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Hoffmann aux Enfers

Grand Théâtre
12/14/2001 -  and 16, 18, 20, 22, 27, 29, 31 December 2001, 2 and 4
Jacques Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffmann
A production of the Grand Théâtre de Genève and Théâtre de Caen
Michael Myers (Hoffmann), Heidi Brunner (la Muse/Nicklausse), José van Dam (Lindorf/Copelius/Miracle/Dapertutto), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (Andrès/Cochenille/Frantz/Pitichinaccio), Patricia Petibon replaced by Aline Kutan (Olympia), Mireille Delunsch (Antonia), Marie-Ange Todorovitch(Giulietta)
Bertrand de Billy (Conductor), Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ching-Lien Wu (Chorus master), Chœur du Grand Théâtre
Olivier Py (Director) Pierre-André Weitz (set)

The opera is constructed around three the tales: Olympia, the mechanical doll; Antonia, the singer that dies of singing; and Giulietta, the courtesan. Olivier Py with Pierre-André Weitz (set) have constructed the stories around a turning building of three stories serving as the set of most of the scenes. The three tales, are three steps down to the abysses that finish in depravity, under the manipulation of a devil changing names: Copelius, Miracle and eventually the dark Dapertutto.

Pyrotechnical affects and a quantity of light bulbs framing most of the scenes (lighting up the audience instead of the stage) give us the impression of being on Broadway, watching a musical comedy or cabaret. The eyes are constantly occupied watching the so many actions, artifices and events unfolding in front of our eyes, like in some circus. The set moves and changes, never the same though always constructed reconstructed with the same elements, but revealing a different facet at every scene. Death, nudity and sex is a recurrent theme in this direction that finishes-in the Venetian brothel of Giulietta- as crudly as one may put it on scene, or even more, in a descent theatre. As an End of Year performance it is certainly nicht für Kindern. Personally, I would rather advise a Nutcracker, though did not see it, to be found at Opernhaus Zürich for a Christmas family outing.

The much awaited and so popular “song of the doll” for which Patricia Petibon, much praise for her interpretation, was replaced at the last minute by Aline Kutan very impressive indeed, a breathtaking coloratura! She whirls and twirls her voice in a truly mechanical way that is required for this doll’s voice. Mireille Delunsch performing a very moving Antonia, very human through her suffering. Her performance is accompanied by curtains of flames coming down from the heights, underlining the drama and her imminent death. Marie-Ange Todorovitch as Giulietta masters the role of the courtesan. Not to forget José van Dam, the chameleon devil, appearing in the IVth Act as a black bird from hell with a live raven sitting on his hand. Hoffmann (Michael Myers) delights us with the “Song of Kleinzach”. Accompagnied by a superb choir in top hat. The choir of the Grand Théâtre was led by Chien-Lien Wu, the new chorus master of Geneva is presenting the mastery of her art at every performance. The orchestra performing this work between opera and operetta under a very sure baton, Bertrand de Billy.

This production was surly something new and that used most of the technical possibilities, if not all, that this theatre can offer. If there is one main critique to be said: it was a bit too much. However, Les Contes d’Hoffmann is a long opera, that sometimes tends to bore, and what quite obvious, is that during this performance one can not afford to be bored.

Zoltan Bécsi



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