The Summer Opera season has just started in SF Opera. Tonight we watched The Tales of Hoffmann. The music, the singing, the costume, the set, were all beautiful. This is the trailer from SF Opera.
The Tales of Hoffmann Trailer from San Francisco Opera
Jacques Offenbach, the Composer
Les contes d’Hoffmann (in English: The Tales of Hoffmann) is an opera by Jacques Offenbach. It was first performed in Paris, at the Opéra-Comique, on February 10, 1881.
The libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann. E.T.A. Hoffmann himself is a character in the opera just as he often is in his stories. The stories upon which the opera is based are Der Sandmann,Rath Krespel, and Das verlorene Spiegelbild.
The opera contains a prologue, three acts and an epilogue. Offenbach did not live to see his opera performed, since he died on October 5, 1880, just over four months before its premiere. Before his death, Offenbach had completed the piano score and orchestrated the prologue and the first act. Since he did not entirely finish the writing, many different versions of this opera emerged, some bearing little resemblance to the original work. The version performed at the opera’s premiere was that by Ernest Guiraud, who completed Offenbach’s scoring and wrote the recitatives.
Barcarolle — the most famous aria
The most famous aria from the opera is the “Barcarolle” (Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour), which is performed in Act 2. Curiously, the aria was not written by Offenbach with Les Contes d’Hoffmann in mind. He wrote it as a ghost-song in the opera Les fées du Rhin (which premiered in Vienna on February 8, 1864 as Die Rheinnixen). Offenbach died with Les contes d’Hoffmann unfinished.
Ernest Guiraud completed the scoring and wrote the recitatives for the premiere. He also incorporated this excerpt from one of Offenbach’s earlier, long-forgotten operas into the new opera.
The Barcarolle has been incorporated into many movies including Life Is Beautiful and Titanic.
The most famous aria Barcarolle ….sound familiar? Yes, we all played it when we were children! It is beautiful and has different ways of presentation. I found this one played with mandolins, guitar, double bass and piano. Enjoy!
Barcarolle, J.Offenbach, ATTIKA “Musica Poetica” official version
“Barcarolle” was originally composed for soprano. Let us hear these beautiful voices:
Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca sing “Barcarolle”
Finally, please don’t forget, that Offenbach has another very popular piece widely used in movies all over the world: Can Can. This video uses the images from the artist Toulouse-Lautrec who is famous for his Moulin Rouge paintings. Enjoy!
French CanCan – Jacques Offenbach (Orphée aux Enfers)
I would like to end this post with a very interesting quote from Thomas May who wrote in the program book for SF Opera. He said that Hoffman has become Offenbach’s signature work but it has actually made a big shift of his style from light-hearted comedy. He quoted David Littlejohn’s comments: “as if the world’s most popular comedian had a try at playing Hamlet just before he died, and pulled it off successfully.”