|Giulietta and Stella
|Spalanzani and Pitichinaccio
|Coppelius and Schlemil
|Dappertuto and Dr Miracle
|Antonia's late mother
Music director Jim Petts, stage director Susan Moore, arrangements by Jim Petts and Oliver Williams.
Performed in the Great Hall of Shaw House on 2, 3 and 4 February.
What makes Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann unique is that it's the one enduring serious opera composed by a man who earned his reputation, and his lasting place in social and musical history, by writing 105 decidedly non serious works, usually labelled operetta, opera comique or opera bouffe. Arthur Sullivan, who learned a great deal from Offenbach, tried to make a similar leap into the ranks of serious composers with his romantic opera Ivanhoe, but Ivanhoe has disappeared, whereas Offenbach's serious, symbolist, death-and devil-haunted work is still regularly revived, with all-star casts and lavish new productions, at major opera houses.
Or almost successfully. Even favourable critics still tend to describe The Tales of Hoffmann as Offenbach's 'problematic,' 'potential,' or 'unresolved' masterpiece. Producers keep rewriting its text and score, rearranging its scenes, and making new cuts and additions, which don't always make the opera clearer. (Offenbach died before he finished it, so the game is fair.) No two commentators can even agree on what the opera means.
What did we do to make it work in Shaw House? We went back to a fair approximation of the original spoken dialogue, provided parts for everybody (hoping it was not too confusing), and trimmed the music to the bare essentials to make sure we got in all the well-known melodies. We did clear out some repeats, partly to give the poor tenor an occasional rest!