by Heinrich von Kleist
Directed by Clemens Bechtel
Heinrich von Kleist was born in 1777 in Frankfurt on the Oder, in a family of Pomeranian noblemen. Following family tradition, he embraces a military career in 1792, which he trades, seven years later, for the study of Mathematics, Physics, Law and Economy. In 1802, however, he decides to focus on writing, turning into a playwright, prose writer and columnist. In his final years he contributed as an editor to Phöbus art magazine.
Kleist commits suicide in 1811 in Wannsee near Berlin: "...truth be told, there was no escape for me on this earth". His most important dramatic works are The Schroffenstein Family; The Broken Jug; Robert Guiskard; Amphitryon; Penthesilea; Käthchen of Heilbronn; Armin's Battle; The Prince of Homburg.
About the play
Appearing before a Secret Sacred Court in Westfalia, count Wetter of Strahl is accused of having bewitched young Käthchen of Heilbronn who – being no more than 15 years old – inexplicably follows the count wherever he goes. Strahl ensures the judges he is not to be blamed for the girl's condition, but he does admit being attracted to her.
In the meantime, Kunigunda of Thurneck launches territorial claims upon the count's Stauffen dukedom, as she sets her mind not only on acquiring the estates, but also Strahl, their owner. The count fails to see the trickery behind Kunigunda's charm, and he proposes to her, especially since he sees the materialization of a prophetic dream in which an angel foretold him he would marry the emperor's daughter. Kunigunda's beauty, however, turns out to be pretence, a transient outcome as a result of strange treatments. A calculated, scheming and ambitious woman, Kunigunda realizes the danger posed by rival Käthchen, and she even decidedly takes her chances in killing her.
But Käthchen, too, has a dream in which an angel ordained Count Strahl as her lover, a fact which always endows the girl with courage and unimaginable powers. Thus, Käthchen hastily forewarns the count on the attack of an army on Kunigunda's castle.
But before the holy omen comes true and she eventually comes to walk to the altar as a princess of Suabia, Käthchen still has to go through another ultimate trial...
The play Käthchen of Heilbronn was elaborated in 1808, two years later being presented as a world premiere in Vienna. With Käthchen of Heilbronn, the universal literature acknowledges Kleist for authoring one of its most complex works, effusing beauty and odd fascination at the same time.
""Oldies but goldies" – that was the secret reaction among the spectators at the first premiere of the new GSTT season, "Käthchen of Heilbronn" by Heinrich von Kleist. (…) The stage hosts a genuine action thriller with duels, murder attempts, intrigues and betrayal. (…) German director Clemens Betchel emphasizes by all possible means Kleist's modernity. At the heart of the performance lie atemporality, the power and beauty of the German language. (…) The strongest emphases are laid by the young generation of actors of the German stage: chief among them, Boris Gaza, playing count Strahl, performs an exquisite act, impressive through the accuracy of his theatrical speech. Christine Cizmaş, still a student, plays the part of Kunigunda of Thurneck, displaying noticeable emotion and substance. Käthchen's part is played -affectionate and coyly – by both Sînziana Nedin (invited in the show) and Olga Török."