The Tales of Hoffmann

The Tales of Hoffmann

Jacques Offenbach

“Opéra fantastique” in five acts, libretto by Jules Barbier based on the drama by Jules Paul Barbier and Michel Carré inspired by E. T. A. Hoffmann ; first performed on 10 february 1881 at the Opéra comique in Paris.
Edited by Michael Kaye and Jean-Christophe Keck.

New production of the Opéra national de Bordeaux Aquitaine.

Run time 3h45

Opéra national de Bordeaux Aquitaine from the 19th of September to the 1st of October 2019.

 

Creators

Conductor : Marc Minkowski
Director : Vincent Huguet
Set designer : Aurélie Maestre
Costume designer : Clémence Pernoud
Lighting and video designer : Bertrand Couderc
Chorus master : Salvatore Caputo
Assistant director : Céline Gaudier
Dramaturgy : Louis Geisler
Musical preparation : Jean-Marc Fontana and Sophie Teboul
Assistant conductor : Romain Dumas
Assistant lighting designer : Lila Meynard

Cast

Hoffmann : Adam Smith
Stella, Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta : Jessica Pratt
The Muse, Nicklausse, the voice of Antonia’s mother : Aude Extrémo
Lindorf, Coppélius, Miracle, Dapertutto : Nicolas Cavallier
Andrès, Cochenille, Frantz, Pitichinaccio : Marc Mauillon
Spalanzani : Christophe Mortagne
Luther, Crespel : Jérôme Varnier
Nathanaël, Schlémil : Éric Huchet
Hermann, Whilhelm, the captain : Clément Godart

Extracts from L’Inhumaine, film by Marcel L’Herbier © 1923 Cinégraphic / Lobster films

Orchestre national Bordeaux Aquitaine
Chœur de l’Opéra national de Bordeaux

Photos : © Éric Bouloumié / Opéra national de Bordeaux

Note on the staging
Vincent Huguet

“The Opera of Operas”

 

Few operatic works can be said to be truly “haunted” in the manner of a house or castle. But “haunted” The Tales of Hoffmannare and will remain, perhaps due to their inspiration — the dark and brilliant Hoffmann, and also on account of their almost legendary origins. Offenbach, with one foot already in the grave, did not have time to finish his score, and his work was completed and finally created after his death. What is more, in 1881, after the opera’s second performance in Vienna, a fire broke out in the Ringtheater, killing hundreds of people. In the end, post mortem, Offenbach forced the world to take him very seriously indeed… Because the “Mozart of the Champs-Élysées”, who was both revered and vilified throughout his inspired and exuberant life, produced — just before taking his final bow — more than a declaration of love to the Opera: he created a perfect synopsis of the operatic world, of its splendours and woes… A final portrait of the world in which he had lived and to which he had devoted his entire existence. This is what makes The Tales of Hoffmannsuch a unique opera, and this is the dimension I intend to explore and highlight in this new production.

Nietzsche coined the phrase “the civilisa’on of the Opera”, which would be a fitting subtitle for The Tales of Hoffmann, because, like the diabolical Coppelius in Olympia’s Act, who creates illusions with his optical instruments, Offenbach has fun composing an opera while at the same time constantly pulling it to pieces, with a skill and irony that bears comparison to the way in which Flaubert wrote Madame Bovary. Everything and nothing are serious, everything is true and everything is an illusion. At the same time. Because while Hoffmann, a parody of the romantic artist, recounts his love life to a joyful and drunken gathering, Mozart’s Don Giovanniis being played just behind the door. Two performances are unfolding at the same time: one of the most admired works of the entire operatic repertoire and the work which Offenbach had just composed. To make this situation — so exciting and abounding with possibilities — easier to understand, we need to take Offenbach seriously and follow his lead by having fun with optical instruments: spectacles, magnifying glasses and kaleidoscopes.

The action will therefore begin on the steps of Hoffmann’s mausoleum before this is transformed, during the prologue… into the Bordeaux Opera House itself, this white stone-clad hall, this masterpiece by 18thcentury architect Victor Louis, which Charles Garnier used as a direct model for the Opéra de Paris and therefore, subsequently, for many opera houses around the world. Broken down, reconstituted and transformed, the elements of this architecture will move to create the different scenes, in the same way that Offenbach manipulates the realities and figures of the Opera world, because people, like places, also occur in duplicate, triplicate and even quadruplicate. And in this work, like no other, Offenbach has explored the multiple facets of the soprano—the birdbrained artisan of very high-pitched notes, the manipulator and temptress—, the tenor—hot-headed and blinded by love, the baritone—sinister and calculating, and even the chorus, the musicians, the staff behind the bar at the interval… It is probably no coincidence that Offenbach chose Don Giovanni, which Wagner called “the opera of all operas”, because with the Taleshe too had created the opera of operas.