Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Royal Opera House
This wonderful Offenbach opera had, as its original director in 1980, John Schlesinger. This brilliant production is still going, even if at this moment it is looking slightly tired. This is the last time we will see this rich glamorous production and it will be missed. This version of Hoffman allows us to see the 3 stories of Hoffman i.e. Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta, in a slightly different sequence of the acts where Giulietta and Antonia acts are swapped. Offenbach himself never saw the completed opera (having died in 1880 before its first performance) and at the first performance of this opera at the Opera Comique in Paris, it was actually performed without the Giulietta act. However, that was added a few months later.
In this production, the Italian conductor, Evelino Pido, gave us a careful and considerate interpretation of the score, although one wished sometimes for slightly more vigour and pace. The Hoffman of Vittorio Grigolo sings with great security and force with an Italianate ring even if not great tonal beauty. His opening aria ‘Kleinzach’ shows the great talent he possesses even though he might not always be the easiest of characters. Thomas Hampson sung the four roles of Lindorf, Coppelius, Dappertutto and Miracle. This wonderful American baritone, at the age of 61, is still a consummate artist, but his voice lies in the middle to upper baritone register rather than a bass-baritone range that was required. He occasionally struggled somewhat and even at the higher register was rather dry. His doctor, Miracle, was a Halloween type performance. The Olympia of Sofia Fomina reached all the heights and more required of this role – culminating in an A above top C – but her voice did occasionally sound quite pinched. Christine Rice was a wonderful Giulietta and Sonya Yoncheva was a luxurious Antonia, albeit with the odd sharp note when stretched. Vincent Ordonneau sung his four servant roles admirably and Hoffman’s companion and muse was a rather under-powered but accurate American, Kate Lindsey, who did not really possess the heft when it was required. The musical pleasure of the evening was for once matched by a wonderful Zeffirelli type staging.
With best wishes,
7th November 2016