The Tales of Hoffman

Jacques Offenbach was known throughout his life for his irony, and nothing in his life was more ironic than the fact that he died before seeing the staging of his greatest work, The Tales of Hoffmann. As a result, the acts of the opera were performed out of order for almost one hundred years, until 1977 when scholarly research revealed the intensions of the original libretto.

Since Central City Opera has not performed the work in 56 years, its current production of The Tales of Hoffmann is the first opportunity for it's audiences to see the work staged as it was intended. Directed by Paul Curran, who did such an elegant interpretation of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2002, this production more than fulfills such promise.

Photo of Anna Christy as Olympia and Gerard Powers as Hoffmann
Anna Christy as Olympia and
Gerard Powers as Hoffmann
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Adding his own irony to the production, Curran chooses to set the story in the Roaring Twenties, about one hundred years later than it is usually placed, where it finds a perfect reflection in the untempered and superficial lifestyle of that period.

Conceived as a barroom tale told by the poet Hoffmann, Tales unfolds in three distinct acts, each a doomed love story. Curran knowingly casts three different sopranos as Hoffmann's love interests, bringing a broader emotional palette to the production and arguing against the notion that the women in Hoffmann's past are three aspects of his current infatuation, the opera singer Stella.

Photo of Grant Youngblood as Dr. Miracle and Elena Kolganova as Antonia
Grant Youngblood as Dr. Miracle
and Elena Kolganova as Antonia
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
In contrast to the animated mannequin Olympia (the charming Anna Christy), the tragically ailing Antonia (the emotive Elena Kolganova), and the seductive temptress Giulietta (a rollicking Jane Bunnell), Hoffmann is shadowed by a solitary devilish figure who manifests as four similarly threatening nemeses, Lindorf, Coppélius, Dr. Miracle, and Dapertutto (the stirring baritone, Grant Youngblood).

The pleasing tenor of Gerard Powers, as Hoffmann, ties together the stylistically disparate acts, which are highlighted by Christy's sparkling coloratura and the second act's concluding trio of Powers, Youngblood, and Mark Embree (Crespel). Juli Anne Bartholomew shines as Nicklausse, Hoffmann's muse.

Photo of Jane Bunnell as Giulietta and Julie anne Bartholomew as Nicklausse
Jane Bunnell as Giulietta and
Julie Anne Bartholomew as Nicklausse
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Curran's staging is inventive, if quirky, with elements of dark Expressionism and cinematic techniques of the period. Offenbach's delightful score, with a surprising number of familiar melodies, is warmly presented by the Festival Orchestra, led by John Baril.

Central City Opera's The Tales of Hoffmann runs in repertory with Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince and Jules Massenet's The Juggler of Notre Dame through August 8th. 303-292-6700.

Bob Bows


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