Cher Public

Tales of Stefan

This summer’s hottest opera event was Stefan Herheim‘s production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Bregenz Festival. The video after the jump has everything: transgender muses, planted hecklers, Offenbach, serendipitous allusions to Caitlyn Jenner, reassigned music and the origin of the world.  

  • manou
    • The video you posted, Manou is of very poor quality. The video embedded in the original post is much superior.

      • Luckily, no one is forcing you to watch Manou’s video!

        Given the frequency with which pirate videos are deep-sixed on youtube, I suppose a little redundancy in the comments can help guard against link rot.

        • Who are you, my mother?

          • That would certainly be a plot twist no one saw coming.

            • manou

              I am sorry La C -- I did not realize you had uploaded the whole performance. But I am thrilled at the idea that you could be Rafaello to croche’s Marcellina.

            • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

              Or indeed oedipe to… Oops. Better not mention oedipe.

  • gustave of montreal

    L’ai-je bien descendu ? That drunken Muse looks like a man.

    (Poor Barbier et Carré what they did to their masterpiece)

    • That’s not the Muse, but please feel free to make judgments about the production before you have watched more than five minutes of it.

      If your pals Barbier et Carré don’t like it, let them sue.

  • laddie

    The sound quality isn’t the greatest but this tenor is singing this role spectacularly! I have never heard of him before.

  • Signor Bruschino

    Just finished the Antonia act & its fucking brilliant. Thank you La Cieca… Really a sin that NYC has not experienced Herheim yet

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

    I was at the third performance. Fucking brilliant production, if a bit wobbly vocally. (Volle totally blew out by the fourth act the night I was there and had to finish the aria in a kind of falsetto/marking voice -- and what was the aria doing there in the first place?). I loved the orchestra and conductor! But while there was really nothing wrong with the casting, there were no star turns, except for the tenor who did the four servants (who also had the best French). I have no idea where the cut-and-paste edition of the score came from. I e-mailed in advance and was told by someone at the Wiener Symphoniker that it would strictly adhere to the recent Keck/Kaye edition. That lasted all of… how many minutes?

    • ML,154451,,f.html

      As far as I know, Marianne, the “Kaye-Keck” is ready but still not formally published — a years-long delay that is a soap opera in itself, although the parties did muster a promotional PDF a couple of years ago.

      I’ve noticed that opera companies, when asked about the edition they are using, will often cite the tome from which their dramaturg and or team began the screwing around, and their spokespeople are typically blissfully ignorant.

      • steveac10

        Well, since what we listened two for the better part of a century was largely the construction of someone other than Offenbach, and many parts of the score are either unfinished or problematic dramatically (or both) -- I’m willing to give companies a pass on playing a little fast & loose with Hoffmann. Anyway, Whatever they came up with this time works.

        The production is thrilling, particularly the transition from Munich to Venice. I also loved the way Antonia was handled, with the exaggerated theatrical gestures and posing that cried out for footlights. Antonia made so much more sense in the context of the opera being a bit fame hungry and mad. Pity that the performance wasn’t better executed. While both lead tenors were great, the rest of the cast ranged from workaday (the Antonia) to miscast(Volle -- he does not possess the the suavity and oiliness needed to make those roles work), to the appalling (Olympia). The chorus also looked woefully underrehearsed and often sounded like a second rate college choir.

        • amoebaguy

          I have not seen the production yet, although I have listened to an audio recording of it. It adheres to Kaye-Keck for the most part until the Giulietta act. In that act, unfortunately, half of the gambling scene is cut and Offenbach’s original finale for the act is also omitted. Contrary to what steveac10 has posted, the score was practically finished by the time of Offenbach’s death. Only the fifth act (the epilogue) had not been finalized, although Offenbach had written a good deal of music for it. I’m getting very tired of hearing the old “well, Offenbach never finished it, so we can do whatever we like with it” argument for fooling around with the Giulietta act. Sadly, it is this kind of thinking that denies the audience the opportunity to actually hear what Offenbach wrote. Offenbach did, indeed, finish the Giulietta act, and the manuscript proves this. If it is the original dramaturgy that steveac10 is referring to in his comment about the work being “problematic dramatically,” then I couldn’t disagree more. When staged well, the finale can be extremely powerful, and has a great deal of dramatic punch. I don’t know why directors and dramaturgs still think it’s OK, especially when using the Kaye-Keck edition, to so dramatically change what Offenbach and Barbier wrote.

  • Tamerlano

    My god that trio was visually stunning and what glorious music that is…it did almost unravel musically which makes me feel that the music may actually be much more complicated than it sounds.

  • Buster

    I had planned to see this in Cologne in December, but because of the problems there, it apparently has now been postponed. Too complicated to stage it in a temporary location, which they sill have not found, by the way.

    • Fluffy-net

      I too had planned to go to Cologne. It is also supposed to be done in Copenhagen, although not in the 15-16 season. This season Copenhagen has the Herheim Salome.
      Sad about Cologne.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I think that Herheim has done much better work when he has collaborated with the dramaturge Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach and not the situation in Bregenz that was forced on him.

  • Rowna

    I have only listened to the first hour -- I have work to do! The conducting is so fantastic I forgive all average and below average singing. I thought the men’s chorus was purposefully supposed to sound croon-y. Non? Although Olympia misses by a mile in the middle of her voice I couldn’t believe she had the high notes. Did anyone else notice her voice went in and out? Hoffman was really good. Never heard him before. My favorite (so far) is Nicklausse. Wonderful singing. This is not a production you should take your grandkids too, obviously. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard the line “toute est pussible” yes it was pronounced PUSSible while that large photo was in the background of a close up for a woman’s privates. Re the production -- shockingly Rowna from Pittsburgh loved it. Every second so far. Will finish tomorrow. High Holy Days music to learn!

  • sutherlandfan

    Re Herheim, here’s his take on the upcoming Boheme:

  • jackoh

    What makes Hoffmann worthwhile to me is that it is a meditation on an artist and his life. It is
    one thing to produce art, it is another thing to live life. And that is the tension that, to me, Offenbach addresses in this opera. Trying to produce something that may be timeless (art) while trying to enjoy the time bound pleasure of living underlies the dynamic which drives this opera. The Hoffmann that I have seen that best embodied the passion that this tension produces was Neil Shicoff. It was as if he was caught between his inclination to follow his muse and his desire to follow his cravings, and the position that he found himself in was driving him mad or, at least, to drink. To me, Hoffmann needs to be a committed, passionate, confused character (much like the rest of us), and Shicoff made that come alive.

    • Porgy Amor

      I’ve only seen Shicoff in one production of it, the Carsen on DVD, but he is wonderful there. That is my favorite Hoffmann so far. They take no pains to make fiftysomething Shicoff look younger in the three acts than he does in the prologue and epilogue, but he really seems to be stepping into earlier times of life, showing what was lost or worn down. Contrast with Grigolo recently at the Met. He had never been better as singer and actor, but he was a dashing figure throughout, barely mussed. The production around him was not worthy of his sensitive performance (something I would not have expected to say of Grigolo before last season).

      I never tire of talking about the ending of the Carsen production: Everyone has cleared out of the theater bar except for Hoffmann. The Muse (Mentzer) stands over him and rouses him awake with her consoling song. Hoffmann, in tears, gathers his scraps of paper from the floor around him and begins to write again, and we see, with the music and the words, his pain and loss turning to catharsis, joy. Then the two of them walk off toward a light in the distance as the chorus takes it home — love makes you great, tears make you greater. Everything is there on Shicoff’s face, and also in the way he seems impatient to move toward something, scampering a little ahead of the stately Muse and then waiting for her to catch up. It’s an extraordinary conclusion.

  • jackoh

    For a really searing performance by Shicoff, try to find a copy of the Live from the Met broadcast of Hoffmann circa 1988.