Fathom Events' "Tales of Hoffman": Thrice the Vice

Vittorio Grigolo in "Les Comtes d'Hoffman"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Fathom Events’ latest HD broadcast is the popular Metropolitan Opera production of “Tales of Hoffman” (first introduced in 2009). Produced by Bartlett Sher with Set Design by Michael Yeargan and Costume Design by Catherine Zuber, this is a complex and complicated creation, as it covers a lot of territory throughout nineteenth century Europe, quite literally, including Nuremberg, Paris, Munich and Venice. With Music by Jacques Offenbach and Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michael Carré , it continues to be one of the company’s favored pieces.

In the Prologue, in a tavern, Hoffman (tenor Vittorio Grigòlo), having had a bit of an altercation with Lindorf (baritone Thomas Hampson), begins to tell the stories of three past loves, accompanied by his muse disguised as his friend Nicklaus (mezzo Kate Lindsey). In the first tale, in the workshop of the inventor Spalanzani (tenor Dennis Petersen), Hoffman falls in love with his mechanical creation, the wind-up doll Olympia (soprano Erin Morley) but the mad scientist Coppélius (Hampson again) destroys her. In the second tale, Hoffman falls in love with Antonia (soprano Hibla Gerzmava), the daughter of Crespel (bass-baritone David Pittsinger), and this time is thwarted by the evil Dr. Miracle (Hampson yet again) who fiddles while Antonia burns. In the last story, Hoffman falls in love with Giulietta (mezzo Christine Rice) but is doomed to heartbreak when the malicious Dappertutto (one last evil turn by Hampson) intervenes. Hampson thus gets to provide thrice the vice via this trio of vile men. In the Epilogue, Hoffman is exposed as being in love all along with the same woman, Stella (Gerzmava again), but he collapses and the storytelling ends.

The singing by the Metropolitan Opera Chorus under Chorusmaster Donald Palumbo was again a high point, as was that of Morley, hitting a high A-flat as she managed to be hysterically funny as well. Lindsey too was wonderful, and Grigòlo made for an emotional and believable title character. As Conducted by the dashing and dynamic Yves Abel, this was a tale to relish. It will be told again at the encore broadcast next Wednesday at a theater near you.

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