Opera Scotland

Tales of Hoffmann 1998Tayside Opera

Read more about the opera Tales of Hoffmann

Hoffmann is an ambitious work for amateur groups to perform, but it provides an entertaining evening in the theatre, with its varied episodes linked by the hero. The major professional companies are likely to get bogged down in questions of style and concept. As with any unfinished work, some people will have strong views about the alternatives. There are different ways to approach the piece. In recent years the major stagings, at ENO, Covent Garden and elsewhere,  have tended to 'correct' the running order of the acts, and ditch the spurious 'grand opera' recits in favour of dialogue. Tayside chose a sensible, pragmatic option - the framing scenes containing the operatic diva Stella were cut, as always used to happen. Given the difficulty amateur singers sometimes have with dialogue, the recits were kept. However the scenes were played in the correct order, with the tragi-comic Venice activities last, and Antonia's tragedy in the middle.

Central to the enterprise was the presence of Ian Priestley as Hoffmann. A free-voiced lyric tenor, with no problem with high notes, and of slim and youthful appearance, he was ideal in the role, and it is regrettable they did not mount more French operas for him.  The other character who appears throughout is his muse, Nicklausse, a mezzo role to which Helen Brown was well suited. The three female leads, ideally sung by one artist, are completely different in vocal style, and each of these three ladies was well chosen, whether for the airy flights of Olympia, the tragic lyricism of Antonia, or the sultry decadence of Giulietta.

The four villains of the piece were also divided between three singers, with David Button as Lindorf and Dr Miracle, Tom Patullo as Coppelius and Neil Mudie as Dapertutto, all well characterised. The four servants are generally allotted to one character tenor, but here, while a light tenor remained as Franz, the other three were allotted to women - in this context not a particularly significant issue.

The staging was broadly traditional and successful. The orchestra coped well, and Brian Craib's conducting was generally stylish. The recitatives did tend to slow the action a bit, as happens when Carmen is treated in this now unfashionable manner. Having previously done Faust, Carmen and Bizet's Doctor Miracle, Hoffmann was a well worthwhile addition to the group's French repertoire.

Performance Cast

Nicklausse Hoffmann's friend

Helen Brown

Lindorf a councillor of Nuremberg

David Button

Andrès Stella's servant

Heather McLean

Luther an innkeeoer

Michael Turner

Nathaniel a student

Richard Erskine

Hermann a student

Graeme Adamson

Hoffmann a poet

Ian Priestley

Olympia a doll

Fiona Brownsmith

Spalanzani an Italian inventor

David Wright

Cochenille Spalanzani's servant

Susan Nixon

Coppélius a scientist, Spalanzani's rival

Tom Patullo

Antonia Crespel's daughter

Alison McDonald

Crespel a councillor of Munich

Neil Mudie

Franz Crespel's servant

Philip Kearns

Dr Miracle a doctor

David Button

Antonia's mother a spirit voice

Norma Carr

Giulietta a courtesan

Margaret Wells

Schlemil Giulietta's lover

Michael Turner

Pitichinaccio Giulietta's admirer

Morag Gaskin

Dapertutto a sorcerer

Neil Mudie

Performance DatesTales of Hoffmann 1998

Map List

Whitehall Theatre | Dundee

18 Nov, 19.30 19 Nov, 19.30 20 Nov, 19.30 21 Nov, 19.30

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