married Frances Armstrong-Jones the daughter of the 1st Earl of Snowdon in 2006

Jedermann (film)

Jedermann (English: Everyman) is a 1961 Austrian drama film directed by Gottfried Reinhardt, based on the 1911 play of the same title written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The film was submitted as the Austrian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 34th Academy Awards, but it was not selected as one of the five nominees in the category.

Jedermann (play)

Jedermann (Everyman) is a play by the Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is based on several medieval mystery plays, including the late 15th-century English morality play Everyman. It was first performed on 1 December 1911 in Berlin under the direction of Max Reinhardt at the Circus Schumann (which later became the Großes Schauspielhaus).

Le bourgeois gentilhomme (Strauss)

Le bourgeois gentilhomme (also widely known in its German form as Der Bürger als Edelman), Op. 60, is an orchestral suite written by Richard Strauss between 1911 and 1917. The original idea of Hugo von Hofmannsthal was to revive Molière's 1670 play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, simplify the plot and introduce a commedia dell'arte troupe, add some incidental music and conclude matters with a one-act opera Ariadne auf Naxos.

The combination of play and opera was premiered in Stuttgart on 25 October 1912, but it was immediately apparent that it was too long and too expensive to mount, and that also much of the potential audience for the play was uninterested in the opera, and vice versa. Strauss and Hofmannsthal set to work on separating the two works. A prologue was written for the opera to explain the presence of the comedians and the opera was premiered in its revised form independent of the play in 1916. The play was also revised, Hofmannsthal replacing the opera with an ending closer to Molière's original and Strauss providing additional incidental music in 1917. Strauss created an orchestral suite from most of the music which was completed on 25 December 1917. The premiere of the orchestral suite took place in Berlin on 9 April 1918, under the baton of the composer.The piece takes about a half-hour to perform. There are 9 parts:


Menuett (Minuet)

Der Fechtmeister (The Fencing Master)

Auftritt und Tanz der Schneider (Entry and Dance of the Tailors)

Das Menuett des Lully (Lully's Minuet)


Auftritt des Cléonte (Entry of Cléonte) (after Lully)

Vorspiel (Intermezzo)

Das Diner (The Dinner)Two additional movements written for the 1917 version of the play, a ballet for sylphs and one for pretend-Turks, were omitted from the suite.

The music is unusual among the works of Strauss in that it is neo-classical. Strauss gave it a distinct Baroque flavor. He based parts 5-7 on airs by Jean-Baptiste Lully who provided the music for Molière's original 17th-century play. Other neo-classical works based on the French baroque by Strauss include his 1923 Dance suite after keyboard pieces by François Couperin and his 1942 Divertimento for chamber orchestra after keyboard pieces by Couperin, Opus 86.

List of operas by Richard Strauss

This is a complete list of the operas by the German composer Richard Strauss (1864–1949).

Loris (disambiguation)

Loris can refer to:

Loris, common name for the strepsirrhine primates of the subfamily Lorinae in family Lorisidae. In particular, the animals in the subfamily Lorinae have loris in their names:

slender lorises, in the genus Loris

slow lorises, in the genus Nycticebus

Loris, South Carolina, a city in South Carolina

Loris, an early pen name for the writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Loris Azzaro, French fashion designer

Loris Baz, French motorcycle racer

Loris Benito, Swiss footballer

Loris Campana, Italian road bicycle and track cyclist

Loris Capirossi, Italian Grand Prix motorcycle road racer

Loris Ceroni, Italian record producer

Loris Facci, Italian breaststroke swimmer

Loris Fortuna, Italian politician

Loris Kessel, Swiss racing driver

Loris Karius, German footballer

Loris Francesco Capovilla, Italian Roman Catholic prelate and cardinal

Loris Reggiani, Italian motorcycle racer

Loris Stecca, Italian world champion boxer

Loris Tjeknavorian, Iranian-Armenian composer and conductor

Salzburg Festival

The Salzburg Festival (German: Salzburger Festspiele) is a prominent festival of music and drama established in 1920. It is held each summer (for five weeks starting in late July) in the Austrian town of Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One highlight is the annual performance of the play Jedermann (Everyman) by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Since 1967, an annual Salzburg Easter Festival has also been held, organized by a separate organization.

The Lord Chandos Letter

A Letter (Ein Brief), usually known as The Letter of Lord Chandos or the Chandos Letter, is a prose work written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in 1902. It is in the form of a letter dated August 1603 from a writer named Lord Philip Chandos (a fictional character) to Francis Bacon, and describes Chandos's crisis of language.

Ver Sacrum (magazine)

Ver Sacrum (meaning "Sacred Spring" in Latin) was the official magazine of the Vienna Secession. Published from 1898 to 1903, it featured drawings and designs in the Jugendstil style along with literary contributions from distinguished writers from across Europe. These included Rainer Maria Rilke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Maurice Maeterlinck, Knut Hamsun, Otto Julius Bierbaum, Richard Dehmel, Ricarda Huch, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Josef Maria Auchentaller and Arno Holz.

Young Vienna

Young Vienna (Jung-Wien) was a society of fin de siècle writers who met in Vienna's Café Griensteidl and other nearby coffeehouses in the late nineteenth century. The group turned away from the prevailing Naturalism of the time and experimented with various facets of Modernism, including Symbolism and Impressionism. In his review of turn of the century Vienna, historian Carl Schorske wrote of the movement that they "challenged the moralistic stance of nineteenth century literature in favor of sociological truth and psychological - especially sexual - openness."Hermann Bahr was considered the group's spokesman. Other members included Arthur Schnitzler, Felix Dörmann, Peter Altenberg, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Felix Salten, Raoul Auernheimer, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Karl Kraus. Kraus would later distance himself from the group, and in his essay "The Demolished Literature," written soon after the Café Griensteidl's demolition in 1897, he criticized the group and predicted that it "would soon expire for lack of a foyer." After the café's demolition the group (sans Kraus) continued to meet at the nearby Café Central.

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