Les Contes d'Hoffman

by Jacques Offenbach

Bremen Musikfest
Die Glocke
https://www.musikfest-bremen.de/start/

Bremen, Germany
Subtitles available in German
  • September 2018
    01
    Saturday
    19:00 > 23:00
    4 hours
Find out more about the Cast , the Composition , the Composer or what the Reviews say

Les Contes d'Hoffman

Cast

Press & Reviews

Kreiszeitung
Markus Wilks
Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffman" at the Bremen Musikfest
With Jessica Pratt, the music festival has a singer able to personify all the female figures in a clearly distinct way. What a versatile stage presence! - whether as the shiny automaton Olympia, or mourning Antonia or even as the joyful Giulietta, this dramatic coloratura soprano fills the vault to the last arch with lyrical intimacy and vocal power.
Neue Oz
Ralf Döring
The Bremen Musikfest delights with "The Tales of Hoffman"
Jessica Pratt astonishing coloratura machine as Olympia, touching as Antonia, seductive as Giulietta and closing as Stella - it is now common practice to use a single singer for all the female roles in Hoffmann's life. This is not always successful, as the characters have very different vocal challenges. Pratt, of Australian origins, however is nevertheless equally at ease in all the registers and so the four women get transformed into four complete studies on the impossible nature of love.

The Composition

Les contes d'Hoffmann

Libretto written in italian by Jules Barbier, was first premiered on a Thursday on February 10 of 1881
The Tales of Hoffmann (French: Les contes d'Hoffmann) is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who is the protagonist of the story. It was Offenbach's final work, as he died a year before the premiere.
Synopsis
Prologue Prologue (or epilogue), in the 1881 première A tavern in Nuremberg. The Muse appears and reveals to the audience that her purpose is to draw Hoffmann's attention to herself, and to make him abjure all other loves, so he can be devoted fully to her: poetry. She takes the appearance of Hoffmann's closest friend, Nicklausse. The prima donna Stella, currently performing Mozart's Don Giovanni, sends a letter to Hoffmann, requesting a meeting in her dressing room after the performance. The letter and the key to the room are intercepted by Councillor Lindorf ("Dans les rôles d'amoureux langoureux" – In the languid lovers' roles), who is the first of the opera's incarnations of evil, Hoffmann's nemesis. Lindorf intends to replace Hoffmann at the rendezvous. In the tavern students wait for Hoffmann. He finally arrives and entertains them with the legend of Kleinzach the dwarf ("Il était une fois à la cour d'Eisenach" – Once upon a time at the court of Eisenach). Lindorf coaxes Hoffmann into telling the audience about his life's three great loves. Act 1 (Olympia) This act is based on a portion of "Der Sandmann" (The Sandman). Hoffmann's first love is Olympia, an automaton created by the scientist Spalanzani. Hoffmann falls in love with her, not knowing that Olympia is a mechanical doll ("Allons! Courage et confiance...Ah! vivre deux!" – Come on! Courage and confidence ... Ah! to live!). To warn Hoffmann, Nicklausse, who knows the truth about Olympia, sings a story of a mechanical doll who looked like a human, but Hoffmann ignores him ("Une poupée aux yeux d'émail" – A doll with enamel eyes). Coppélius, Olympia's co-creator and this act's incarnation of Nemesis, sells Hoffmann magic glasses that make Olympia appear as a real woman ("J'ai des yeux" – I have eyes). Olympia sings one of the opera's most famous arias, "Les oiseaux dans la charmille" (The birds in the arbor, nicknamed "The Doll Song"), during which she periodically runs down and needs to be wound up before she can continue. Hoffmann is tricked into believing that his affections are returned, to the bemusement of Nicklausse, who subtly tries to warn his friend ("Voyez-la sous son éventail" – See her under her fan). While dancing with Olympia, Hoffmann falls on the ground and his glasses break. At the same time, Coppélius appears and tears Olympia apart to retaliate against Spalanzani, who tricked him out of his fees. With the crowd laughing at him, Hoffmann realizes that he was in love with an automaton. Act 2 (Antonia) This act is based on "Rath Krespel". After a long search, Hoffmann finds the house where Crespel and his daughter Antonia are hiding. Hoffmann and Antonia loved each other, but were separated when Crespel decided to hide his daughter from Hoffmann. Antonia has inherited her mother's talent for singing, but her father forbids her to sing because of the mysterious illness from which she suffers. Antonia wishes that her lover would return to her ("Elle a fui, la tourterelle" – "She fled, the dove"). Her father also forbids her to see Hoffmann, who encourages Antonia in her musical career, and therefore endangers her without knowing it. Crespel tells Frantz, his servant, to stay with his daughter, and when Crespel leaves, Frantz sings a comical song about his own talents "Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre" – "Day and night I quarter my mind." When Crespel leaves his house, Hoffmann takes advantage of the occasion to sneak in, and the lovers are reunited (love duet: "C'est une chanson d'amour" – "It's a love song"). When Crespel returns, he receives a visit from Dr Miracle, the act's Nemesis, who forces Crespel to let him heal Antonia. Still in the house, Hoffmann listens to the conversation and learns that Antonia may die if she sings too much. He returns to her room and makes her promise to give up her artistic dreams. Antonia reluctantly accepts her lover's will. Once she is alone, Dr Miracle enters Antonia's room and tries to persuade her to sing and follow her mother's path to glory, stating that Hoffmann is sacrificing her to his brutishness and loves her only for her beauty. With mystic powers, he raises a vision of Antonia's dead mother and induces Antonia to sing, causing her death. Crespel arrives just in time to witness his daughter's last breath. Hoffmann enters the room and Crespel wants to kill him, thinking that he is responsible for his daughter's death. Nicklausse saves his friend from the old man's vengeance. Act 3 (Giulietta) This act is very loosely based on Die Abenteuer der Silvester-Nacht (A New Year's Eve Adventure). Venice. The act opens with the barcarolle "Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour" – "Beautiful night, oh night of love". Hoffmann falls in love with the courtesan Giulietta and thinks she returns his affections ("Amis, l'amour tendre et rêveur" – "Friends, tender and dreamy love"). Giulietta is not in love with Hoffmann but only seducing him under the orders of Captain Dapertutto, who has promised to give her a diamond if she steals Hoffmann's reflection from a mirror ("Scintille, diamant" – "Sparkle, diamond"). The jealous Schlemil (cf. Peter Schlemihl for a literary antecedent), a previous victim of Giulietta and Dapertutto (he gave Giulietta his shadow), challenges the poet to a duel, but is killed. Nicklausse wants to take Hoffmann away from Venice and goes looking for horses. Meanwhile, Hoffmann meets Giulietta and cannot resist her ("O Dieu! de quelle ivresse" – "O God! of what intoxication"): he gives her his reflection, only to be abandoned by the courtesan, to Dapertutto's great pleasure. Hoffmann tells Dapertutto that his friend Nicklausse will come and save him. Dapertutto prepares a poison to get rid of Nicklausse, but Giulietta drinks it by mistake and drops dead in the poet's arms. Epilogue The tavern in Nuremberg. Hoffmann, drunk, swears he will never love again, and explains that Olympia, Antonia, and Giulietta are three facets of the same person, Stella. They represent, respectively, the young girl's, the musician's, and the courtesan's side of the prima donna. When Hoffmann says he doesn't want to love any more, Nicklausse reveals herself as the Muse and reclaims Hoffmann: "Be reborn a poet! I love you, Hoffmann! Be mine!" – "Renaîtra un poète! Je t'aime, Hoffmann! Sois à moi!" The magic of poetry reaches Hoffmann as he sings "O Dieu! de quelle ivresse – "O God! of what intoxication" once more, ending with "Muse whom I love, I am yours!" – "Muse que j'aime, je suis à toi!" At this moment, Stella, who is tired of waiting for Hoffmann to come to her rendezvous, enters the tavern and finds him drunk. The poet tells her to leave ("Farewell, I will not follow you, phantom, spectre of the past" – "Adieu, je ne vais pas vous suivre, fantôme, spectre du passé"), and Lindorf, who was waiting in the shadows, comes forth. Nicklausse explains to Stella that Hoffmann does not love her any more, but that Councillor Lindorf is waiting for her. Some students enter the room for more drinking, while Stella and Lindorf leave together.

Jacques Offenbach

Short biography of the composer
Jacques Offenbach (French pronunciation: ​[ʒak ɔfɛnbak]; German: [ˈɔfn̩bax]; 20 June 1819 – 5 October 1880) was a German-born French composer, cellist and impresario of the romantic period. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st. The Tales of Hoffmann remains part of the standard opera repertory. Born in Cologne, the son of a synagogue cantor, Offenbach showed early musical talent. At the age of 14, he was accepted as a student at the Paris Conservatoire but found academic study unfulfilling and left after a year. From 1835 to 1855 he earned his living as a cellist, achieving international fame, and as a conductor. His ambition, however, was to compose comic pieces for the musical theatre. Finding the management of Paris' Opéra-Comique company uninterested in staging his works, in 1855 he leased a small theatre in the Champs-Élysées. There he presented a series of his own small-scale pieces, many of which became popular. In 1858, Offenbach produced his first full-length operetta, Orphée aux enfers ("Orpheus in the Underworld"), which was exceptionally well received and has remained one of his most played works. During the 1860s, he produced at least 18 full-length operettas, as well as more one-act pieces. His works from this period included La belle Hélène (1864), La Vie parisienne (1866), La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867) and La Périchole (1868). The risqué humour (often about sexual intrigue) and mostly gentle satiric barbs in these pieces, together with Offenbach's facility for melody, made them internationally known, and translated versions were successful in Vienna, London and elsewhere in Europe. Offenbach became associated with the Second French Empire of Napoleon III; the emperor and his court were genially satirised in many of Offenbach's operettas. Napoleon III personally granted him French citizenship and the Légion d'Honneur. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Offenbach found himself out of favour in Paris because of his imperial connections and his German birth. He remained successful in Vienna and London, however. He re-established himself in Paris during the 1870s, with revivals of some of his earlier favourites and a series of new works, and undertook a popular U.S. tour. In his last years he strove to finish The Tales of Hoffmann, but died before the premiere of the opera, which has entered the standard repertory in versions completed or edited by other musicians.

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