I've always loved Offenach Les Contes D'Hoffmann(The Tales of Hoffmann). The story is an interesting one, and you can see from their beautiful melodies why the Doll Song, Barcarolle and Scintille Diamant are some of Offenbach's most famous pieces. While it is not an absolute travesty, this production isn't really the best representation of such a timeless opera. The costumes are mostly unflattering, and while I do get that that the production updated the action to a lunatic asylum the scenery compared to the dazzling beauty of the 1981 Covent Garden production and especially the Powell/Pressburger film is very grim. The stage direction tries to bring forth bright, innovative ideas, but all this was miles beyond the wit and cleverness of the opera itself. Daniel Galvez-Vallejo is a well sung if stolid Hoffmann. On the plus side, the orchestral playing is sparkling and sensitive and the conducting is superb. Barbara Hendricks is a poignant Antonia and Isabelle Vernet sings Giulietta beautifully. But three performances especially stood out; Natalie Dessay, who dazzles once again as doll Olympia with her extraordinarily flexible colouratura and fun stage presence; Jose Van Dam who sings sonorously as ever and is suitably menacing as the four villains of the opera, his Scintille Diamant is especially fine; and Gabriel Bacquier, who is also in multiple roles and sings and acts in his usual characterful fashion. All in all, apart from the orchestra, conducting and performances, the annoying staging and unappealing production values brought it down which was quite a shock to me. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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