Live Opera on the Big Screen

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Les Contes d’Hoffmann
Les Contes d’Hoffmann

Daniel Dercksen: Opera lovers can indulge in the Met Opera’s production of Offenbach’s sumptuous Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Cinema Nouveau from March 7.

After becoming the toast of Paris with his witty operettas in 1833, Jacques Offenbach set out to create a more serious work. He chose as his source a successful play based on the stories of visionary German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann.

Three of these tales – at once profound, eerie, and funny – were unified in the play by a narrative frame that made Hoffmann the protagonist of his own tales.

Each episode recounts a catastrophic love affair: first with a girl who turns out to be an automated doll, then with a sickly young singer, and finally with a Venetian courtesan. In the prologue and epilogue, the hero is involved with an opera singer who seems like a combination of these three previous loves.

Throughout the opera, Hoffmann is dogged by a diabolical nemesis and accompanied by his faithful friend Nicklausse, whose true identity is only revealed after bitter experience.

Failure in love eventually fuels his future artistic success. Offenbach died before the premiere, leaving posterity without an authorized version of the score.

View a preview of Les Contes d’Hoffmann here:

The 31 January matinee performance of the opera was filmed for transmission into cinemas worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 2 000 movie theatres in 70 countries around the world.

It stars the magnetic Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo in his first Met performances of the title role, a tortured poet and unwitting adventurer whose attempts at romance are repeatedly thwarted.

Grigolo previously sang the title role with Zurich Opera in 2011. Grigolo made his Met debut as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème in 2010, a role he repeated here last season. In 2013, he returned to the Met to sing the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Hibla Gerzmava, Christine Rice, and Erin Morley play the three heroines—each an idealised embodiment of some aspect of Hoffmann’s desire. Thomas Hampson portrays the shadowy Four Villains, and Canadian conductor Yves Abel conducts the sparkling score.

Thomas Hampson adds a new role to his extensive repertory as the Four Villains who interfere with Hoffmann’s courtship of four women: the mechanical doll Olympia, sung by American soprano Erin Morley in her role debut; the consumptive artist Antonia and the self-absorbed diva Stella, both portrayed by Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava; and the Venetian courtesan Giulietta, sung by English mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.

Hampson has sung more than 200 Met performances in a variety of roles. Last season, he made his role debut as the title character in Berg’s Wozzeck. His other recent performances with the company have included Iago in Verdi’s Otello, Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata, and the title roles in Verdi’s Macbeth and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey reprises the role of Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s muse, which she sang in the 2009 premiere of Bartlett Sher’s production.

Erin Morley is a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Programme. She has sung ten roles with the company, including Sophie in last season’s revival of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and Madame Podtochina’s daughter in the Met premiere of Shostakovich’s The Nose.

Hibla Gerzmava made her Met debut as Antonia and Stella in 2010. In subsequent seasons, she has sung Mimì in La Bohème and Liù in Puccini’s Turandot at the Met. She has sung all four heroines in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Moscow’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre.

Christine Rice made her Met debut in December as Hansel in the Met’s holiday presentation of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. She has previously sung Giulietta with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. In 2012, she sang Nicklausse in a new production of The Tales of Hoffmann at English National Opera.

Nicklausse is one of 13 roles Kate Lindsey has sung at the Met, where she made her debut in 2005 as Javotte in Manon. Her company repertory also includes Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Annio in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, Siébel in Gounod’s Faust, and the Kitchen-Boy in Dvoøák’s Rusalka.

Yves Abel leads his first Met performances of Les Contes d’Hoffmann this season. He made his company debut in 1993 conducting Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and has also led Met performances of La Traviata, Bizet’s Carmen, Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Last season, he conducted Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Seattle Opera.

Each of The Met: Live in HD operas is a glorious production that will be screened exclusively at Cinema Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor theatres countrywide, including: Gateway Nouveau, Durban; V&A Waterfront Nouveau and Ster-Kinekor Blue Route in Cape Town; Ster-Kinekor Garden Route in George; Rosebank Nouveau and Ster-Kinekor Bedford View in Johannesburg; and at Brooklyn Nouveau, Pretoria.

For booking information on The Met: Live in HD season, visitwww.cinemanouveau.co.za or sterkinekor.mobi, You can also download the Ster-Kinekor App on any Nokia, Samsung Android, iPhone or Blackberry smart phone for updates, news and to make bookings. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

For more live opera and theatre on the big screen, visit www.writingstudio.co.za

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