Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Opera Wednesday

Jacques Offenbach's opera Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffman) has about as many different ways it can be performed as there are opera companies to perform it. Offenbach died before the opera was completed, with the result that the second and third acts, for example, are often performed in reverse order; the second act, which was fully completed, has a spectacular ending that seems much more appropriate to end the opera itself, and back in the day it often was performed as the third and final act. (It also makes better dramatic sense, but that's another story.) There's a prologue and an epilogue, and these are often edited or combined with other scenes. Sometimes one soprano plays Hoffman's muse; sometimes, it's three. Likewise for the villain of the piece.

One thing everyone can agree on, however, is the charm of the Act One scene featuring Olympia, with whom Hoffman falls in love - not knowing that she is in reality a robot! Here's her famous dance/aria, performed by Luciana Serra in a 1981 production at the Royal Opera House; the conductor is Georges PrĂȘtre.

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