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Offenbach Les Contes D'Hoffmann [DVD] [2014]

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3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £11.58 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Format: Classical, PAL
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: French, German, English, Italian, Spanish, Catalan
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: PLG UK Classics
  • DVD Release Date: 6 Jan 2014
  • Run Time: 183 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00FOY4HZQ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,830 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

Stéphane Denève conducts the Gran Teatre del Liceu Orchestra and Chorus in this production of Offenbach's opera, recorded live at Barcelona's Liceu Opera House. Performers include Kathleen Kim, Natalie Dessay and Michael Spyres.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrific performance, poor video quality 31 Jan 2014
I've seen this production "live" as it is a share with the San Francisco Opera and Lyon. It comes across much better in the theatre than on video. The performers here are wonderful but the quality of the video is terrible. The color is all washed out. It looks like what you might see from a low budget movie from the 1960's or a film with very faded color. You can tell immediately with the view of the audience before the performance starts that there is something very wrong. There is no excuse for the poor quality of transfer. I have a copy of this performance when it was televised in Europe and the video quality is excellent. The only reason I am keeping this is for the English titles. My televised copy has French titles.

However, the end result is that this is definitely worth having - not only for the wonderful performance but for the "new" edition which I found to be very effective.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting new (to me) version 11 Jan 2014
By M. Ball
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This is a revue of Les Contes d'Hoffman by the Gran Teatre del Liceu from 2014 starring Natalie Dessay, Laurent Naouri and Michele Losier among others.

Because Offenbach died before fully completing Les Contes d'Hoffman there are a lot of different versions around and this was one that I hadn't seen before which made it particularly interesting. There were several numbers I had not heard before. This was clearly the version Powel and Pressburger had based there film version on (although they cut a good hour of material and changed things around quite a lot).

My only real complaint of the performance was that the staging was a little plain - presumably because of the many fairly rapid scene changes that were needed. Everything else was excellent.
There was a big cast all of whom were at least good. Of the bigger roles Natalie Dessay (Antonia), Laurent Naouri (Lindorf, Dapertutto etc.) and Michele Losier (Nicklausse) stood out as particularly good and Kathleen Kim (Olympia) was excellent in a small but very difficult role. Both Stephane Deneve and the Liceu orchestra were first rate.

Video and Sound were very good and the video editing (which must have been quite difficult in some of the scenes) was excellent.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A few magical but Psychological moments. 20 Feb 2014
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I have always had mixed views about Laurent Pelley productions. Some work well and some kind of work. The man always seems to be obsessed with back stage machinery both real and imaginary. To my mind to strip any theatre bare and show back wall and emergency exits completely kills all the magic of the stage.
Here again we were subject to some of this mingled with some weird Psychology. Scene one of the story should give the heady atmosphere of a beer and wine sodden students drinking cellar. In this production it looked more like a waiting room at your local Psychiatric clinic. Again as is often the normal these days we had a near static chorus with no acting ability or credit. Why do so many Operas these days kill the action ? Surely a concert performance would serve just as well but I digress!
So many shades of grey, pealing wall paper and the twilight shading. I did so much enjoy, without any doubt, the mechanical doll scenes which really lifted the performance from its gloom. The nutty press scientist critics also enlivened those scenes. The Antonia scenes ( pealing wallpaper) Were ,as they should be, very claustrophobic and opposing. Moving staircases? - Harry Potter springs to mind! again use of stage machinery. In the final Venice scenes Floating sofas not gondolas???
Fortunately all the character parts were so perfect and saved the whole show for me. Particularly the menacing villain in all his anti - hero guises. A real nightmare character perhaps more sinister than was called for at times. The Tenor lead was suitably pathetic and all the three leading ladies were excellent portrayals. The trouser role was also satisfying in his/her protective and suffering devotion to Hoffman.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last - the authentic version 26 Jan 2014
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This is the critical version created by Jean-Christoph Keck, first performed in Lausanne on 2003.
It is based on original discovered Offenbach manuscripts, and it is perhaps the closest we shall ever get to the 'real' LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN.
This version was definitely unknown to performers (and audience) before the 21st century, and the background of its reconstruction is descriced in the film "The Lost Manuscript", recently published in this DVD :
[...]

And it is a wonderful performance.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Bag 3 Feb 2014
By John G. Gleeson Sr. - Published on Amazon.com
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I bought this opera for several reasons: first, it will be Natalie Dessay's last opera recording, since she announced her retirement after this performance. Dessay has been an exceptional performer, being gifted with excellent acting skills, as well as an extended and agile coloratura voice. Second, I wanted to see what Laurent Pelly, a director whose work I generally like, would do with Hoffman. Like most, if not all opera performances, it has strengths as well as weaknesses.

I have heard Michael Spyres (Hoffman) but primarily in Rossini, where his extended range and flexible technique brought splendid results. Dramatically, he is spot on; his portrayal of the alcholic poet with serious relationship issues is near perfect. Vocally, however, Hoffman ain't Rossini; there are extended lines that hit squarely on the passagio, the point where the voice shifts from chest to head registers, and, consequently, is at its most vulnerable. By the end of the opera, there is noticible fatigue to the point where he sounds strained and looks exhausted.

Dessay didn't sound like retirement was on her mind. She was clearly watching what she did, but the role of Antonia, whose illness will kill her if she sings was a good choice for Dessay's exit from opera and she made the most of it. There was no sign of the problems that plagued her in the recent Met Traviata.

Laurent Nouri (the four villains) is dramatically the real deal, and he can sing almost as well in the part as Bryn Terfel in the now-deleted TDK version or Konstantin Gorny in the Opus Arte version. Nontheless he makes the villains out to be diabolically bad.

Michele Losier is a good Nicluasse/Muse. She takes a while to warm up, but when she does shes quite good, but with a tendency to get shrill on top. Susanne Mentzer in the TDK version is hands down the best on disc, though.

Kathlees Kim is an awesone Olympia. Light but with no volume issues, she scales the vocal peaks (pun intended) flawlessly.

The rest of the performers do very well with no disappoitments. So does the chorus with lots of interaction, which makes the dramatics more credible.

Pelly's staging is ... busy There's a lot of scenery shifted during the active performance, and it distracts from time to time, primarily because there are no obvious dramatic reasons for the shifts, unless it's in Pelly's mind. But Hoffman has such a bizzare plot overall that most of what Pelly does works. Costumes are 19th century.

There has been quite a lot of musical scholarship focused on various editions of Hoffman with some buzz about newly discovered music which was included in this performance. An "extra feature" on the making of this opera would have been useful from that perspective, but, alas! there are no extras.

Picture is good, but oddly, only 5.1 sound was an option with no DTS available.

The TDK version with Shicoff as a passionate Hoffman is still my favorite DVD. It's available from some Amazon sellers at a very nice price and is being re-released (at leat in Europe) on the Art Haus label.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Major Disappointment 7 Feb 2014
By DDD - Published on Amazon.com
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When I first read of this Erato release I was hopeful that it would be vocally and dramatically superior to the issue on BelAir. After all it had mostly a Francophone cast and Spyres had demonstrated via some clips on YouTube that he had a good sense of French style. Kim, of course is not French but Olympia suffers less in this regard than other roles. .

No, most of the problem lies in the fact that the composer died before he completed the opera and the edition that has been standard in most operas is acknowledged now after considerable research to be far from what Offenbach probably intended. First the German musicologist Fritz Oeser had a go at it and subsequently Michael Kaye took it on. It is my understanding that it is Kaye"s version that was the basis of the Erato CD version with Alagna. Initially Offenbach offered the opus to the Opera but they declined; subsequently it was offered to the Comique which accepted it. As a result dialogue had to be part of the score and the three female roles were to be sung by Adele Issac, a stalwart member of the Comique and a coloratura. It should be noted that the Erato CD edition has cast Sumi Jo as Giuletta and there is no dialogue. The opera is longer and darker than the corrupt Choudons edition; it should also be noted that two CD recordings (one on EMI the other on Phlips) that preceded the Erato recording had incorporated some of the "new" findings. What we have then is a situation similar to Don Carlo. The musical director, not having anything resembling the "ur" text must make decisions as to how he (or she) wants to mount the opera. Use the familiar Choudons edition or attempt some kind of amalgamation of what is now available.

The notes for this new taping are miserable, the sort provided be Kultur and Virgin. A cast list and all the relevant individuals has been provided. . A woman by the name of Agathe Melimand is responsible for the new libretto (!). It should be noted that there is dialogue in this edition and fortunately with the abundance of Francophone speakers there is no jarring transition. Does it move the plot along? Does it provide pertinent narrative details? Hard to say. Almost at every point this DVD is trumped by the BelAir edition. Neither provide a coloratura for Giuletta but the soprano. Maria Riccarda Wessling for BelAir is far superior to Tatiana Pavlovskaya for Erato. The latter is a voice of littlie distiinction and that may be the reason for the brevity of the act. Since the famous aria for Dapertutto (not by Offenbach) is omitted the bass-baritone has a different "diamond" aria to sing. This aria is also used in the BelAir tapiing. Giuletta is given short shrift by both editions but even more so in the Erato, perhaps because of the singer's technique--or lack of it. It all ends abruptly, while the BelAir edition provides a concerted number which may or may not be spurious but is satisfying musically and dramatically.

What of the other singers and I am afraid that I must draw comparisons to the BelAir edition. Kim is a good Olympis faltering only on the accuti which are shrill and abrasive. Perhaps this is the result of the taping and not evident in the house. Petibon on the BelAir is a superior singer and gives a better performance even though she is required to wear a body stocking which makes her appear nude. In fact there is probably more nudity in this performance than in any other opera I have on DVD. So if it offends you...........Natalie Dessay is a truly charismatic artist and her departure from the operatic stage is sad but inevitable considering her waning resources. She is however able to portray a touching Antonia. (Her Violetta from Aix is a far better tribute to her talents and would be the disc that I would choose to remember her by.) On BelAir the Antonia is Rachel Harnisch. Perhaps somewhat generic but fresh voiced and up to the demands of the role. And what of our titular hero? Michael Spyres is blessed with a good sense of French style. The role is now very long and one has the feeling that it is taxing him to the limit. BelAir offers a tenor from Belgium, Marc Laho whose only other document is a Conte Ory from Glyndebourne; the colorature taxes him but he makes a valiant effort but he is not Juan Diego Florez. Hoffman is another kettle of fish. The voice is more serviceable than beautiful but he does have the notes and the measure of the role. Laurent Naouri (with gothic nail polish and kohl rimmed eyelids) is the very essense of malevolence. Alas he is frequently somewhat unsteady of tone and line. but like his wife he is a charismatic performer. On BelAir the nemisis is sung by Nicolas Cavallier who may not evoke the sense of evil and hatred for Hoffman that Naouri does but he sings with more beauty and evenness of tone--something not to be scoffed at. The one vocalist who consistently sings with distinction is Michele Losier, Nicklausse. In the Choudons edition the role is little more than a comprimario, but now she is clearly a major player and it is wonderful to hear her music sung with great authority and style. BelAir offers Stella Doufexis; She may not be gifted with as lush a voice as Losier but she is very good.

The Erato set if directed by Laurent Pelly. I would never have guessed it had that information not been provided. It is monochromatic; everything is gray. But it is "traditional" if that term means anything anymore. The only offender is the Giuletta act which is utterly lacking in any evocation of Venice--no canal. nor is regie evident here. The Bel Air edition is directed by Oliver Py. As I have indicated there is consierable flesh evident and there are no "real" sets in the sense that one is doubtless used to. Panels and various shapes all with lights are moved with great ease; Platforms have been erected to allow for action to play on more than one level. Since there are many scenes both productions are able to move with speed for scene changes. This is clearly the City of Light, not Munich or Venice

In the Erato taping the conductor is new to me,Stephane Deneve. I presume he is French and he moves the music along with Galiic brio, much like Nagano in the aforementioned CD. The BelAir production comes by way the Geneva and has the Suisse Romande, conducted by Patrick Davin in an excellent performance. Geneva may not be Paris but it trumps (marginially) Barcelona.

I should add that the BelAir performance is not more informative as regards the edition than the Erato even though the booklet gives the appearance of being informative. There is the cast and the story and an excerpt from the booklet provided by the theatre for attendees. It is called The Party is Over and is written by Py. It is not without interest but in such a work that only exists in part, it would have been useful to elaborate what and why choices were made. It is similar to Boris in which the composer made more than one version.. Don Carlo exists similarly. I love the opera, having seen it at the age of fourteen and owned the set that was recorded shortly after WWII. It was the Choudons version but my God the singing of the three sopranos. and even the Hoffman, Raoul Jobin. Cluytens conducts. It is a benchmark performance even if the edition should be discarded. The singiing overrides all.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but most welcome. 11 Mar 2014
By Charles Richards - Published on Amazon.com
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Erato’s release of this 2013 PRODUCTION of Offenbach’s "Les contes d’Hoffmann" from the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Laurent Pelly’s staging is something of a landmark. It is the first commercial video release to be based on the now extensively revised Michael Kaye edition since 1993, when the Opéra de Lyon’s adaptation (“…Des contes d’Hoffmann”) was issued on VHS and laser disc (now out of print, though used copies are available). However, the Lyon version from the early 90’s was clearly not representative of the edition, because most of the rediscovered music that makes this edition so important was cut, various numbers were moved around by the stage director and his controversial dramaturg, and a great deal of license was taken with the text.

While there are still several textual problems and some disappointing omissions in the performing version devised by Pelly and his equally faulty dramaturg, most people who watch the video of this production will be hearing a lot of authentic music that Offenbach composed for this opera, which may be unfamiliar to them. That, in turn, provides a much better sense of what Offenbach and his librettist, Jules Barbier, achieved. All in all, this video documents a fine performance.

Some of unfamiliar passages are rarities or first recordings, consisting of several early versions of arias rejected by Offenbach and later replaced by the more familiar definitive versions. It is a great treat hearing them so well sung here, notably: the first version of a radiantly beautiful romance ("‘ rÍve de joie") and a comic aria ("Voyez-la sous son evantail") for Nicklausse in the Olympia act, both masterfully sung by mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier. Later in the opera, instead of performing Offenbach’s definitive “Tourne, tourne miroir” or the apocryphal “Scintille diamant”, Pelly chose to have Dapertutto sing Offenbach’s very first version of that aria ("Répands tes feux dans l’air") to attract Giulietta, deftly sung by Laurent Naouri.

Most importantly, viewers of this DVD will be able to see the Giulietta act, albeit incomplete here, in a version that somewhat follows the original scenario penned by Offenbach and Barbier. One wonders why they didn’t just perform all of it and why they omitted Giulietta’s great coloratura seduction aria (“L’amour, lui dit la belle, vos yeux était fermées”). Dramaturg Agathe Mélinand’s pompous claim to having re-written the Giulietta Act for this production is very bogus. All she did was re-phrase some of the spoken dialogue and make very nasty unwelcome cuts!

Having said that, a major reason for owning this DVD is that it includes most of Offenbach’s original final scene of the Giulietta act, which is altogether different from the rather feeble, anti-climactic traditional version of the opera. But again, Pelly’s deconstruction is problematic, inexplicably changing Barbier’s lyrics and altering the denouement (all stemming from the first time he did this production in Lausanne). Nevertheless, most of the music is there and the dramatic punch it provides is as visceral as it was when Offenbach penned it shortly before he died. It is dark, disturbing, and brilliant ,and deserves to be heard—preferably, in a less adulterated form. Uncut, the final scene is only slightly more than 6 minutes. Why couldn’t they have respected what we now know Offenbach actually wrote and do all of it?

Despite these problems, Pelly’s directing is precise and vibrant, bringing with it some extremely original good ideas deserving of praise and admiration. Opting for a rather minimalist approach, Pelly manages to accomplish, through light and shadow (how appropriate for the Giulietta act!) something akin to German expressionist cinema. The feeling is real and appropriate for a work that is just beginning to be taken seriously as a much more coherent and meaningful "Tales of Hoffmann" than the opera our parents or grandparents would have known.

Michael Spyres’ Hoffmann is just what that character needs to be: vulnerable, desperate, and sympathetic. Michèle Losier turns the dual role of La Muse and Nicklausse into a tour-de-force, so necessary now that we understand the importance of these characters as Offenbach conceived them. Kathleen Kim has all the coloratura technique to bring off Olympia (and a flying Olympia at that), but Tatiana Pavlovskaya’s voice is far too dark for Giulietta. Often erroneously cast as a mezzo-soprano, Offenbach’s original score calls for a Giulietta who is also a coloratura soprano (not surprising, considering that all four of the heroine roles were intended to be sung by the same artist, the versatile Adèle Isaac).

The star of the show is, of course, Natalie Dessay who doesn’t disappoint. Cast as Antonia rather than her usual Olympia (and much anticipated Giulietta), one can get a sense of what it would have been like had Dessay been able to sing all of the heroines. She could have done it handily ten years ago, but, alas, it is now too late. Her husband, Laurent Naouri, is magnificently devilish as the four villains and seems to relish these roles. It’s really music he was born to sing, and, in my opinion, he does so to perfection.

In and of itself, this is a brilliant performance of the opera and can be highly recommended on its own merits. So if you love this opera, do yourself a favor and buy this set; despite its flaws, it is well worth having.
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