1. SYNOPSIS - THE TALES OF HOFFMANN
The libretto is an adaptation by Jules Barbier of three stories by the writer E.T.A.Hoffmann;
Der Sandmann, Rath Krespel, and Das verlorene Spiegelbild
Prologue - At a tavern in Nuremberg.
The prima donna Stella, currently performing Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni, sends a letter to Hoffmann, requesting a meeting in her dressing room after the performance. The letter and the key to the room are intercepted by the Councillor Lindorf, who is the first incarnation of evil and Hoffmann's nemesis. Lindorf intends to replace Hoffmann at the rendezvous. At the tavern students are waiting for Hoffmann. He finally arrives with his friend Nicklausse and entertains them with the legend of Kleinzach the dwarf. He is goaded by Lindorf and coaxed by the crowd into telling about three disastrous romances.
Hoffmann's first love is Olympia, a consummately crafted doll created by the inventor Spalanzani. The inventor was obliged to partner with Coppélius, this Act's evil incarnation, to create Olympia's eyes. Hoffmann arrives and Spalanzani offers to make him his pupil. Niklausse cautions Hoffmann that the beautiful figure is only a doll with enamelled eyes. Coppélius arrives in turn and sells Hoffmann magic glasses which make Olympia appear as a real woman. Spalanzani sees an opportunity for profit and buys out Coppélius's share with a generous but dud cheque drawn on a failed banker. He sets up a reception for Olympia's debut. Here Olympia sings one of the opera's most famous arias Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille where in between bursts of coloratura singing she periodically keeps winding down just before hitting the final high note. Hoffmann is tricked into believing his affections are returned, to the bemusement of Nicklausse, who subtly tries to warn his friend. While dancing with Olympia, who speeds up out of control, Hoffmann falls on the ground and his magic glasses break. At that moment Coppélius returns from the bank in a rage at having been tricked out of his just dues by Spalanzani and tears Olympia apart in retaliation. In the midst of the crowd's laughter, Hoffmann realizes that he was falling in love with an automaton.
(In this production an intermission is taken here)
Antonia loves Hoffmann, and in another famous aria, sings of herself as the faithful turtledove which has flown far from him. Her widower composer father Crespel moved their home to a far town to avoid Hoffmann. Antonia inherited her mother's operatic talent and voice, but her father forbade her to sing because of the mysterious illness from which, like her deceased mother before her, she is suffering. Crespel blames the singing for the illness. He therefore prevented her from seeing Hoffmann, who was encouraging her to sing. Crespel is fearful and on going out, orders his deaf servant Frantz to open the door to no-one.
Frantz takes his opportunity to try his singing and dancing skills in a comic aria while Crespel is out of the house. Hoffmann at last having found the house where Crespel and his daughter Antonia are hiding, arrives in his absence, and Frantz, having misheard Crespel, welcomes Hoffmann and the lovers are re-united. When Crespel comes back, Hoffmann hides and another bane of Crespel's life, Dr Miracle (this act's evil incarnation, whom Crespel credits with causing his wife's death), overbears and mesmerises Crespel into letting him treat Antonia. Hoffmann listens to the conversation and learns that Antonia may die if she sings too much. After treatment interspersed with two dramatic trios Crespel finally gets rid of the unwanted Doctor. Hoffmann emerges and makes Antonia promise to give up her artistic dreams. She reluctantly accepts her lover's will, and after a charming duet Hoffman departs until the morrow. Once she is alone, Dr Miracle reappears from nowhere and sets out to persuade her to sing and to follow her mother's path to glory, stating that Hoffmann is sacrificing her to his brutishness and loves her only for her beauty. Having some mystic powers, he raises a vision of her dead mother and in a climactic trio Antonia is induced to sing herself to death. Crespel arrives back just in time to witness his daughter's last breath. Hoffmann enters the room and Crespel wants to kill him, thinking that he is responsible for his daughter's death. Hoffmann calls for a doctor and Miracle appears, drily pronouncing her to be dead. Crespel and Hoffmann are devastated.
In Venice, in a festal hall, the courtesan Giulietta is approached by the evil character Dapertutto, who uses a promise of sparkling diamonds to bribe her into stealing Hoffmann's reflection just as she previously stole the shadow of her lover Schlemiel under his persuasion. Hoffmann falls in love with Giulietta and thinks his affections are returned, but Giulietta is only seducing him into giving her his reflection so that she can gain the promised diamonds. Schlemil turns up and Hoffmann discovers the loss of his reflection. In the great Septet the various parties sing about Hoffman's fate each from their particular perspective. Hoffmann demands from Schlemiel the key to Giulietta's boudoir. Schlemiel challenges the poet to a duel, Dapertutto helpfully provides Hoffmann with a blade, and Schlemiel is killed. Hoffmann seeks Giulietta but when he finds her, she is departing in tow with Schlemiel's sidekick Pitichinaccio. Hoffmann is bereft. Nicklausse finds him and urges him to leave before the police arrive.
Back in the tavern, Hoffmann having concluded the three tales, on hearing Stella linked with the failed loves and her stage performance acclaimed, and being less than sober, is suddenly angry and swears he wants to drink up and forget. The students agree vociferously, call for drinks and disappear into the depths of the tavern. Hoffmann has an ecstatic vision of Nicklausse revealed as the embodiment of his poetic muse, and when Stella arrives to confirm the billet doux, Hoffmann is immunised by both drink and revelation. He is in no state to respond to Stella's allure and she departs with Lindorf. He reverts to his poetry to the distant accompaniment of the students carousing in the tavern.
2. NOTED ARIAS AND ENSEMBLES:Prologue:
· "Dans les rôles d'amoureux langoureux" (Lindorf)
· "Il ètait une fois à la cour d'Eisenach" - (Hoffmann)
"Allons! Courage et confiance...Ah! vivre deux!" - (Hoffmann)
· "Une poupèe aux yeux d'èmail" - (Niklausse)
· "Voyez-la sous son éventail" - (Niklausse)
· "J'ai des yeux" - (Coppélius)
· "Les oiseaux dans la charmille" (The Doll Song) - (Olympia)
· "C'est l'amour vainqueur" - (Niklausse)
· "Elle a fui, la tourterelle" - (Antonia)
· "Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre" - (Frantz)
· "Tu ne chanteras plus?" - (Lindorf/Antonia/La Voix)
· "Scintille, diamant" - (Dapertutto)
· "Barcarolle" - (Nicklausse and Giulietta)
· "Amis, l'amour tendre et rêveur" - (Hoffmann)
· "Helas! Mon coeur" - (Septet)
· "O Dieu! de quelle ivresse" - (Hoffmann)