Friday, August 27, 2010

Opera Note: Santa Fe Hoffman

Well, there's no doubt where he stands:

Last night (August 24) here in Santa Fe was just one of those nights that only happens “every now and then”.  It was the penultimate performance of The Tales of Hoffmann, ... an almost perfect performance where EVERY singer on stage had a great night vocally, thereby leaving no one out of the excitement.  The orchestra was fabulous, our conductor (Stephen Lord) was all smiles in the pit, the chorus was relaxed and relieved (now that their opera scene showcases were over), and there was not one technical glitch.  In other words, every “i” was dotted, and every “t” was crossed.
Well, he's in a position to know, the writer is David  Cangelosi, and the performance of which he speaks so highly is one in which he was part of the cast: he played Pittichinaccio/Andres/Cochenille/Frantz.   And setting aside any fastidiousness about self-congratulation, I'd have to say I agree with him.  I don't  suppose my data base is as broad as his, but I'd say it was the best Hoffman I've ever seen: fully realized and tightly integrated throughout.

The kicker for me is that I've never seen a Hoffman more faithful to its roots.  I liked last year's Met rendition
(a lot of people didn't) but I have to admit it strayed pretty far from its origins, more Bart Sher than Offenbach or Hoffman.  ("a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it 'Homer;"),  So also the classic movie version: a good show, but you might as well call it Tales of Michael Powell. 

Perhaps one reason why directors make so free with Hoffman is that Offenbach left it unfinished at his death and so there is no definitive "score."  Still, the Santa Fe rendition, seemed to elucidate the particular charms of the Offenbach score--and to show you, appreciatively, how such an odd piece of romanticism could have come from the pen of one who spent most of his career in something closer to musical comedy.  And the underlying text: I've never seen a performance that came even close to capturing the particular weirdness of the Hoffman original.

The cast at Santa Fe was so tightly integrated that it's hard to single out star turns, though it does seem proper to give a special salute to Wayne Tigges who stepped into his role just a short time ago as a cover.  Hoffman himself does come  across as a bit obscure in this Hoffman, although Joseph Calleja in the Met performance may have nailed the role with such conviction that anybody else is going to look pale by comparison.  And I do feel a bit sorry for Kate Lindsey in the (expnded) role as the Muse--she has to listen to all of Hoffman's nattering about love, and then at last go home alone.

Here's a contrary view.

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