The highlight of the inaugural week of Jean Nouval's new opera house in Lyon was the premiere of "Tales of Hoffmann." Inspired by Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" and freely based on the performing edition by leading Am... more »erican musicologist Michael Kaye, this production is far removed from its familiar settings. Hoffmann--poet, musician and philosopher--finds himself trapped in some kind of infernal huis clos, surrounded by mutant incarnations of the men and women who have been instrumental in his moral and creative decline. Insanity, drunkenness or nightmare? Daniel Galvez-Vallejo, a young French tenor of Spanish descent, makes a striking impression in the title role. The four villains are portrayed by the peerless Belgian bass-baritone Jose van Dam, and the legendary Gabriel Bacquier plays Spalanzani, Crespel and Schlemil with veteran aplomb.« less
"This unorthodox staging has been sadly maligned by previous (rather conservative) viewers. Although I am a fan of traditional stagings (e.g., the Met's, which is not yet available on DVD, and the soon to be released Criterion DVD of the 1951 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film, with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting--a fantastic movie that inspired Martin Scorsese to become a director), I also think that imaginative reworkings can bring out new dimensions to multi-faceted, complex masterpieces such as Offenbach's great opera. The concept employed in this staging is that Hoffman has been committed to a mental asylum where he relives the stories he recounts with the other inmates. Even if the stark staging doesn't 'work' for most people, the impressive acting (most of the video is shot in mid-range shots and closeups anyway), singing (Dessay in particular is a superlative Olympia) and playing of the Lyon Opera orchestra under Nagano's baton are reasons enough to consider purchasing this disc. Not a complete triumph, but a bold and innovative version that will stimulate you aurally and mentally."
Grim and surrealistic staging destroyed enjoyment of music.
G. Logan | Big Island of Hawaii, USA | 04/22/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you have enjoyed the romantic settings and colorful costumes of other production of Tales of Hoffmann, this version is not for you. The whole opera is set in a grim, grey insane asylum of some sort with drab costumes and no furnishings beyond a few chairs and a ubiquitous rolling cart. The vocal perfromances are quite good, and the use of black artists very appropriate and interesting, but you may find yourself distracted by questions such as: why are so many of the characters bald, or why do they keep exchanging coats? If you enjoy really avaunt guarde productions, you may like this. Myself, I'm going to look for a more traditional staging."
Flawed, misguided production, but beautifully sung
Charles Richards | Los Angeles, CA | 07/11/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It is a shame that this video recording is the only visual representation of Michael Kaye's outstanding new edition of Offenbach's masterpiece currently available. As most are aware, this great (and I truly mean great) work was orphaned even before its birth, and since then has survived and been trundled out in mutilated versions, with much of Offenbach's original music cut and some numbers added by other hands. It is perhaps a tribute to the work's masterful score and fascinatingly literate libretto that, even in this form, it has gained immense popularity all over the world. The almost miraculous discoveries in the 80's and 90's of hundreds of pages of original Offenbach manuscript have now made it possible to finally re-construct, as best we can, what Offenbach's original intentions were, and has made it even more vital than ever that this work be seen not as some flouncy-bouncy fantasy opera with pretty tunes, but an immense music drama, on a par with Bizet's "Carmen" or Berlioz' "Les Troyens".
So then, why use Kaye's edition and then almost simultaneously de-construct it by truncating it (omitting half of the fourth and the entirety of the fifth acts)and pairing it with a production that counters Offenbach's vision at every step? While I'm not against a fresh look at a masterpiece, this production provides, in my opinion, nothing new to set one thinking, and seems to toss out all the main points of the work: the Muse's struggle for Hoffman's love, the sacrifice of mortal happiness for artistic immortality, the fact that "love makes a man great, but tears make him immortal". This is all gone in this production. And the omission of Offenbach's original finale/apotheosis which had languished for almost a hundred years, completely unknown and unheard, is a crime.
Not that I'm longing for the old-style, glitzy Met productions that saw the work as nothing more than a vehicle for an outing of star singers. It is time to re-think this work, but on Offenbach's terms. This work has suffered enough, it is time it was vindicated by a thoughtful production which explores its depth but does no dis-service to the original.
The singing, however, is excellent; but if that's all that interests, I would suggest buying Nagano's recording of the opera which features many of the same cast members (with the welcome addition of Alagna as Hoffman) and presents the score in its entirety."
Save your money.
R. Fidelman | Petaluma, CA USA | 12/30/1999
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I, for one, encourage new trends in classical works, but there is nothing inspiring here. The music is fine, what there is of it. One would think they could afford to tape the entire score, rather than slicing and dicing. Turn off your monitor and listen to the music -- save $$ by buying A CD."
Stinks to High Heaven
Richard Reed | Lakewood, CO, U.S.A. | 03/11/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This version of Jacque Offenbach's wonderful opera "Tales of Hoffman" stinks to high heaven! The set (there was only one set), the costumes (virtually non-existent), and even the singing were distortions of the worst kind. I am hard put to give this DVD the dignity of a single star. It is a total waste of money in purchasing it and of time in watching/listening to it. I'm very much surprised it was even produced by the Lyon, France opera company. Once produced, it should never have been marketed to a gullible public. Unfortunately reviews of this abomination were unavailable to me when I purchased it. Had reviews been available, I would have avoided it like the plague. I quickly threw it in the trash after playing it only once."