Offenbach: Contes d'Hoffmann [DVD]  
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Customers who bought this item also bought
Seeking to exorcise the failure of his current love affair, the poet Hoffmann tells the tales of his three past loves - the doll-like Olympia, the high-class courtesan Giulietta, and the ambitious but delicate Antonia - and recalls how each was thwarted by the evil influence of his rival. Jacques Offenbach's opera is performed at the Paris National Opera, directed by Robert Carsen, and the cast includes Neil Shicoff (as Hoffmann) and Bryn Terfel.
Top customer reviews
Vocally, Neil Schicoff is getting on a bit but still sings well but he does sometimes look as if he's sleepwalking through the role. Bryn Terfel is subtly menacing in the 'villain' roles but seems a little light of voice to me. Desiree Rancatore is a delight as Olympia both vocally and dramatically although some may not like the overtly sexual overtones to her 'Doll Song'. Ruth Ann Swenson is a lovely though hardly fragile Antonia - her outfit is a fright however! Beatrice Uria-Monzon gets the best costume as a highly glamorous Giulietta and does her best with the little she gets to sing. Suzanne Mentzer is terrific as Nicklausse/Muse and benefits by getting the most added material including the splendid violin aria during the Antonia act. Smaller roles are well taken and its all very enjoyable. It loses a star because I was disappointed (as always) with the Giulietta act but otherwise, I would recommend it.
The men are are all perfectly adequate but nobody struck me as oustanding.
The sets vary between outlandish and strange, they are multi layered, and acton can be spread over three stories. The characters hang off platforms and spend a lot of time climbing up and down steps. Colourful it is not, dark settings, black backgrounds and shades of grey are the order of the day. What I found remarkable is the way the stage crews change the sets durung the performance, so surrepticious it was nothing less than brilliant.
The Muse/Nicklaus is more feminine than other productions I have seen.
The costumes are modern, avant garde, and on some characters non existant. If you are easily offended avoid. Orchestra is well balanced and the whole performance generally entertaining. On second viewing with the surprises out of the way it is better than my first impression.
For me, the Prologue is overlong and the Tale of Giulietta is marred by Wesseling, who, for all that her singing is excellent, is overweight and lacking in sexual allure. It doesn't help that she is flanked half of the time by almost naked (in bodystockings) women of perfect shape, while she is bursting out of her corset (Petibon and Harnisch sing every bit as well as Olympia and Antonia while also managing to look every inch the part). As another reviewer has commented, the men are a bit weak. Cavallier is the best, especially as Dr Miracle, but Laho's Hoffmann is almost anonymous and completely fails to engage our interest. This may be partly Offenbach's fault but I don't think Laho can act.
Overall, there is more than enough in the show, both musically and visually, to compensate for these weaknesses but, if you only want one "Hoffmann", buy the "Criterion Collection" version of the Powell and Pressburger. It's in a completely different league and is astonishing value at £4.99.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Secondly; you need to be very broad minded as this production contains nudity.
This production explores the darker side of Hoffmann.
The staging is quite staggering and elaborate with its illuminating rotating mechanical sets and multi-layered stage. The costumes are quite inventive and fit in quite well. Those of you who have read my reviews in the past will be aware that I do not like modern productions of opera. I was convinced that I would not like it. But after watching it, I had to concede it actually worked. The image and sound quality is exceptional; which brings me to the cast; most of whom are unknown to me. Marc Laho (Hoffmann) is new to me and is well cast in the title role. His tone seems to be nurtured for this part. Stella Doufexis (Muse/Nicklause) what can I say. This woman is incredible. She has more to sing than anyone and the voice is as fresh at the end as it is in the beginning. Nicolas Cavallier (the four protagonists) holds his own throughout the production, using his stage craft to good advantage. In this production there are four individual women playing the roles of Olympia (Patricia Petibon), Antonio (Rachel Harnish), Giuletta (Maria Riccarda Wesseling) & Stella (Delphine Beaulieu) each brilliant in their respective roles. Eric Huchet (the four tenor comique parts) is brilliant to say the least. The remaining cast members & chorus are equally convincing.
You really have to see this version to appreciate it. It would take pages for me to explain it fully, but if an old traditionalist like me can enjoy it and I would happily have paid top dollar to see it; you should not have any trouble. Because of the nudity, I would restrict children from watching it as this really is an adults only version portrayed here. Buy, enjoy and see Hoffmann in a different light.
To be honest I dithered about purchasing it; of the singers I knew only three Petibon, Laho, and Denize. A clip of Petibon's Olympia was available for awhile on YouTube, I knew Denize from a production of the Carmelites, and Laho from a Glyndeboune production of Le Conte Ory. This is the only avaible DVD of the work, and Laho is hardly competition for Juan Diego Florez--a valiant attempt, but falling far short of the mark. Ultimately I decided to take the plunge and get it and as it turned out I made a wise decision. A bonus is a documentary of the making of the production. I found it extremely interesting. The conductor. Patrick Devin is quite aware of the "new" music that has been discovered so that while there is an editorial choice to be made, envitably no two Hoffmann's will be alike. The Diamond aria has been deleted, but the Barcarolle has been retained. Niklausse now has more music to sing and the role has become a major one. Even though this is not Paris it was performed in Geneva and is hence the most "French" Hoffmann in the catalogue and for me this is a major plus. Laho will never be accused of having a beautiful voice, but for much of the time he is up to the challenges as is Stella Doufexis, as Niklausse and the Muse. Petibon is a wonderful Olympia and is quite up to the difficulties of the role. Indeed that can be said of the remainder of the cast. Patrick Devin establishes brisk gallic tempi, but never at the expense of thse passages where explansiveness is needed. I must mention Nicolas Cavallier who sings all four villains. As Hoffmann's nemesis he is superb.
The fly in the ointment for many will be the production by Olivier Py. It is far removed from any other production I have seen either in the theatre or DVD. It is essentially non-representational with the exception of the Antonia act. The weakest is the Giuletta act as it is simply not evocative of anything in particular. Having retained the Barcarolle he does nothing but that is at least preferable to the Carsen version with the chorus swaying in theatre seats. For many I suppose the most controversial directorial decision Py made was the use of nudity. If Petion is not naked she could be wearing a body stocking, but I would never testify to either. Others are in various states of undress, but only Petibon has a spotlight on her during the aria. Why the cross dressing? It makes no sense unless Py wanted to suggest a level of depravity that certainly would never have played in Offenback's time. The character of Luther is hardly a pivotal one, but why is he in drag?
Hoffmann is not an inexpensive opera to mount properly; apparently the Met was not successful with Bret Sher's current investiture. The Met also made some editorial decisions with the edition they performed so they offer more Choudons than Geneva. Since there will never be an Offenbach "Hoffmann", I suppose it is folly to argue for one over the other. Yet having Michael Kaye's edition it strikes me as perverse to ignore what he has made available. Devin and Py have made more of this than any other production and I for one am thrilled.
Look for similar items by category