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Contes d’Hoffmann, Les (‘The Tales of Hoffmann’)locked

  • Andrew Lamb
  •  and Robert J. Dennis

Extract

Opéra fantastique in five acts by Jacques Offenbach to a libretto by Jules Barbier after the play by Barbier and Michel Carré; based on the stories of E.T.A. Hoffmann; Paris, Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), 10 February 1881.

The opera is based upon an 1851 play in which the poet E.T.A. Hoffmann is portrayed as a participant in various of his own stories. His spiritual and moral decline is depicted through successive loves – a frivolous infatuation with a mechanical doll, Olympia, genuine but thwarted love with the singer Antonia, and idle tarrying with the courtesan Giulietta. The three acts depicting these episodes are framed by a prologue and epilogue. In them Hoffmann is depicted telling these stories while awaiting his latest love, the prima donna Stella, who is finally recognized as a combination of the three earlier loves. Similarly, his constant companion Nicklausse is revealed as a personification of his poetic muse. To emphasize these unities, his various loves are properly sung by a single singer, as are Nicklausse and the Muse and also Hoffmann’s four adversaries Lindorf, Coppélius, Dr Miracle, and Dapertutto. At the première, lacking the Giulietta act, Hoffmann was sung by Jean-Alexandre Talazac, with Adèle Isaac as his lovers, and the bass Alexandre Taskin as the villains....

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