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Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Les Contes d’Hoffmann 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD transmission of Saturday, January 31, 2015, 12:55 P.M. (HD), 1 P.M. (Radio)

Broadcast Hoffmann hdl 115
Giuseppe Filianoti (Hoffmann), Ildar Abdrazakov (Coppélius) and Kate Lindsey (Nicklausse) in Act I of Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera
© Beth Bergman 2015
The 2014–15 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.
The 2014–15 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Les Contes d’Hoffmann

Music by Jacques Offenbach
Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, after stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann

THE CAST  (in order of vocal appearance)
Muse of Poetry mezzo, KATE LINDSEY
Lindorf baritone, THOMAS HAMPSON
Andrès      tenor, TONY STEVENSON
Luther bass-baritone, DAVID PITTSINGER
Hermann bass-bar., DAVID CRAWFORD
Nathanaël tenor, DENNIS PETERSEN
Hoffmann tenor, VITTORIO GRIGÒLO
Nicklausse mezzo, KATE LINDSEY
ACT I   
Spalanzani tenor, DENNIS PETERSEN
Cochenille tenor, TONY STEVENSON
Coppélius baritone, THOMAS HAMPSON
Olympia soprano, ERIN MORLEY
Antonia  soprano, HIBLA GERZMAVA
Crespel bass-baritone, DAVID PITTSINGER
Frantz tenor, TONY STEVENSON
Dr. Miracle baritone, THOMAS HAMPSON
Antonia’s Mother mezzo, OLESYA PETROVA
Giulietta mezzo, CHRISTINE RICE
Schlémil bass-bar., DAVID CRAWFORD
Pitichinacchio tenor, TONY STEVENSON
Dappertutto bar., THOMAS HAMPSON
Stella soprano, HIBLA GERZMAVA
Conducted by YVES ABEL

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Bartlett Sher
Set designer: Michael Yeargan
Costume designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting designer: James F. Ingalls
Choreographer: Dou Dou Huang
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
    Donna Racik, Howard Watkins,
    Pierre Vallet
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,
Sarah Ina Meyers
Prompter: Donna Racik

Production a gift of the Hermione
    Foundation, Laura Sloate, Trustee;
    and the Gramma Fisher Foundation,
    Marshalltown, Iowa
Additional funding from
    the Estate of Helen F. Kelbert,
    and Mr. and Mrs. William R. Miller

THE SCENES  Timings (ET) 
 (Europe, 19th c.)  
PROLOGUENuremberg, Luther’s tavern1:00–
ACT IParis, Spalanzani’s workshop     –2:15
ACT II    Munich, Crespel’s home2:47–3:35
ACT IIIVenice, Giulietta’s palazzo4:03–

Host: Margaret Juntwait 
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by:
    Barbara Willis Sweete
HD Host: Debbie Voigt
Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail
This performance of Les Contes d'Hoffmann will be transmitted live, in high definition and
surround sound, into selected movie theaters as part of The Met: Live in HD series.
For information, visit

Jacques Offenbach (1819–80) based Les Contes d’Hoffmann on a play by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, inspired by the stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822), a renaissance man whose métiers included writer, composer, painter and lawyer. The composer died without completing the score, and many different performing editions have been cobbled together, starting with the premiere at the Opéra Comique, four months after Offenbach’s death. Hoffmann’s loves were initially intended for a single performer, but the wide-ranging vocal demands have made that hat-trick a rare occurrence. Among the variations has been the ordering of the tales; the Met’s current version honors the composer’s intentions by presenting the Antonia act second and saving the debauched courtesan Giulietta for last.


PROLOGUE. In Luther's tavern, a chorus of spirits of wine and beer is heard, while at the adjoining opera house Don Giovanni is being performed. Guests are expected, among them the poet Hoffmann and the opera singer Stella, but it is Hoffmann's Muse who first appears. Knowing that fate decrees Hoffmann must choose this evening between his love for the Muse and his love for Stella, the Muse calls upon the spirits for help. Then she disappears to assume the guise of Nicklausse, Hoffmann's friend. Councilor Lindorf bribes Andrès, a servant of Stella, to intercept a note she has written inviting the poet to meet her after the performance. Lindorf himself will keep that appointment. Students fill the tavern, among them Hoffmann. The students urge him to drink and sing, which he does with the ballad of a dwarf named Kleinzach. When teased about Stella, he begins the stories of three past loves.... 

ACT I. Awaiting his guests, the inventor Spalanzani is aided by his servant, Cochenille, in finishing a mechanical doll, Olympia. With her he hopes to recoup the fortune he lost with the collapse of the banking house of Élias. Hoffmann arrives first and, discovering the doll, falls in love with her. Nicklausse teases him. Coppélius, Spalanzani's partner, sells the poet a pair of magic glasses through which he sees Olympia as human. Spalanzani and Coppélius haggle over the doll, and Spalanzani agrees to pay for Coppélius's share by a check drawn against the firm of Élias. Guests arrive, and Olympia captivates them with a dazzling aria. Oblivious to the periodic running down of the mechanism, Hoffmann is enchanted. When the others go to dinner, he pours out his heart to Olympia. But when he grabs her hand, she whirls out of the room. Coppélius returns, seeking revenge for the worthless bank draft. The guests return; Hoffmann and Olympia whirl faster and faster until Hoffmann falls and breaks his magic glasses. Seizing his chance, Coppélius grabs the doll and tears it apart.

ACT II. The musician Crespel has fled with his daughter, Antonia, to end her love affair with Hoffmann. Sitting at the harpsichord, Antonia is exhausted after singing. Her father demands she not sing, since it will endanger her life, and orders his deaf servant Frantz to allow no one into the house. Hoffmann arrives and swears eternal love to Antonia, who joins him in a love song. He hides when Crespel returns. The latter is alarmed by the arrival of Dr. Miracle, who treated Crespel's wife, a famous mezzo, the day she died. The evil doctor inquires after Antonia and begins to "examine" the absent girl, then commands her to sing - and her voice is heard. Miracle offers medicines to save her. The father, knowing this means death, throws Miracle out. Hoffmann begs her not to sing and leaves. The doctor reappears, taunting Antonia with prospects of glory. The girl invokes the memory of her mother to aid against temptation. Miracle makes the mother's portrait come to life, and she implores Antonia to sing. As Miracle plays his violin wildly, Antonia sings until she collapses and is found dead by Hoffmann.

ACT III. At a palace on the Grand Canal, Giulietta and Nicklausse join in a barcarole. Giulietta toasts Hoffmann, to the annoyance of her lover Schlémil. Hoffmann drinks to pleasure. The sinister magician Dapertutto declares he will trap Hoffmann by bribing the courtesan with a glittering diamond; already she has obtained Schlémil's shadow (or soul) for Dapertutto. The poet capitulates to her, and the guests view the obsession of love. Schlémil, refusing Hoffmann the key to Giulietta's apartment, is killed by the poet in a duel. Hoffmann rushes to Giulietta's room, only to find it empty. Nicklausse urges him to flee before the police arrive....

EPILOGUE. When Hoffmann has finished his tales, Nicklausse reveals that each story described a different aspect of one woman, Stella. Arriving at the tavern, the opera singer finds the drunken poet confused and sneering; she leaves with the triumphant Lindorf. Only the Muse remains behind with Hoffmann, who belongs to her at last.


Jacques Offenbach, born in 1819 as Jacob Eberst, was a son of the cantor of a synagogue in Cologne, Juda Eberst, who eventually adopted the name of his German hometown, Offenbach-am-Main, as the family name. The composer changed his first name to Jacques after he moved to Paris in 1833, and he went on to become more Parisian than the Parisians, making their city his base until his death in 1880. He created more than 100 stage works, with Les Contes d'Hoffmann his only serious opera.

Offenbach awarded the rights to the Opéra Comique; he heard some rehearsals but died four months before the premiere, having orchestrated the prologue and Act I and sketched the orchestration of the rest. This was completed by Ernest Guiraud, who composed additional recitatives. For the premiere, February 10, 1881, the Venice scene was omitted.

Hoffmann reached New York on October 16, 1882, at the Fifth Avenue Theater. Oscar Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera staged it in 1907, with French matinée idol Charles Dalmorès as Hoffmann. Italian Umberto Macnez was the poet at the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Hoffmann, conducted by Giorgio Polacco, on January 11, 1913. The Met's new production, directed by Bartlett Sher and conducted by James Levine, is scheduled to bow on December 3, 2009.


The Best Tales of Hoffmann, edited by E. F. Bleiler (Dover) includes the stories upon which the opera is based. Peter Gammond's Jacques Offenbach (Omnibus) is a useful introduction to the composer; Siegfried Krakauer's more weighty Jacques Offenbach and the Paris of His Time (Zone), first published in German in 1937, presents the composer within the lively context of the Second Empire.

Michael Kaye's variorum edition of Offenbach's score provides the jumping-off point for Kent Nagano's somewhat starchy reading, released by Erato in 1996; chief among this set's many virtues are Natalie Dessay's deft Olympia and José van Dam's stylish turn as the four villains. Richard Bonynge's 1972 Decca performance gathers the glamorous trio of Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland and Gabriel Bacquier, all in excellent form. André Cluytens's vivid, idiomatic 1948 recording (Preiser), featuring Raoul Jobin's Hoffmann and the forces of the Opéra Comique, is infinitely preferable to his starry 1964 effort for EMI.

On DVD, Neil Shicoff and Bryn Terfel star in Robert Carsen's quirky Paris production, led by Jesús López-Cobos (TDK). Georges Prêtre paces Domingo's Hoffmann in John Schlesinger's lavish staging for Covent Garden (Kultur), brilliantly designed by Maria Bjornson. Michael Powell's 1951 film, an imaginative blend of dance, singing and special effects, has been beautifully restored by Criterion. spacer 

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