Offenbach's extraordinary opera is performed here in this Covent Garden production by Placido Domingo, Luciana Serra, Agnes Baltsa and Ileana Cotrubas. The Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Georges P... more »retre.« less
A wonderful production--and the only one so far on video
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 11/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many "editions" of this opera (Offenbach died before completing the score)and this tape offers the standard one. That is it does not use the spoken dialogue or any of the "lost" material now being included in many recordings. More damagingly to the shape of the plot, it does not show the Muse at all at the start of the Prologue, no less her transformation into Nicklausse. For better or worse, it does use four bass baritones as the four villains and four women as the four loves (even Sills could not manage all four when she tried). As one critic points out, the only Frenchman is in the pit conducting; and the French pronunciation of the cast is variable. Although the supernatural elements are not ignored in this staging, they are far less emphasized than in other productions, especially the film version with the English-language soundtrack. Domingo is in good voice and manages to create a believable title character. Claire Powell is an attractive Nicklausse with a gorgeous mezzo. Either by choice or direction, she is a concerned and often angry companion to her poetical friend. Baltsa does one sharp reaction turn too many as the Venetian siren; while Cortrubas looks properly at death's door. The men, given the more flamboyant roles make more of a dramatic impression. And the coloratura of Serra's doll is right on the mark. So all in all, this is a terrific bargain and certainly far superior to the older edition that was on two tapes and had no subtitles! By the way, the subtitles here are not too well managed. Many lines are not translated at all and many are shown well after the words have been sung. Still this is a quibble, given the value of the production as a whole. Well worth the 5 stars. And be careful about a video title "Des Contes d'Hoffmann." It is a desconstruction of the opera and might not please one who thinks he is buying the genuine article!"
An exelent production
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 07/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is probably the best Hoffman on Video. Domingo is at his peak here, the best Hoffman I've ever heard singing the best I've heard him sing the role. Particularily good are the Ballad of Klinzach and "Amis! L'amour tendre", which is acted excellently by Domingo and features some really great buisness from Anges Balsta, Domingo and the chorus.
The conducting of Pretre is speedy, and most of the time it works, but, in some places (like the Baracolle, sung beautifully) it seems the singes can hardly keep up.
The production values are nothing short of increadable. the late John Schliesinger shows himself to be a capable operatic director, with several nice touches to the production, such as Lindorf appearing at the end of each act, mocking Hoffman and laughing. I would have prefered to see the roles acted by one man, but the seperate apperances of Lindorf do just as well. The begining of the Venice act is very impressive, with the gondolas floating ominously and the writhing orgy taking place on the banks of the cannal. The designs of Maria Bjornson and Willum Dudley utilize the three-story stage excellently, and give each setting a different feel: The tavern a place of grity reality, Paris a zany Victorian invetors lab, Venice a C.B. DeMille nightmare, and Munic the feeling of a derilict, clostrophobic mansion from hell.
The singing, other than Domingo is almost uniformally good. Luciana Serra, as Olympia is fine acting-wise and her voice is pleasent enough, but I don't like her phrasing. Balsta's Guiletta is increadeble, a real stand out. She looks terrific, too. Ileana Cortubas' Antonia sings well enough, but could act the part better. Still, you warm up to her eventually, and she is very good in the final trio.
As the Villians, Robert Llyod (asways reliable) is a memerable Lindorf, though he speaks rather than sings Stella's letter and takes his aria much to fast. Sir Geraint Evans is amazing as Coppelius, both zany and extreamly creepy. Seigmund Nimsgern is extreamly hypotic as Dappertutto, and gives the best vocal performance out of the four villians. Nicolai Ghiuselev's Miracle is the production's biggest letdown, as he is overpowered in his two trios easily and acts rather woodenly.
Claire Powell is an excellent and masculine Nicklausse, and makes a ravishing transformation into the muse, where her sdialouge is not as good. In smaller roles, Robert Tear is a memerable Spalanzani and Gwynne Howell is an excellent and touching Crespel. Bernard Dikerson is very funny as Frantz, giving the best acting performance (if not vocal) of "Jour et Nuite" I've heard yet. Paul Crook is execellent as Conchinelle, but not as Andres. Chorus and Orchestral work are both excellent.
This is a production I would highly recomend under any circumstances."
THE BEST; A Great Production
Mark Bixler | Glen Ellen, CA United States | 03/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've owned the LaserDisc of this 1981 performance for many years. I've tranferred it to DVD so I could view it conveniently in a DVD changer because I'd lost hope it would ever appear commercially on DVD. The production is brilliant with great "Victorian" touches (in terms of the time period they seem to come from) in Act II; the mechanical "contraptions" are wonderful. The production is fantastic, as it should be, yet seems rooted in the late 1800's. It is also a rich, sensual Royal Opera production. Young Domingo and Baltsa are at their best. Regarding the other DVDs of the opera: Much as one can vaguely admire the Opera de Lyon "Some Tales from Hoffman", striving to be different (and very stark) destroys the opera for me. The 1978 Paris Opera production is OK if rather provincial looking (very simple sets). The 1970 Komische Oper Berlin production is actually quite good and lively, but it's sung in German. Even if the musical performances in the Royal Opera production were only OK it would be the winner, but the performances are excellent. Anyone who thinks they have even a little interest in French opera should buy this."
Not DVD Quality
Hermann K. Siegl | LINCOLN, NE USA | 11/06/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The content was good but the Video quality was very poor. I was watching on my Sanyo HD PLV-60 projector. It looks like the master tape was a VHS or 3/4" tape. The original show was taped in 1981 by the British. Those people are perfectionists. The only explanation for the poor quality must be 2nd and 3rd generation of tape or a bad transfer from PAL to NTSC TV.You should not watch this DVD on a big screen."
I Loved It!
Ted Zoldan | 06/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great, great performance. Domingo's Covent Garden Hoffmann is supreme, but this is no one-star show: there is a first-rate supporting cast as well (including the veteran bass-baritone Sir Geraint Evans as Coppelius -- I believe these were his last Covent Garden performances -- the always-outstanding Robert Lloyd as Lindorf, and the touching Ileana Cotrubas as Antonia). Every fan of HOFFMANN and/or Domingo should watch this video!"