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The opera bug strikes again!

This time for Jacques Offenbach's final opera "Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann)". According to Sabby, Singapore only stages 2 operas in a year. Apparently, that's all the funds they have allocated to the interest of opera. Since my virgin opera performance, "Turandot" last year; I didn't think I will give this French opera performance a miss. Moreover, it's always nice to support Sabby, whom again sang in the SLO chorus.

"Les contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann)" tells of three fantastical tales by writer, E.T.A Hoffmann. Hoffmann himself plays the lead role, in his incarnations of love and evil manifested through the different characters of each story. The opera sees a myriad of colourful characters and offers a theatrical and musical treat with its wealth of contrasting scenes and music.

I'd have to admit I was 1st drawn to the totally screwed, bizarre and fantasy angle of the story. That alone was a natural attraction. However, as interesting as each individual love story was, the characters were hard to understand and the stories had little link until the end. Still it was an ending had to shallow and very forced. Nevertheless, the opera had many beautiful pieces and a great feast for the eyes with fantastic props and lighting.

I later found clips of a 1951 film of the opera by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The original French libretto was translated to English, but still faithful to the message of the story. This film is not just a film of a staged opera, but a true cinematic opera that makes use of film techniques not available to an opera presented on stage.

Prologue: "Legend Of Kleinzach"
Hoffmann sings to a group of students at a tavern in Nuremberg and coaxed by Lindorf (the first incarnation of evil) into telling the audience about his life's three great loves

Act One: "Doll's Song"

Tales of Hoffmann 01
Zhao Yun Hong from China performs this piece in Singapore

Hoffmann's first love is Olympia, an automaton created by the scientist Spalanzani. Coppélius, Olympia's co-maker and this act's evil incarnation, sells Hoffmann magic glasses which make Olympia appear as a real woman. Here Olympia sings one of the opera's most famous arias "Les Oiseaux Dans La Charmille" where she periodically keeps winding down just before hitting the final high note.

Act Two: Antonia's Tale
Hoffmann and Antonia's suppressed love story and how Antonia might encounter death if she sings too much!?!?! Antonia went against Hoffman's wishes to stop singing and is swayed by Dr Miracle (the act's evil incarnation) and later sings to her death!

I love how the scene suddenly breaks into Dr Miracle playing a violin. Strangely funny!

Dragonfly Ballet
I couldn't recall specifically a scene in the opera just for this, but the music sounded very familiar. In fact the ballet dancers wannabe in the Singapore performance were dancing so off sync we wondered if it was on purpose!

If ballet is ANYTHING like this, I will be a convert! SWEAR! Terence suggest I try out "Ballet Under The Stars". If I could like opera... perhaps... ballet!!!

Act Three: Barcarolle
Hoffmann falls in love with a courtesan, Giulietta, in Venice. But Giulietta is seducing Hoffmann under the orders of Captain Dappertutto, who promised to give her a diamond if she filches Hoffmann's reflection from a mirror.

"Barcarolle" is one of the most beautiful pieces in the opera. Apparently, it was 1st written for another opera "Les fées du Rhin". I love how in the clip's performance the brothel is played out with so much buzz and energy.

It was a long opera with 2 intermissions, a little heavy but still entertaining and inspiring for a Tuesday night. Awaiting the next opera experience!

The Cast List
Hoffmann - Luca Lombardo (France, Tenor)
Olympia - Zhao Yun Hong (China, Soprano)
Giulietta - Anna Koor (Singapore)
Antonia / Stella - Nancy Yuen (Singapore)
Nicklausse, Muse - Choo Hi-Myung (Korean)
Lindorf, Coppelius, Dappertutto, Dr Miracle - Song Kee Chang (Korean)
Andres, Cochenille, Pittichinaccio, Frantz - Melvin Tan (Singapore)
Luther, Schlemil, Crespel - William Lim (Singapore)
Nathanael, Spalanzani - Lemuel dela Cruz (Philippines, Tenor)

Director - Paul Emile Fourny
Conductor - Benjamin Pionnier

More "The Tales of Hoffmann" Opera Pictures


  1. ooooo... I like the Powell and Pressburger combo... They did another film together on ballet, The Red Shoes, released in 1948. I'm not sure if I still have the disc though...

    - Wen

  2. If "The Red Shoes" is anything like the ballet in the Dragonfly Ballet, I'd be interested. By any chance do you have their version of "The Tales of Hoffmann"? I'd be very keen to sit through the film version :)


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