Met in HD: ‘Tales of Hoffmann’ at local theaters Jan. 31

Met in HD: ‘Tales of Hoffmann’ at local theaters Jan. 31

Jacques Offenbach’s phenomenal, tuneful and outright bizarre final opera to be simulcast live Saturday, January 31, 2015 at a theater near you.

Erin Morley as Olympia.
Erin Morley as Olympia in Offenbach's "Les Contes d’Hoffmann." (Courtesy of the NY Metropolitan Opera)

WASHINGTON, January 30, 2014 – A live matinee performance of “The Tales of Hoffmann” (“Les Contes d’Hoffmann”), Jacques Offenbach’s wondrous but maddening final work for the stage, will be simulcast Saturday at participating neighborhood theaters across the U.S. and around the world.

While some roles in the opera rotate, those attending Saturday’s simulcast will see famed tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffmann; sopranos Hibla Gerzmava, Erin Morley and Christine Rice in the roles of three of the poet’s four loves; and renowned bass-baritone Thomas Hampson in the difficult “role” of all four different villains: Lindorf, Coppélius, Dr. Miracle and Captain Dappertutto.

Last but not least, the beautiful and brilliant young mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey—familiar to DC area opera fans just a few years back as one of Wolf Trap Opera’s rising young stars—returns to the Met to sing for the second time with the company the intriguing trouser-role of Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s loyal friend: a man who might turn out to be more important than the poet imagines.

One of the most unusual operas every written, “Hoffmann” details the hallucinatory mental travels of the famed 19th century writer as famous for his astonishing stories as he was for his epic drunken escapades. Offenbach, already renowned for his tuneful light operas and even today for his immortal—and naughty—“Can-Can,” meant to write a more serious but still enjoyable grand opera when he decided to compose “Hoffmann.”

Unfortunately, Offenbach died suddenly as he was completing revisions to his lengthy score and never got to savor its ultimate triumph after its uncertain 1881 premiere at the Opéra-Comique—a premiere that was mounted without its final (“Venice”) full act.

Given the opera’s unfinished state at the time of the composer’s death, it has existed in many different states over time. Acts have been switched around, music has been added and subtracted depending on various interpretations of the “composer’s intentions,” the intended spoken dialogue in the original is sometimes sung in recitatives which lengthens the opera, sometimes unduly. As a result, one is never quite sure what version will show up when the opera is performed.

Fortunately, modern scholarship has developed versions that are likely as close to those authorial intentions as one could possibly get. And better—the opera has long been an audience favorite anyway due to its fantastic elements ranging from its four villains—alter egos of the Devil himself—to Olympia, the talented singing mechanical doll Hoffmann falls in love with in the second act.

To set the mood, here’s that famous scene with Olympia, recorded at an earlier Met performance of the opera:

“Hoffmann’s” music is lushly romantic as well, highlighted by challenging arias for the one or more soprano soloists who portray Hoffmann’s four loves as well as its gorgeous and well-known “Barcarolle.”

All in all, Offenbach’s final work is one of this writer’s favorites, and is unusual enough to keep most music lovers glued to their seats throughout the performance.

Better yet, Met simulcasts take you behind the scenes and behind the curtain for each performance for interviews with the stars and a look into the literal army of backstage workers responsible for deploying those huge and elaborate Met sets—the unsung heroes who make the magic happen.

Saturday’s performance, sung in French with English subtitles, will be conducted by Yves Abel.

Representing CDN, we’ll be catching tomorrow’s performance for you, and plan to post our review Sunday, February 1.

Particulars for this live, simulcast performance:

Date: Saturday, January 31, 2015

Time: 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT / 10:55 a.m. MT / 9:55 a.m. PT 

Run Time: 3 hours 50 minutes (approximate) 

Ticketing: Just click here “Buy Tickets” button. Alternatively, for advance tickets, information and theater locations visit the Met’s website. If online ticketing isn’t available for your location, you can purchase your tickets by visiting the box office at your local participating cinema. To the best of our knowledge, ticket prices in most venues are $25, an astounding bargain for anyone who’s familiar with purchasing seats to a live performance.

Encore performance: Most Met in HD simulcasts are recorded, and these recordings generally return to the same theaters as “encore presentations” the Wednesday following the simulcast. “Hoffmann” is no exception. This week’s encore performances are scheduled for most theaters on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. in all U.S. time zones.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17