director: Ani Vaseva
text: Ani Vaseva, Boyan Manchev, including fragments by E.T.A. Hoffmann
German-Bulgarian translation: Strashimir Djamdjiev, Teodor Berberov, Nina Chilianska
Bulgarian-German translation: Elvira Bormann
German-language tutor: Ventzislava Dikova
apparatuses: Stefan Donchev
music: Kristian Alexiev
costumes: Ani Vaseva, Teodora Bambikova, Borislav Borisov
photography: Boryana Pandova, Zafer Galibov and Metheor archive
Cast: Leonid Yovchev and Stefan Milkov
and the voices of Karin Mueller Stefanov, Annett Hardegen, Dirk Cieslak, Kristian Alexiev and Ventzislava Dikova
Premiere: May 2019, Goethe-Institut Bulgaria
This performance is dedicated to the life and art of E.T.A. Hoffmann. To the Romantic demons, to the beautiful and the ugly, to the uncanny, to technology and poetry. “Hoffmann is a writer of what should be and not of what is.”
Hoffmann’s oeuvre has left its mark on all fantastic fiction since the nineteenth century: from Gogol and Balzac, through Dostoevsky, Edgar Allan Poe and Baudelaire, to Kafka, Thomas Mann, Bulgakov, and contemporary fantastic fiction in general. His stories have become the basis of many musical works, the most famous among them being Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, and Léo Delibes’s Coppélia.
E.T.A. Hoffman is a strange and unusual figure. Unusual for the history of literature in general, but also for his own time and for the literary current to which he belonged. Whereas most of the great Romantic authors – Byron, Shelley, Blake, Coleridge, Pushkin, Lermontov, Novalis, Tieck – turned to the fantastic as a sublime substitute for reality, Hoffman invented a new form of the fantastic: grotesque, funny, mixing everyday reality with an eccentric imaginary world, but no less extraordinary and, most importantly, no less exciting and desirable. The fantastic in Hoffmann’s fiction is paradoxical and inexplicable. It brings together contradictory, often mutually exclusive, phenomena. Nowhere does the author bother to explain to the kind reader how these incompatible elements are combined – an approach that later became central to Gogol’s work.
The starting hypothesis of our work, which also underlies our creative interest in Hoffmann, is precisely a hypothesis on the fantastic. In our view, true Hoffmannmania, which indirectly continues to this day, cannot be explained without the “Hoffmann effect”: the effect of destabilizing the real, of extracting the surreal from the very structure of the banal everyday fabric of the real. The “Hoffmann effect” preceded and paved the way for the modern psychologization of art, as well as for the emergence of psychoanalysis itself. The iconic contemporary genres of psychological thriller and science fiction are under the sign of Hoffmann. We are interested in the inversion of the Romantic myth of the author as well as in the introduction of an alternative idea of creativity and an attempt to create reality, all of which were no less tragic than the Romantic ones, but without any ostentatious self-heroization.
The significance of Hoffmann’s work for modern theatre in this respect is key. Not only ballet, operetta, and opera of the nineteenth century owed much to Hoffmann; some of the revolutionary theatre directors of the early twentieth century were directly inspired by his work. Tairov staged Hoffmann’s Prinzessin Brambilla; Hoffmann also influenced Vsevolod Meyerhold, among whose favourite authors he was. This interest makes possible the hypothesis of a connection between Meyerhold’s method of biomechanics and Hoffmann’s automata, as well as between the uncanny in Hoffman’s work and Freud’s idea of the automatism of the unconscious, exploited artistically by Surrealism.
Hoffmann was created with the support of Sofia Municipality’s Culture Programme and Goethe-Institut Bulgaria.