Les contes d’Hoffmann@Brussels

Offenbach died before he could layout his opera exactly as he intended it to be, and as many people laid hand on it afterwards, it is one of the opera’s that will always have one or the other piece cut or added. In this Brussels version the muse gets La vérité dit-on, Vois sous l’archet frémissant, Voyez-la sous son éventail, Giulietta gets her aria as well  (L’amour lui dit), there is no sextet, no Scintille diamant and in the Olympia act we hear the trio J’ai des yeux. On the other hand the Olympia act starts directly with “C’est elle”, the Giulietta act ends with the duet and there were various other cuts and spoken additions such as an oscar speach.

Gabor Bretz sang very well but was scenically not very present to come across as a villain. Nicole Chevalier sang the three women adequately and some absence in flexibility and absence of vibrato in top notes did not dilute an overall convincing rendition; I liked Michèle Losier as Nicklausse, her voice never strained, a warm timbre, and very convincing on stage. Enea Scala has a voice that tends to get a bit tight the more he rises, but in middle and low register he has a nice timbre in a voice that he uses to sing with many facets.  Altinoglu gets an extremely clear sound from orchestra and choir. He gets my applause also for not cutting the reprise of the Hofmann/Miracle/Crespel trio. He directs correctly and accompanies with taste and over the performances his dramatic tension increases.

Just like the librettist of Hoffmann Jules Barbier and Michel Carré took several novels by Hoffmann and created one which ended up being Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Warlikowski took several movies and forced them into being the setting and the plot of the opera. But while Barbier and Carré created something new, Warlikowski didn’t. By boxing  a movie plot and an opera plot together Warlikokwsi creates many confusions and contradictions; Furthernore the concept does not make any theatrical credibility unless it’s explained. The plot is just a string of movie scenes, mechanically put one after the other with no link to Hoffman’s plot. The whole opera is stripped of any romanticism, love and diabolical elements and seems the worst of regietheaters. What Warlikowski did was the blandest form of project management resulting in an extremely boring evening, made even longer by two intervals and all the additions which make sense in Warlikowski’s head but not in mine (and of those who left at the second interval)

The only consolation of this dull evening is that the various Warlikowskis and whoever pays them will come and go. Offenbach’s music will remain. Just a pity this time even Offenbach’s music resulted boring. Quiet an achievement.

Conductor-Alain Altinoglu, Director-Krzysztof Warlikowski, Set Design And Costumes-Małgorzata Szczęśniak, Lighting-Felice Ross, Video-Denis Guéguin, Choreography-Claude Bardouil, Dramaturgy-Christian Longchamp, Hoffmann-Enea Scala, Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta, Stella-Nicole Chevalier, Nicklausse, La Muse-Michèle Losier, La Voix De La Tombe-Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo, Le Conseiller Lindorf, Coppélius, Le Docteur Miracle, Le Capitaine Dapertutto Gábor Bretz, Spalanzani, Nathanaël-François Piolino, Luther, Crespel-Sir Willard White, Frantz, Andrès, Cochenille, Pitichinaccio-Loïc Félix, Schlémil, Herrmann-Yoann Dubruque, Wolfram-Alejandro Fonte, Wilhelm-Byoungjin Lee. Fotos by Bernd Uhlig; 12th, 31st december 2019

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