Les Contes d’Hoffmann

The impossible loves of a poet

Teatro Regio, Friday 30 January 2009 at 8 pm

Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), the unfinished opera by composer Jacques Offenbach, on the libretto by Jules Barbier from the novel of the same name by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, will open on Friday 30 January at Teatro Regio.

With the staging by Teatro Regio, realized in co-production with Teatro Real de Madrid, Théâtre du Capitole Toulouse and Israeli Opera of Tel Aviv, one of the most atypical titles of French opera is proposed, one which Italian audiences find  delightful though not well-known (the last production in Torino was 35 years ago). The stage direction is by  Nicolas Joël, who for health reasons will not be able to be present; Stephane Roche will be standing in for him. On the podium Emmanuel Villaume, who returns to Torino after having conducted the production of Ariane et Barbe-Bleue last season. The sets are by Ezio Frigerio while Franca Squarciapino has created the costumes. The chorus of the Teatro Regio will be directed by Maestro Claudio Fenoglio. Lighting is by Vinicio Cheli.

The opera, realized with the support of the Compagnia di San Paolo, will be broadcast live by Rai Radio3 on Friday 30 January.

In Les Contes d’Hoffmann Offenbach lavishes his mature mastery as a composer of operetta in the hope of being recognised as a “serious” opera composer, but he wasn’t able to enjoy the success of his work because he died and left it unfinished. Completed by Ernest Guiraud, the opera had so many different versions that it is literally impossible to identify an original version, and certainly not a definitive one.

Every new production is therefore a re-invention of the work, as it has to deal with  choosing from among a wide range of possible variations. Beginning with the most fundamental: whether to entrust the roles of Hoffmann’s three lovers to a single interpreter or to simultaneously engage three different first-class singers.

The story, framed by a prologue and epilogue, is derived from a play of 1851 in which the poet E.T.A. Hoffmann, the protagonist of some of his own stories, has three love affairs: the infatuation for a mechanical doll, the pure but opposed love for a singer and the frivolous passion for a courtesan. From this path towards moral decline, the poet can redeem himself only through art.

Offenbach provides the play – extremely modern in its different levels of meaning – with music that preserves the brilliant immediacy of La Périchole and La belle Hélène, yielding to the more sinister aspects of a subject that has its roots in demoniacal Gothic Romanticism.

The protagonist Hoffmann, who narrates his unhappy love affairs, will no longer be interpreted by Roberto Aronica, who is indisposed and has had to renounce his participation. The protagonist for the opening night will therefore be the brilliant Mexican tenor  Arturo Chacón-Cruz, already engaged in the role of Hoffmann in the second cast.  Chacón-Cruz will alternate with Marc Laho. The coloratura soprano Désirée Rancatore is the mechanical doll loved by  Hoffmann, a role particularly congenial to her; in the repeat performances, she will alternate with the Russian soprano Anna Skibinsky. The soprano  Raffaella Angeletti, from Torino, will interpret Antonia, the singer condemned to not singing. The mezzosoprano Monica Bacelli, highly appraised at the Regio last season as Sesto in Clemenza di Tito, completes the trio of Hoffmann’s lovers as the enchanting Giulietta. Patrizia Orciani will instead be Giulietta in some of the repeat performances. Furthermore – in the roles of the Muse and Nicklausse – the alluring Georgian mezzosoprano Nino Surguladze, a rising star on the international scene, who will alternate with Manuela Custer. The four characters of Lindorf, Coppélius, Docteur Miracle and Dapertutto will be interpreted by bass Alfonso Antoniozzi, alternating with Simone Alberghini.

Les Contes d’Hoffmann will have nine performances through Sunday 8 February.

Box Office of Teatro Regio, piazza Castello 215 - Tel. 011.8815.241/242 - e-mail - www.teatroregio.torino.it

Torino, 20 January 2009

Paola Giunti
Head of the Press Office