Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Royal Opera House, London, review: One could perhaps wish for more varied dynamics from Vittorio Grigolo’s Hoffmann

The Royal Opera’s production of Offenbach's opera was created in 1980 by director John Schlesinger, who is better known for the films ‘Midnight Cowboy’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Cold Comfort Farm’

Cara Chanteau
Tuesday 08 November 2016 16:35
Comments
 Sofia Fomina as Olympia, Christopher Mortagne as Spalanzani and Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffman in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Royal Opera House
Sofia Fomina as Olympia, Christopher Mortagne as Spalanzani and Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffman in Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Royal Opera House

Away from the risqué sophisticated formula that guaranteed success with his many opéras bouffes, Les Contes d’Hoffmann was Offenbach’s final bid for immortality. It’s an extraordinary work, definitely worth catching in the late, great film-director John Schlesinger’s insanely sumptuous, near-definitive 1980 production on its last outing.

The opera is based on three fantastical tales by the German Romantic ETA Hoffmann, jammed together and presented as though episodes of the real-life Hoffmann, reviewing the three great loves of his life as he waits, a shop-soiled drunken poet, for his latest love the diva Stella.

Russian soprano Sofia Fomina as the mechanical doll Olympia his first infatuation, nails both the extreme coloratura and high comedy of the first act, as does Christophe Mortagne’s throwaway panache as her creator, Spalanzani.

Christine Rice likewise dazzles as the sensuous erotic courtesan Giulietta, lying back in William Dudley’s the opium dream of a set, while Sonya Yoncheva, the girl who must not sing, provides the emotional pay-off: by turns fragile, febrile, always in exquisite voice. And Kate Lindsey makes an engaging Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s muse, ever in attendance.

One could perhaps wish for more varied dynamics from Vittorio Grigolo’s Hoffmann, and maybe greater French inflection from conductor Evelino Pido, but it’s Thomas Hampson who seems largely out of his comfort zone as Hoffmann’s constant nemesis, although his last act’s nightmarish Dr Miracle succeeds in spades.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in