Here at Schillerplatz 26 in Bamberg is where the author, composer and painter E.T.A. Hoffmann lived from 1808 until 1813, just across from the theater which now bears his name.
His position as music director of the theater didn’t last very long, so he soon had to make his living by giving music lessons to the daughters of well-to-do Bamberg families. One of these girls, Julia Marc, was only thirteen when Hoffmann started giving her voice lessons, and by the time she was fifteen he was hopelessly in love with her.
Unfortunately he was twenty years older, and Julia’s mother had already arranged for her to marry a rich merchant from Hamburg. Also Hoffmann was a rather small and unattractive man, and in any case he was already married to someone else.
Julia liked him well enough as a teacher and fatherly friend, but that wasn’t what he wanted, and the whole thing turned out very badly, as do most of the love affairs in Hoffmann’s stories and novellas, in which the women mostly bear a strong resemblance to Julia Marc.
In Bamberg Hoffmann began writing his opera Undine, which was first performed in Berlin in 1816 and can still occasionally be seen in German opera houses. In fact, it was performed several times here in Bamberg in 2004, in a guest production by the Theatr Wielki in Poznan.
Nonetheless, Hoffmann is best known today as the hero of an opera, not as a composer.
Hoffmann’s house is now a museum, which is open from May 1 to November 1 daily except Mondays from 13.00 to 17.00 (1 to 5 pm). Admission as of 2018 costs € 2.00 (€ 1.00 for students).
The E.T.A. Hoffmann Theater in Bamberg has its own ensemble for spoken drama, but not for opera, so the only operas you can see here are guest appearances by the opera companies of nearby theaters such as Hof, Coburg, Fürth and Regensburg.
For instance, they had a guest performance by the Coburg Theater of Tales of Hoffmann, by Jacques Offenbach, which of course was highly appropriate because the protagonist of the opera is the man the theater was named after.
This opera was written long after Hoffmann’s death (he lived from 1776 to 1822) and was based on stories he had told in several of his novellas. In the opera (which I have seen in New York, Frankfurt, Leipzig and Regensburg, but not in Bamberg), the character Hoffmann tells the stories of four women he has loved and lost. At least one of these was inspired by the real Hoffmann’s hopeless Bamberg love affair with Julia Marc.
The Regnitz River in Bamberg now forms part of the Main-Danube canal. The yellow and light brown building in the center of the photo is the Bamberg Adult Education Center, which is in an old (remodeled) electricity plant. A short way below Bamberg the Regnitz River comes to an end, because it empties into the Main River (pronounced like the English word mine, not main).
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2018.
See also: my Bruchsal post Look ma, no electrons!
(scroll down a bit for The Tales of Hoffmann)
4 thoughts on “E.T.A. Hoffmann in Bamberg”
Great story there Don.
Mahrs-Bräu has a beer named after him. Good to read a bit about his history.