Opera Scotland

Tales of Hoffmann 1955Covent Garden Opera

Read more about the opera Tales of Hoffmann

The Tales of Hoffmann was an extremely popular work at this time, central to the repertoire of the Carl Rosa company.  Here we have a second production taken on tour by the Covent Garden Opera.  It may be that the classic cinema version, directed by Powell and Pressburger, under the musical direction of Beecham, may have led to this great popularity.

The designer Georges Wakhevitch was responsible in the early 'fifties for the Royal Opera House's staging of productions of Otello and Boris Godunov, both surviving well into the seventies.  This production did not survive as long.

However there are clear signs that an effort is being made to introduce some authentic elements.  The three acts are played in the correct order - Olympia, then Antonia, and finally Giulietta.  The fourth of Hoffmann's loves, the opera diva Stella, does appear at the end, but only as a silent character, played by a dancer.  Otakar Kraus does get to play all four villains, while David Tree takes on all four of the tenor character parts.

Several leading company members of the time can be seen, with Edgar Evans as Hoffmann and Barbara Howitt as Nicklausse.  The expatriate Czech baritone Otakar Kraus was by now settled into the Covent Garden company.  He was not just an excellent singing actor, but a highly important teacher, guiding the early careers of several excellent British basses.  The conductor Edward Downes remained a fixture at the Royal Opera House, conducting several new works as well as his staple Verdi and Wagner.

The modifications to the playing format do not yet stretch to having all four leading ladies played by one superbly versatile singer.  The coloratura displays of Olympia are entrusted to the distinguished Wilma Lipp.  We also see two important Australian sopranos taking leading parts.  Elsie Morison is in the tragic role of the singer Antonia, while the courtesan Giulietta is played by Joan Sutherland.  The fourth lady, Stella, is entrusted to a mime artist.  Some twenty years later, Sutherland became one of a handful of sopranos able to encompass all four roles, and recorded them too.

The cast for 7 March in Glasgow is from a programme in the OperaScotland collection.

Performance Cast

Hoffmann's Muse

Jeanne Bowden

Luther an innkeeoer

Rhydderch Davies

Lindorf a councillor of Nuremberg

Otakar Kraus

Andrès Stella's servant

David Tree

Nicklausse Hoffmann's friend

Barbara Howitt

Hoffmann a poet

Edgar Evans

Nathaniel a student

William McAlpine

Wilhelm a student

Aston Shaw

Hermann a student

Ronald Lewis

Cochenille Spalanzani's servant

David Tree

Spalanzani an Italian inventor

Ronald Lewis

Coppélius a scientist, Spalanzani's rival

Otakar Kraus

Olympia a doll

Wilma Lipp

Antonia Crespel's daughter

Elsie Morison

Crespel a councillor of Munich

Howell Glynne

Franz Crespel's servant

David Tree

Dr Miracle a doctor

Otakar Kraus

Antonia's mother a spirit voice

Edith Coates

Pitichinaccio Giulietta's admirer

David Tree

Giulietta a courtesan

Joan Sutherland

Schlemil Giulietta's lover

Forbes Robinson

Dapertutto a sorcerer

Otakar Kraus

Stella an opera singer

Judy Laraman

Performance DatesTales of Hoffmann 1955

Map List

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

7 Mar, 19.30

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