Nice Hoffman, Eh?
by Melissa Wimbish
Arthur Kaptainis reports for The National Post on the Canadian Opera Company’s latest overnight drunk. Les Contes d’Hoffman or The Tales of Hoffman as the Canadians are calling it these days, is certainly reminiscent of some drunken friend’s account of their crazy night and can leave you a bit confused. But at least the music is gorg and you can’t smell Hoffman’s vodka breath from your seat. Check out the Operagasm review rundown!
He still sounds fabulous after all that drank!: “Russell Thomas as the drunken protagonist of the title…might not win many awards for his acting, but his pure, ringing tone and crystalline diction were a joy to hear. And they remained so to the bitter end, a point worth making, this being one of the longer hauls in the tenor repertoire.”
Distaff just sounds like an insult: “Other notable males were baritone Gregory Dahl, grimly powerful as Crespel, and Steven Cole, amusing in four comic supporting roles. His fellow tenor Michael Barrett was an extrovert Spalanzani. Sounds were fine also on the distaff side. Mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal was warm in the trouser role of Nicklausse. Sopranos Keri Alkema was lustrous as Giulietta and Erin Wall evoked genuine pathos as Antonia. Andriana Chuchman produced a gleaming coloratura sound as the mechanical doll Olympia…”
High E stands for ELECTRIC SCHOCK: “Staging did little to clarify the motley collection of “Tales,” which find the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann in pursuit of various lovelies in fantastic settings of his own devising. The Olympia sequence, one of the delights of the piece, was something close to a bummer as staged by Lee Blakeley, a British director on his first COC assignment. Done up like the Bride of Frankenstein, the soprano-automaton was cruelly jolted by electric shocks rather than wound up by the traditional key in her back.”
And while we’re on the subject of Hoffman, can I just say…: “Permit me now to change the subject and draw attention to the fact that this is the third time this season that the Canadian Opera Company has presented a French opera under a translated title (even the Metropolitan Opera uses Les Contes d’Hoffmann) and with nothing but English projected on the surtitle screen above the stage. I suspect a minority of COC patrons read a little French; many others would like to believe that they do. To see the original words of the libretto is a great boon to appreciation, to say nothing of the honour that accrues to a company that behaves like the national institution it is. Signage at the Royal Ontario Museum is proudly bilingual. The time has come for the COC to get with the program.”