Silent Film & Live Music

Konzerthausorchester Berlin

Max Neufeld | Johannes Kalitzke
“The Tales of Hoffmann” (WP)

Episodes from various novellas by E.T.A. Hoffmann merge with biographical elements in the silent film classic “The Tales of Hoffmann”, told in sombre imagery by director and actor Max Neufeld. Composer Johannes Kalitzke has composed music for the digitally restored new version of the film and will also conduct the premiere of the silent film and music himself.

Max Neufeld, “The Tales of Hoffmann”, 1923. Film still

Max Neufeld, “The Tales of Hoffmann”, 1923. Film still

© Filmarchiv Austria

Past Dates

“I am tired and weary of mine journey ... even more than the drunkard is of his empty drinking cup.” Thus, the character of E.T.A. Hoffmann begins his tales in the silent film of Max Neufeld of 1923. That Neufeld himself plays this leading role would appear logical: for he too, the son of travelling actors, tired of many years of constant travel and fluctuating engagements, has finally arrived in Vienna by this time. There he is able to establish himself as an actor and director of celebrated silent films – a first major highlight of his turbulent life.

“Tales of Hoffmann” is an adaptation of the opera of the same name by Jaques Offenbach. Based on tales by E.T.A. Hoffmann, biographical and fantastic episodes merge into a dreamlike, eerie journey of adventure that Hoffmann tells his companions one evening at the inn. “I saw things so strange they might have sprung from a fool’s dream”, a caption reads. And indeed, Neufeld’s impressive imagery emphasises in particular the grotesque, ghostly elements from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales.

The newly discovered nitro positive made it possible to digitally restore the silent film, which was of very poor quality. The Konzerthausorchester Berlin, in co-operation with ARTE and the Filmarchiv AUSTRIA will present the premiere of this new version at the Musikfest Berlin in an evening that bridges three centuries: Hoffmann’s gothic romanticism meets a master of expressionist silent film and a world premiere by composer Johannes Kalitzke.

In his “Beethoven Variationen”, composed for this occasion, Kalitzke has also integrated several historical levels into his own musical language, thus spanning the arc from Hoffmann’s contemporary Beethoven to the present. The commission for this composition was awarded on the occasion of the anniversary of the opening of the Konzerthaus Berlin, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.

Concert rogramme

Hoffmanns Erzählungen (The Tales of Hoffmann)
Silent Film by Max Neufeld (1887 – 1967) of 1923
Music by Johannes Kalitzke (*1959)

Composition commissioned by Konzerthaus Berlin

World premiere

A production for the 200th anniversary of the Konzerthaus Berlin in cooperation with ZDF/ARTE and Filmarchiv AUSTRIA

Events of Konzerthaus Berlin in cooperation with Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin