Anywho… Les Contes d’Hoffmann….an opéra fantastique that reunites three unfortunate love-stories: The doll Olympia, the dying singer Antonia and the Venetian courtesan Giulietta. All loved by Hoffmann, they all end tragically. Since Offenbach died even before the orchestration, too many geniuses laid hand on the score and started the cuts, additions, changes, reversal of order, spoken dialogues vs recitative, changes to the story etc etc etc. The Lyon opera house opted for spoken dialogues, the death of Giulietta and the cut of “Scintille diamant” and the septet (which is not by Offenbach anyway but still a lovely piece of music). The mise en scene was the re-dusted one by Pelly which he created for Lyon in 2005. Although at times a bit too minimal (Venice is relegated to two gondola-imitating sofa’s and two breezy-translucent curtains), it manages, especially in the most compelling and convincing Antonia act, to present a haunted house-like feeling with its moving stairs, folding walls, rooms that appear and disappear, etc.
The title role was interpreted by John Osborn, who I tend to find wonderful in (almost) everything he sings. His no-safety net-delivery of Raoul in Les Huguenots a few years back took my breath away. In Lyon I found him a bit distant in Kleinzach’s song. As the evening went on he gained part of his ardour and energy that I like so much about him but he was generally not as expressive as in other roles I heard him in.
Patrizia Ciofi (who was planned to alternate with Desirée Rancatore but eventually ended up singing almost all performances) sang all of Hoffmann’s women. Olympia’s coloratura were not as sparkling as she could have done a few years ago but I liked Ciofi’s actorial interpretation, and her rendering of Antonia was very moving and musically very convincing.
Laurent Alvaro sang the villains quite well with a generous voice and the minor roles were also well cast. My slight disappointment was Angelique Noldus as Nicklausse, a barely audible voice and unconvincing interpretation of Hoffmann’s companion. The biggest disappointment, however, was Ono’s direction. Ono completely lacked tension, and at times inappropriately paused or slowed down until loosing the musical flow, droning down the opera in shallow routine. Even the most gripping moments came out boring.
Direction musicale-Kazushi Ono, Mise en scène et costumes-Laurent Pelly, Remise en forme du livret et dramaturgie-Agathe Mélinand, Décors-Chantal Thomas, Lumières-Joël Adam, Réalisation vidéo-Charles Carcopino, Hoffmann-John Osborn, Olympia/Giulietta/Antonia-Patrizia Ciofi, Nicklausse/Muse-Angelique Noldus, Lindorf/Coppélius/Dapertutto/Docteur Miracle-Laurent Alvaro, Andrès/Cochenille/Pitichinaccio/Frantz-Cyrille Dubois, Spalanzani/Nathanaël -Carl Ghazorossian, Hermann/Schlemil-Christophe Gay, La Mère-Marie Gautrot, Lyon, 19-12-13