Catherine Carby sings the Spirit of Antonio's Mother
Conductor: Evelino Pidò
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Royal Opera Chorus
Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) is the most enduring ‘serious’ opera from a composer otherwise better known for his sparkling operettas. It’s not hard to see why: Offenbach’s witty and highly melodious music finds the perfect vehicle in the Romantic, richly imaginative world of the storyteller E.T.A. Hoffmann. Offenbach adapted Jules Barbier and Michel Carré’s play, in which Hoffmann is cast as the deeply flawed teller of his own tales. The composer’s death shortly before the opera’s completion has resulted in a number of alternative versions – but this multiplicity has done nothing to dull the irresistible appeal of an opera in which music and story come together in a deeply satisfying whole.
The Royal Opera’s production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann was created in 1980 by the award-winning director John Schlesinger, best known for his work in film (Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday) and television (Cold Comfort Farm, An Englishman Abroad). Schlesinger’s production sets Hoffman’s tales in the 19th century, drawing on styles from both Hoffmann and Offenbach’s times. William Dudley’s magnificent set designs and Maria Björnson’s sumptuous costumes realize to brilliant effect the extravagant flourishes of Hoffmann’s imaginative world.