The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Season 4, Episode 4

Offenbach: Les contes d'Hoffmann (19 Dec. 2009)

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Three acts, book-ended by a Prologue and Epilogue, tell the poet Hoffman's failed loves. The first was just a doll, the second a dying singer, and the third a lady of the evening. That's Hoffman, looking for love in all the wrong places.

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Title: Offenbach: Les contes d'Hoffmann (19 Dec 2009)

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
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Kate Lindsey ...
Alan Held ...
Kathleen Kim ...
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Ekaterina Gubanova ...
Alan Oke ...
Dean Peterson ...
Michael Todd Simpson ...
Rodell Rosel ...
Mark Schowalter ...
Wendy White ...
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Storyline

Three acts, book-ended by a Prologue and Epilogue, tell the poet Hoffman's failed loves. The first was just a doll, the second a dying singer, and the third a lady of the evening. That's Hoffman, looking for love in all the wrong places.

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19 December 2009 (USA)  »

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It's Short
22 December 2010 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

This is a triumph for Director Bartlett Sher, a new name to me but he is apparently a New York theatre director. Although I am familiar with Hoffman I felt that I was seeing it for the first time and I kept on noticing little nuances that had passed me by in previous productions. There is an excellent set, particularly during the prologue where the audience appears to be backstage at the Met watching Stella perform. The production is enlivened by some risqué dancing, a wonderful spiral snake and some twirling umbrellas with rotating eyes. Sher mentions Kafka and Fellini as his inspiration and it certainly shows.

This Hoffman does not take advantage of any of the completions that have become available in recent years. It follows the traditional format of Prologue, three acts and epilogue. The only slightly unusual feature is that the Antonia section is the second act with the Giullieta act coming last. This works for me because it sandwiches the darker act between two more lively ones. Alan Held plays all four villains making it clear that Hoffman's nemesis is just one person which makes more sense to me than having a different villain in every section. The female roles are split between Kathleen Kim singing Olympia, Ekaterina Gubanova singing Giulietta and Anna Netrebko singing Antonia and the tiny part of Stella. One day I would like to hear one soprano tackle all four roles but the vocal requirements are such that few singers ever attempt it.

The best of the singers was Joseph Calleja who has a very pleasant light tenor voice. His acting is possibly not up to the same standard and he made no attempt to differentiate Hoffman's character at the different stages in his life. Kathleen Kim certainly pings the high notes as Olympia but did not bring out much of the humour of the character. Kate Lindsey had some effective moments as the Marlene Deitrich-influenced Nicklausse. Most disappointing was Anna Netrebko as Antonia. At times she was a bit screechy and her French diction was sometimes poor. Still, I enjoyed her interview in the interval. Deborah Voight asked her: "What do you love about singing Antonia?" and she replied: "It's short".


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