234th Season

Mariinsky II (New Theatre)

3 November
19:00
2021 | Wednesday
Stars of the Stars
Jacques Offenbach "Les contes d Hoffmann" (semi-staged performance)
Opera
Artists Credits
Imanol Perset, Costume Designer
Daniel Kruglikov, Director
Maestro Valery Gergiev, Musical Director
Marina Mishuk, Musical Preparation
Ymanol Perset, Set Designer
Performed in French


Music by Jacques Offenbach
Libretto by Jules Barbier after the play by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré after works by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

Turning one's own self into a theatrical character – such a metamorphosis would undoubtedly have appealed to the great romantic Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Amadeus Hoffmann. Had he lived to the age of seventy-five, he could have attended the Paris premiere of Michel Carré and Jules Barbier's play Les Contes fantastiques d'Hoffmann (1851) and heard his own self speaking in French from the stage. In the opera, composed another thirty years after the play, Hoffmann would also sing: in the first version as a baritone, and later as a tenor, the vocal range of all fervent operatic lovers. And how he sang! The role of Hoffmann is one of the most beautiful and demanding in the international operatic repertoire. The titular protagonist is at the core of the opera, he appears in each and every act and he is the narrator, in his inebriated state opening up his soul to his drinking companions. Within this soul, the prima donna Stella reigns supreme, adopting various guises: the costly doll Olympia, the unfulfilled performer Antonia and the predatory courtesan Giulietta. Offenbach, a brilliant melodist, succeeded in making them all irresistible in their own way. If the concept of "a hit" may be used with regard to opera, then this is how one may consider the most celebrated highlights of Les Contes d'Hoffmann: Olympia's staggeringly virtuoso couplets, Antonia and her mother's bel canto duet and, lastly, the opera's "smash hit" – a delightful Venetian barcarolle, sung by Giulietta and another mysterious character, Nicklausse, ossia the Muse. Hoffmann loves them all, and each time he experiences defeat. The finale of Les Contes d'Hoffmann always ends up being something of an intrigue, as there is no one way to resolve it – and theatres offer the most widely divergent possible endings. And yet Jacques Offenbach's key idea may nevertheless be summed up: the loneliness of the artist is not absolute; crushed and disappointed, he is still left with his most precious jewel – his faithful muse, his talent that gives him the strength to live and create. Khristina Batyushina

Age category 12+

SYNOPSIS
Prologue
Hoffmann is returning home following a wild night out. He is in love with a beautiful girl he does not know who lives in the house across the road and whom he calls Stella.
In Hoffmann’s feverish state two alter egos come to life: the experience-rich, mature and rational Lindorf and the young poet Nicklausse. Lindorf and Nicklausse try various means to tease the amorous Hoffmann. They make fun of him, pretending that bills for the apartment are the love letters that Hoffmann dreams of receiving from the mysterious stranger.
Students assemble in Hoffmann’s room – in their eyes he is a literary giant and a great authority. At the height of the friendly meeting Hoffmann begins to relate the story of his love, as it were in order to comprehend who the stranger, his beloved, actually is. Hoffmann draws his guests into his tale of three love stories.

First Love. Olympia
With Coppelius’ assistance, Spalanzani the inventor has created Olympia, an amazingly lifelike illusion. Having barely had a glimpse of Olympia, Hoffmann immediately falls in love with her. Wishing to become acquainted with the girl, he presents himself as a man of science. Coppelius appears, having come to Spalanzani for the money owed him for the work he did. In order to get rid of CoppeliusSpalanzani gives him a check from a bank that has collapsed. Coppelius sells Hoffmann a pair of special glasses. When he wears them he finds Olympia even more beautiful. Spalanzani demonstrates his enchanting invention to a group of friends. The guests listen to Olympia’s song. Hoffmann is bewitched by her voice and he declares his love for her. But the deception is revealed and Hoffmann understands that he has been in love with an illusion.

True Love. Antonia
The young Antonia, who dreams of a career on the stage, has inherited a wonderful voice from her mother who was a renowned singer; but in addition to the voice she has also inherited a terrible disease that resulted in her mother’s death. Singing could also have tragic consequences for Antonia. Crespel, the girl’s father, tries to keep his daughter away from Dr Miracle who caused her mother’s death. Hoffmann chances to hear Crespel talking with Miracle and discovers that Antonia is ill. He makes her promise not to sing and abandon any dreams of the stage in order to dedicate herself to her family. But as soon as Hoffmann departs Miracle appears. He tempts Antonia with the glory of being a great singer and the adulation that comes with acclaim and success. Antonia imagines her mother is calling her on-stage.

Deceptive Love. Giulietta
Christmas Eve. Hoffmann’s friends have arranged a masked ball and are disguised as characters from Hoffmann’s tales. The plot about the capricious courtesan Giulietta, her lover Shlemil and the wicked Dapertutto begins as a performance in a private theatre. “Dapertutto” orders “Giulietta” to ensnare Hoffmann and steal his reflection. Obediently listening to “Dapertutto’s” demands, “Giulietta” enchants Hoffmann and obtains what she came for. Reality and fantasy are mixed together in Hoffman’s perturbed mind. He kills “Shlemil” in order to obtain the key to “Giulietta’s” bedroom and makes haste after the courtesan. “Giulietta”, however, flees with a new lover.

Epilogue
Hoffmann is sitting in his room alone. He stares at the window opposite where the unknown girl lived. In view of the empty rooms and a sign it is clear that she no longer resides there. Was she, in fact, ever there at all? Or did he imagine everything? A poetic fantasy? Did Hoffmann merely dream it all?


Mariinsky Theatre:
1 Theatre Square
St. Petersburg
Mariinsky-2 (New Theatre):
34 Dekabristov Street
St. Petersburg
Mariinsky Concert Hall:
20 Pisareva street
St. Petersburg
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