LES CONTES DEOFFMANN Jacques Offenbach
Edizioni Choudens Parigi - Rappresentante esclusivo per I'Italia Casa Musicale Sonzogno Milano
Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Emilia-Romagna "Arturo Toscanini"
diretta da Alain Guingal
Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma della Cooperativa "Artisti del Coro" (11 Parma
Maestro del Coro Adolfo Tanzi
Regia Beppe De Tomasi
Alfredo Kraus Ruth Welting Jolanta Omilian Barbara TIenclricks Elena Zilio
Bruno Bulgarelli Giovanni Savoiardo Angelo Nosol ti
Aldo Bottion Marcello Crisman TitoTurtura
The Tales of Hoffmann
A fanciful comic opera in three acts, with a prologue and an epilogue. Music by
Jacques Offenbach, libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre, based on three
tales by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann.
The premiere took place at the Opera Comique, Paris, on 10 February 1881. In this
work, Offenbach pays homage to the writer and composer E. T. A. Hoffmann, whom
he had long admired.
Offenbach died before he could put the final touches on the opera; it was
completed by Ernst Guiraud (1837-1892).
Without question, The Tales of Hoffmann was as successful as Offenbach could
have wished. Even though the final version is not entirely what he projected, the
score has the inestimable value of containing in its pages the essential of what was
to become a mainstay of the Opera Comique.
A success of this sort was Offenbach's secret dream, and when he died in 1880, at
sixty years old, the dream was about to come true: he-the celebrated composer of
operettas-was writing this opera which at last would open the doors of all the most
important opera houses in the world to him.
Perhaps he foresaw his premature death, for he wrote about himself, "I have a
tremendous, incorrigible vice, namely that I work non-stop. So I'm sorry for those
who don't love my music, because it means I'm almost sure to die with an aria on
the tip of my pen."
Offenbach, who was so prolific musically and so swift in composing his
celebrated, historic operettas, encountered difficulty in the composition of The
Tales. He couldn't finish it, and the composing continued slowly. Something
wasn't going right. Something other than his health seemed to be hindering
completion of the opera.
Strange to say, Offenbach had never felt satisfied with the success of his operettas:
Orpheus in the Underworld, Beautiful Helen, Parisian Life, The Grand Duchess of
Gerolstein, and so many others.
He died on 5 October 1880, and Guiraud, who completed The Tales, decided to
change most of the spoken dialogue into recitatives, and also made some other
rather drastic revisions.
And so the opera performed at the premiere was not entirely what Offenbach had
projected, a fact which gives rise to a difficult question of attribution, and the
question cannot be resolved because much material that might have thrown light
on the mystery was burned in a fire in the Salle Favart in 1887.
Because of Guiraud's revisions, The Tales are sometimes performed in versions
that differ-some more, some less-from the original. But nowadays, after so many
years have passed, we ought to give up investigating attributions and simply enjoy
this opera that has come to us across the decades.
Prologue. In a tavern in Nuremberg, Councillor Lindorf (one of four
personifications of evil genius) intercepts a letter full of love that the actress Stella
has sent to Hoffmann. Hoffmann arrives with his friend Nicklausse and (not
knowing the letter was intercepted) tells three tales of fantastic amorous adventures.
Act I. The poet falls in love with Olympia, believing her to be the real flesh-and-
blood daughter of Spalanzani whereas instead she is a mechanical doll. At a ball,
Hoffmann dances round and round with Olympia until Coppelius, the inventor who
created the doll, destroys her in a jealous rage.
Act II. In Venice, the courtesan Giulietta is the slave of a demon, Dapertutto. She
persuades her lover Hoffmann to kill Schlemil, another of her lovers. When the
two of them are about to duel, Giulietta runs off with a courtier, Pitichinaccio.
Act III. We're in Munich, in the home of a lute-maker, Councillor Crespel.
Hoffmann is in love with his daughter Antonia. The girl loves to sing but has an
illness that will cause her to die if she sings. The evil Dr. Miracle persuades
Antonia to sing, and she dies.
Epilogue. After telling these tales, Hoffmann falls asleep in the tavern, for he has
drunk more than usual. Lindorff has kept Stella's loving letter to Hoffmann and
has convinced Hoffmann Stella betrayed him. This slander comes true when Stella
goes off with Lindorff.