Les contes d'Hoffmann
Opera by Jacques Offenbach
21, 28, 30 Mar; 2 AprPatrick Furrer
Florence von Gerkan
Chor der Oper Zürich
21 MarMarc Laho
25, 28, 30 Mar; 2 Apr
|La Muse/ Nicklausse||
|La voix de la mère d'Antonia||
|Le capitaine des Sbires||
Statistenverein am Opernhaus Zürich
3 hrs. 5 min.
After the 2st act after approx. 1 hrs. 10 min.
Introduction 45 min before the performance
21 Mar 2014, 19:00
25 Mar 2014, 19:00
28 Mar 2014, 19:00
30 Mar 2014, 19:30
02 Apr 2014, 19:00
Les contes d'Hoffmann
Act 1 – In Luther’s tavern
The spirits of beer and wine extol their beneficial effect on people. The muse of the poet Hoffmann appears. She is concerned about her protégé, since a performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is being given in which the singer Stella is appearing as Donna Anna. Hoffmann was once passionately in love with her, but she abandoned him. The muse is afraid that Hoffmann will once again fall in love with Stella and thus be untrue to his vocation as a poet, and hence to her. She turns herself into Hoffmann’s friend NikIausse in order to lead the poet to his true destiny, with the help of the spirits of drunkenness. Lindorf, a well-to-do, elderly councillor, enters the tavern. He would like to make a conquest of Stella. As he is aware of her connection with Hoffmann, he uses bribery to intercept a letter of Stella’s to Hoffmann, in which she asks the poet for forgiveness, enclosing the key to her dressing room and communicating her decision to wait for Hoffmann, who regularly meets his friends at Luther’s tavern. The first act of “Don Giovanni” has ended. A group of people attending the performance, which also includes Hoffmann’s friends Nathanael, Hermann und Wilhelm, arrives to take refreshment at the tavern during the interval. They drink to Stella’s health. Accompanied by Niklausse, a despondent Hoffmann joins the group. Seeing Stella on stage is a torment for him. In order to distract him from his chagrin, NathanaeI asks him to give a rendering of the song of Kleinzach. However, as he performs the song, Hoffmann’s thoughts drift once again to his former great love, and he invokes their first meeting. When his friends tease him for being in love, he vehemently contradicts them. Lindorf interferes in the conversation and quarrels with Hoffmann, who sees the self-satisfied burgher as the incarnation of everything that has ever brought him unhappiness in life. Those involved in the quarrel change sides when Hoffmann insults his friends’ mistresses, but as he does so he is once again thinking only of Stella, who in his opinion is a combination of a doll, an artist and a courtesan. He volunteers to recount his adventures with three mistresses, who in fact are one and the same person. Nobody realises that, in the meantime, the second act of “Don Giovanni” has begun. Hoffmann has punch served and starts his narration with the story of Olympia.
Act 2 – A room in Spalanzani’s house
The physicist Spalanzani has constructed an automatic doll that he has named Olympia and intends to present at a society party, with the aim of selling her at the highest possible price. However, he is afraid of the optician Coppelius, who has supplied magic eyes for the doll that make her appear to be almost alive. Coppelius, Hoffmann, who has fallen in love with the pretty doll from afar, is willing to give up his poetry and to apprentice himself to Spalanzani in order to be close to Olympia. In front of Hoffmann, Spalanzani refers to Olympia as his daughter and leaves him alone with her. Niklausse has followed Hoffmann, and by singing a facetious little song attempts to make him understand that the object of his raptures is merely a lifeless object. But Hoffmann does not want to listen to him. Coppelius indeed appears unexpectedly and observes with amusement that Hoffmann has evidently fallen in love with the doll. He sells him a pair of magic spectacles, which create the perfect illusion that Olympia is a living creature. When Spalanzani returns, Coppelius repeats his claims to a share of Olympia. In order to rid himself of Coppelius for good and to be able to present himself as Olympia’s sole “father”, Spalanzani buys the right to the doll’s eyes from him, albeit with an unsecured cheque issued by Elias banking house, which has gone bankrupt. The guests arrive, and Spalanzani proudly presents Olympia. She performs a virtuoso aria, while Hoffmann listens to her in raptures. The guests are also delighted by the perfection of this automaton, which, however, occasionally threatens to malfunction and is only kept going by the manipulations of Spalanzani’s assistant, Cochenille. While the party moves off for supper, Hoffmann stays alone with Olympia and declares his love to her. He asks her to open the ball with him, but during the waltz the doll spins out of control, causing Hoffmann to fall to the ground and break his spectacles. In the meantime, Coppelius has realised that Spalanzani’s cheque is worthless. In order to avenge himself, he pounces on the doll and smashes it to pieces. Amidst the scornful laughter of the party, Hoffmann has to recognise that he has been in love with an automaton.
Act 3 – A room at Crespel’s house
Hoffmann is betrothed to Antonia, the daughter of a famous singer and the violinmaker Crespel. However, now that Crespel has learnt that Antonia has not only inherited the singing talent of her mother, who died of consumption at an early age, but also her illness, he attempts to shield his daughter from any exertion or agitation. Above all, he has had to forbid her from singing, which is life-threatening for her. As Hoffmann has repeatedly misled her into doing so, Crespel has moved away with his daughter without her being able to inform Hoffmann. Now she is suffering from the separation. Since Crespel is afraid that Hoffmann could discover their new place of residence, he orders his manservant Frantz never to allow anyone into the house. Frantz suffers due to the contempt with Crespel treats him; however, his efforts at artistic achievement fail miserably. When Hoffmann and Niklausse appear in Crespel’s absence, Frantz gladly welcomes the poet. Hoffmann is happy to be able to see Antonia again at last, but Niklausse warns him once more against his love. Antonia is too committed to her art to be able to feel true love. Hoffmann is also able to find real fulfilment only in art. Yet once again, Hoffmann does not listen to Niklausse, but strikes up the love song he and Antonia used to sing. Overjoyed, she rushes into his arms. When she joins in the song, Hoffmann notices that her health has taken a turn for the worse. Crespel’s return forces him to hide, and he is the unseen witness of a conversation between Doctor Miracle, who has appeared from nowhere, and Crespel, during which he learns that singing is life-threatening for Antonia. Crespel chases Miracle out of the house, since he considers him responsible for the death of his wife and now fears that he will be also be Antonia’s undoing. For his part, Hoffmann now makes Antonia promise him that she will never sing again, but without telling her the reason why. Antonia is left perplexed. In the meantime, Miracle has once more gained access to the house. He talks Antonia into believing that she has the prospect of a brilliant singing career, which she should not jeopardise in favour of a bourgeois marriage. Initially, Antonia attempts to resist his incitement to sing again; but when Miracle invokes her mother’s voice she is no longer able to hold herself back. She sings until she collapses. Crespel and Hoffmann come running, only to find that she is dead.
Act 4 – A palazzo in Venice
To forget his lovesickness, Hoffmann has travelled with Niklausse to Venice, where he intends to renounce love forever and, instead, to indulge all his senses. At a party given by the courtesan Giulietta, who is in the company of the cripple Pitichinaccio, he announces his new maxim and pokes fun at the romantic songs wafting through the air. Because Giulietta is flirting with Hoffmann, her lover Schlemil suspects that the poet is a rival. To distract him from his jealousy, Giulietta suggests moving into the dining room. While the guests follow her, Niklausse warns Hoffmann against embarking on a new amorous escapade. The latter, however, denies that he would ever be able to feel anything for a courtesan. Dapertutto, who has overheard these words, decides to make an example. He lures Giulietta with a magnificent diamond. After she has already obtained Schlemil’s shadow for him, he would now like her to seduce Hoffmann and demand his reflection. He persuades the initially hesitant Giulietta to do his will by remarking that Hoffmann has just claimed he could never, ever fall in love with a courtesan. Hoffmann, who has lost at cards against Schlemil, challenges him to a return game. The challenge is accepted. Giulietta succeeds in attracting his attention with a melancholy little song. Hoffmann leaves his cards to Niklausse and goes to her. In a few words, Giulietta convinces him that, at the bottom of her courtesan’s heart, she yearns for true love. Hoffmann is immediately set ablaze, and swears eternal love to her. Giulietta ends the party and whispers to Hoffmann that Schlemil has the key to her room. It is up to him to obtain it from him. After the guests have left, Hoffmann demands that Schlemil give him the key; Schlemil in turn challenges him to a duel. Dapertutto, who has observed the scene, lends Hoffmann his sword. After a brief struggle, the latter stabs Schlemil, takes the key from him and repairs to Giulietta’s boudoir. There, Niklausse implores Hoffmann to leave Venice immediately, before the dead Schlemil is discovered, but Hoffmann will not leave Giulietta. However, the latter also warns him of the risk he is running and begs him to escape. She will soon follow him forever, but as a pledge of his love he should leave her his reflection. Intoxicated by her vows, Hoffmann agrees and allows himself to be led to the mirror. Dapertutto seizes his reflection, and while Hoffmann collapses, almost unconscious, Dapertutto presents Giulietta with the promised diamond. Niklausse rushes in, reporting that Schlemil has been found and that the henchmen are hot on Hoffmann’s trail. At the same moment, Giulietta’s guests force their way into her boudoir and are astonished to see that Hoffmann has not long since fled. To the amusement of all present, Dapertutto gleefully demonstrates the loss of Hoffmann’s reflection. The latter gradually becomes aware of his situation and curses Giulietta, who taunts him. Attempting to stab her, Hoffmann kills Pitichinaccio, over whose body Giulietta collapses, weeping.
Act 5 – In Luther’s tavern
Hoffmann has ended his narration. Completely drunk, he renounces women and love. When Stella, who has not found him in her dressing room after the performance as she had hoped, appears in search of him, Hoffmann no longer recognises her. Stella consoles herself with Lindorf, but before he leads her to dine, Hoffmann sings another insulting verse of the Kleinzach song, clearly aimed at Lindorf. The Muse has achieved her goal and urges Hoffmann to surrender himself to his only true love – poetry. The poet willingly follows her, leaving the phantoms of the past behind him.