Jacques Offenbach's opera is performed by the Lyon Opera. The poet Hoffmann, now pursuing the prima donna Stella, begins an evening's drinking with the tale of his three lost loves. The first was a mechanical doll, Olympia, who was smashed to pieces. The second, Antonia was the daughter of Crespel, and suffered from an ailment related to singing - when the evil Dr Miracle accompanied her on the violin she died. The final lost love, Giulietta, was a courtesan who captured Hoffmann's soul in the form of his reflection.
Unfortunately the qualities that make Jacques Offenbach's operetta The Tales of Hoffmann
an irresistible melodic profusion of wit, dash and unfailing high spirits are only in evidence in the playing of the Lyon Opera Orchestra under Kent Nagano: operetta, more than its serious cousin, continues to be fair game for the whims of producers and designers. In this case an excellent cast including Daniel Galvez-Vallejo as Hoffmann, Natalie Dessay as Olympia, Brigitte Balley as Nicklausse and Isabelle Vernet as Giulietta, as well as Gabriel Bacquier who sings three roles, are obliged to perform Offenbach's operetta in a lunatic asylum designed by Philippe Starck as a three-dimensional grey set, topped with barbed wire. The production by Louis Erlo adapts and cuts scenes to fit this concept, so the tavern scene where Hoffmann sings his celebrated number "The Legend of Kleinzack" disappears, as do the chorus who are banished to the wings. In this environment there's no room for charm or even a kind of mad-hatter behaviour. The cast are reduced to stereotypes and of necessity singularly unlovable ones. What a wasted opportunity. The sound is excellent as it is on two fillers: a short film of Penderecki conducting his choral work, The Seven Gates to Jerusalem
from the Midem festival at Cannes and a trailer for a Lyon Opera House production of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust
. --Adrian Edwards