The Tales of Hoffmann, Opera by J. Offenbach
Three tales by the masterful storyteller E. T. A. Hoffmann, held together by the imaginative and inspired score of Jacques Offenbach, beckon you to enter a fantastical world of romance, life-like human automatons, treachery and a little bit of magic. The Tales of Hoffmann (or Les Contes d'Hoffmann in the original French) reaches into the rich legacy of the Prussian Romantic author and makes him the central character in his own reality-defying scenarios. The Vienna State Opera offers a somewhat rare staging of what was Offenbach’s final stage work. Be sure to capture some of that wicked fantasy and remarkable musical narration in person!
To combine the wondrous stories of Hoffmann into a coherent narrative, Offenbach enlisted the services of French librettist Jules Barbier. He chose to make a fictionalised version of Hoffmann himself the central figure of the opera who would tie the different acts together. In an entertaining and immersive storyline, the imaginary poet Hoffmann falls in love with the beautiful android Olympia, pursues the brilliant and mysteriously ill singer Antonia, and narrowly escapes the evil plans of the courtesan Giulietta and Captain Dapertutto. Throughout Hoffmann’s travels, his Muse, in the form of his close friend Nicklausse, accompanies and protects the young man.
The Tales of Hoffmann was Jacques Offenbach’s final work. Feeling his strengths diminish rapidly, the composer poured all his energy into completing the manuscript and hoped dearly to see it staged. An abridged performance took place at his home in May 1879, when Léon Carvalho acquired the performance rights. Sadly, Offenbach did not live to see the opera’s public performance. The Tales of Hoffmann’s two-act version debuted on 10 February 1881 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, and the full four acts premiered at Vienna’s Ringtheater on 7 December 1881.
The unchained, slightly dark fantasies of E. T. A. Hoffmann and the inventive musical score of Jacques Offenbach blend into an otherworldly performance that makes The Tales of Hoffmann a classic that the Wiener Staatsoper revives splendidly.