Review: The Tales Of Hoffman (Offenbach) - London Coliseum

The Tales of Hoffman

Friday 10th February 2012: ENO continues its artistic partnership with the Bayerische Staatsoper in a fantastical production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, directed by Richard Jones.

Three tales within a tale, Offenbach chronicles the poet and drunkard Hoffman’s search for love. Enamoured by a mechanical doll, obsessed by a doomed young singer and thrown in to the arms of a courtesan who steals his reflection, the multifaceted story follows Hoffman’s retreat back into his art.

Tenor Barry Banks interprets Hoffman’s character with a deep understanding and makes a very convincing drunkard. His performances of Kleinzach proved particularly entertaining with  humorous mannerisms and exceptionally clear diction. In contrast, Banks evokes the sensitivity of a man in love when he sings about his beloveds with captivating tonal quality and longing.

American soprano Georgia Jarman makes her ENO and UK debut, singing all four of the main female roles. Flawless arpeggios paint the voice of the mechanical doll, Olympia, whilst sensitivity fill the voice of young singer, Antonia. To complete the trio of beloveds, prostitute Giuletta is performed with sultry gusto and rich tonal quality.
Jarman is unquestionably a name to be aware of in future operatic productions, as to play such constrasting roles in a single opera takes an incredible amount of talent and dedication.

Other particularly strong performances are that of Christine Rice, who plays the role of Hoffman’s Muse (a schoolboy named Nicklausse) with impeccable diction and characterisation of the text in addition to the rich and sensitive off-stage voice of Antonia’s mother, sung by Catherine Young.

The scenery of the production is realised by set designer Giles Cadle and is composed with a few key pieces of furniture that are adapted to suit the different acts of the opera. Act IV stands out in particular in supporting the story of Guiletta with a large circular mirror (intended to catch men’s reflections) that catches the light and reflects it into the audience with each rotation.
Other weird and wonderful delights include a gorilla that crosses the stage before the curtain up of Act IV and a comedic female assistant to Olympia’s doll-maker played by Simon Butteriss.

If you are new to opera I recommend this production as it is both performed in English and the story is easy to follow. It also provides some great characterisation and a couple of familiar musical numbers.

The Tales of Hoffman can be found at the London Coliseum 
February 16, 18, 23, 29 at 7pm 
March 2, 6, 8 at 7pm  
March 10 at 6pm

Review by Philippa Bellis