THE TALES OF HOFFMANN
music by Jacques Offenbach libretto bhy Jules Barbier after the play Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from stories by E T A Hoffmann English translation by Tim Hopkins.
London Coliseum St. Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES In rep to 10 March 2012.
6, 8 March 7pm, 10 March 6pm.
Runs 3hr 30min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0871 911 0200.
Review: Carole Woddis 2 March.
A rare dish, not to be missed.
18th German Romanticism meets 19th century ironic French opera in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann based on his Hoffmann’s short stories. The result is a three and a half hour opéra fantastique that runs the gamut of styles between light operetta, lyrical, tragical and quasi-heroic. `Love can make us grow but tears make us great’ is a final anthem whose melodic sentimentalism would do credit to a Lloyd Webber musical. Here it becomes a rousing chorus to the glory of Art as Hoffmann, the artist and dreamer whose account of three lost loves has formed the core of the opera, slumps into alcoholic stupour.
In between, Richard Jones’ brilliant revisionist co-Munich Bayerisches Staatsoper production reclaims Offenbach’s final `masterpiece’ as a feast of dramatic and musical riches with primary among them American soprano Georgia Jarman.
Jarman making her ENO debut triumphs in the remarkable feat of singing all four leading female roles of Stella and Hoffman’s three failed delusionary obsessions of Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta. Respectively a mechanised doll, a young consumptive singer and a Manon-like seductress who unfortunately in Jones’ vision bears an uncanny resemblance to Amy Winehouse, Jarman’s beauty, passion and stunning dramatic gifts create three unforgettable characterisations. Nowhere more so than as Olympia where Jarman simultaneously performs puppet-like mechanised gestures with soaring arias. Her slim, willowy heroine, Antonia, trapped by consumption and the dangers, on the one hand, of singing and on the other, wanting to express her love for Hoffmann is no less remarkable and deeply moving.
As the atmosphere darkens, Offenbach’s music also becomes more dramatically adventurous. Jones’ production with its surreallist, macabre touches is never less than absorbing, often disorientating and visually striking. In the end, this Tales of Hoffmann becomes a fascinating debate not only on male fantasy but Love versus Art.
With an all star cast, alongside Jarman is tenor Barry Banks as Hoffmann, a figure of ridicule but sung with touching musicality. Hoffmann’s schoolboy `muse’ here played in short trousers is the mellifluous mezzo-soprano Christine Rice whilst Cllve Bayley supplies a quartet of Mephistophelian temptors in a voice of rich basso
A rare, fantabulous dish.
Hoffmann: Barry Banks.
Stella/Olympia/Antonia/Giulietta: Georgia Jarman.
Nicklausse: Christine Rice.
Counsellor Lindorf/Coppelius/Dr Miracle,/Captain Dapertutto: Clive Bayley.
Spalanzani: Iain Paton.
Crespel/Luther: Graeme Danby.
Andres/Cochenille/Frantz/Pitichinaccio: Simon Butteriss.
Voice of Antonia’s mother: Catherine Young.
Schlemil: Tom Fackrell.
Students: Richard Gerard Jones, Luke Owen, Sebastian Sykes.
Students, waiters, guests of Spalanzani, clients: Paul Chantry, Gareth Charlton, Martin Collins, Simon James, Jon Hayton
Children: Emil Bojahr, Daniel Walsh.
Conductor: Antony Walker.
Assistant conductor: Robert Houssart.
Chorus master: Francine Merry.
Assistant chorus master: Genevieve Ellis.
Leader: Gonzalo Acosta.
Director: Richard Jones.
Designer: Giles Cadle.l
Costume: Buki Shiff.
Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin.
Choreographer: Lucy Burge.
The Tales of Hoffmann
Opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach
The Tales of Hoffmann, Opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach, was first performed at the Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), Paris on 10 February 1881.
The first perf in the UK was at the Adelphi Theatre, London on 17 April 1907.
First performance of this production by English National Opera at the London Coliseum 10 February 2012.