Met Opera: Offenbach’s ‘Tales of Hoffman’ broadcast in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

Met Opera: Offenbach’s ‘Tales of Hoffman’ broadcast in Breckenridge

Elmer Koneman
Special to the Daily

Act I of “The Tales of Hoffmann" portrays a mechanical doll named Olympia, with whom Hoffman falls in love, mistaking her as human as he sees her through a pair of magic glasses.

Jacques Offenbach's opera "The Tales of Hoffmann" will be the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast transmitted at Breckenridge Colorado Mountain College on Saturday, Jan. 31, beginning at 11 a.m. Those who attended last week's HD broadcast of "The Merry Widow" might wonder why Offenbach did not include this merry widow as one of the lovers in his opera, potentially saving Hoffmann the agony of going through four unsuccessful love affairs.

The opera is set by Broadway director Bartlett Sher in the 1920s, opening with an epilogue in Luther's tavern, with Hoffman (performed by Vittorio Grigolo) in an inebriated state. Unhappy with his love affair with the opera singer Stella (soprano Hibla Gerzmava), Hoffmann joins with a group of rowdy drinking students in the melodic ballad "Kleinzach," the story of a grotesque dwarf. Friend and muse Nicklausse (Kate Lindsey) prompts Hoffmann to tell his frustrating tales of three past lovers.

Act I, a masterpiece of choreography described as "kaleidoscopic" because of the rapidly changing scenes and stage actions, portrays a mechanical doll named Olympia, with whom Hoffman falls in love, mistaking her as human as he sees her through a pair of magic glasses. Key to this scene is Olympia's performance of the dazzling aria "Doll's Song" (Erin Morley) captivating an assembly of guests. Falling in love with Olympia, Hoffmann dances with her only to have her mechanism spin out of control. Olympia the doll is disassembled as Hoffman removes his glasses, being mocked by those gathered for "falling love with a machine."

Act II opens with lover No. 2, Antonia (also sung by Germava), singing a plaintive love song in memory of her dead mother. Hoffmann arrives and joins her in a duet, as she nearly faints at the end. Antonia, who had inherited her mother's weak heart, was advised to discontinue her singing career. Dr. Miracle (baritone Thomas Hampson) nevertheless encourages Antonia to sing, claiming that just before death, her mother pleaded that her daughter might reclaim the glory of her own singing fame. As Dr. Miracle accompanies her singing while playing a violin, the song becomes more feverish until Antonia collapses. Hoffmann's love No. 2 ends as Dr. Miracle pronounces her dead.

Act III portrays a love affair that Hoffman has with a Venetian courtesan Giulietta (English mezzo-soprano Christine Rice), joined in an opening-scene duet by Nicklausse in singing the familiar melodious Barcarole. Through the use of a series of magic-mirror reflections, Giulietta (Russian soprano Hibla Germava) mistakenly seduces Hoffmann as her true lover, Schlemil (bass-bar David Crawford), who appears to witness this scene, is killed after challenging Hoffman to a duel. Hoffmann, in turn, takes the key to Giulietta's boudoir from his dead rival but finds the room empty. Another love lost.

In the closing epilogue, with return staging in Luther's tavern, Hoffmann continues drinking to forget the tales he has just shared. Stella returns, but finding Hoffmann drunk, leaves the scene. The opera ends as Nicklausse resumes her appearance as the Muse and, in a melodic aria, encourages Hoffmann to find consolation in his creative genius, "warmed by the ashes of your heart."

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Offenbach's masterpiece has been described as featuring sumptuous music (conducted by James Levine), such as the famous "Barcarolle," along with a huge cast of international stars, massive sets and striking costumes that will find those attending consumed in Hoffmann's world — recalling their own memories of journeys flawing in love.

The running time is 3 hours and 46 minutes, including two intermissions during which snacks and beverages will be served. The performance is sung in French with Met titles in English.

If you go

What: Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann,” part of the 2014-15 “Met Opera: Live in HD” broadcast season

Where: The Finkel Auditorium at the Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge campus, 107 Denison Placer Ave., Breckenridge

When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31

Cost: $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and Met Members and $10 for students and children

More information: Light snacks and beverages will be provided at both intermissions, donation requested. For ticket information and purchase, call the National Repertory Orchestra Office at (970) 453-5825. Ticket purchase may also be made online by visiting the NRO website at http://www.nromusic.com.