CLASSICAL & OPERA: WHISKY GALORE

Of all creative types, why is it musicians to whom fate often seems to deal the cruellest blows? Deafness, blindness, paralysis, syphilis, insanity, abject poverty - you name it, and some composer will have endured it. Take poor old Offenbach, for example - having laboured all his life to churn out more than 60 operettas, he finally produced The Tales of Hoffmann, a truly grand concoction in the shape of an elaborate "opera fantastique" in five acts, only to die before he could put the finishing touches to it and reap the due acclaim.

Loaded to the brim with action, excitement, melodrama, pathos and a plethora of immediately hummable tunes, Hoffmann has long been a repertoire favourite and crowd-puller. This is, perhaps, why a new English National Opera production, directed by Graham Vick and conducted by Paul Daniel, is already generating an eager buzz of excitement. What's more, this new version, drawing on a host of recent research and newly discovered manuscript materials, is probably as near to what Offenbach intended as we are likely to get. On top of that, the production comes with a poignant Offenbachian parallel, for the newly commissioned English translation is by the sadly late John Wells.

Very much at the forefront of the action throughout will be the tenor Julian Gavin (above), for he takes on the gargantuan role of Hoffmann himself. "It's certainly a massive challenge," he comments. "I think the whole thing runs for around three-and-a-half hours, with intervals, and I'm virtually on stage all that time. We've had a rehearsal period of about nine weeks, which might sound like a lot, but it isn't; and I've been learning the part for months longer than that, too. I have sung it once before, in French, but this is a far better, state-of-the-art score - though it also means that I've virtually had to relearn the whole thing from scratch."

Gavin also suggests that his problems don't end once he knows the music, either. "The opera seems to me like a massive summation of everything Offenbach had to offer, so it's a real rag-bag of all sorts of styles and devices - almost a vaudeville. Alongside that all-embracing conception, Hoffmann becomes a very mercurial character, difficult to pin down, who goes through a number of transformations during the course of the tales. He's part of the action but, simultaneously, he also stands aside from it to comment and analyse. Plus, Hoffmann is rather fond of a drop or two of the hard stuff, and it's not easy to convey various states of inebriation, from the mildly merry to the blind drunk, at least not without the tendency to go over the top. Though all the whisky and wine, in the form of cold tea and Ribena I hasten to add, should ensure I don't dry up. But Tales from Hoffmann is a great piece and a real ensemble one as well. At ENO, I think we've assembled the ensemble it takes to pull it off, and hopefully the ghost of Offenbach will rest easy with this lavish view of his apotheosis."

English National Opera's new production of Offenbach's `The Tales of Hoffmann' opens at the London Coliseum, WC2 (0171-632 8300) 24 Feb 7pm

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

    £19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

    Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor