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Offenbach, J. (1819-1880)


Les contes d'Hoffmann

The Tales of Hoffmann





Composed 1877-1880, completed by Guiraud 1881.
First performed February 10, 1881.
Libretto by Barbier and Carre (in French),
after Hoffmann.




A Summary of gLes contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann)h



Prologue
In the 19th century, at the pub near the opera house in Nuremberg, the poet Hoffmann waits for an opera singer Stella, who performs at the opera house. Stella sent him a letter that he must wait for her until she finishes her opera performance. But, Councilor Lindorf, who also loves Stella, steals this letter. Hoffmann is tired of waiting for her, and he begins to tell his friend, Nicklausse, about his past lost loves.


Act 1 (Olympia)
The first lover is a puppet, Olympia, who is the daughter of a scientist in Rome. A mad creator, Coppelius created this doll. In addition, he sells Hoffmann a pair of magic glasses. As Hoffmann puts on the glasses, he perceives Olympia as human, and he falls in love with her. But, Coppelius gets angry with the scientist for not paying for the doll, so he breaks the doll.

Act 2 (Antonia)
The second lover is a singer, Antonia, who is sickly. Her father thinks that Antonia may die young as her mother did. So, he forbids her from singing. Hoffmann falls in love with her. But, a charlatan, Dr. Miracle, advises Antonia to sing. Antonia continues to sing, and she dies.

Act 3 (Giulietta)
The third lover is a high-class prostitute, Giulietta. Dappertutto, who is a magician, gives her a diamond, and he asks her to steal Hoffmannfs shadow. Giulietta gets closer to Hoffmann, so he falls in love with her. Giulietta succeeds in getting his shadow, and she leaves him.

Epilogue
When Hoffmann finished talking about these stories to his friend, he drinks himself unconscious. His rival, Councilor Lindorf, shows Stella dead drunken Hoffmann. Lindorf and Stella leave together.
To tell the truth, Hoffmannfs friend, Nicklausse, is the Muse, the God of art/science. The Muse says to Hoffmann, gCome back as a poet. Everyone learns from love, and learns from tears.h




A Comment on gLes contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann)h



Jacques Offenbach is the founder of the operetta which is a genre of light opera. He composed 111 operettas in his lifetime. Operetta is keen on just following trend, so he mass-produced them. But, Offenbach wanted to complete his own opera in his later years. Opera composition was his dream. He thought that he had enough ability to compose a prominent opera. He began to compose his opera. And, this opera is gLes contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).h

But, Offenbach died of gout before he completed his opera. One of his friends, Ernest Guiraud, added the part of grecitativoh and Orchestration to Offenbachfs rough draft. After this operafs first performance in 1881, the theatre was damaged by fire on two separate occasions, so this operafs score was scattered and lost. Many scholars believe we donft have the complete version of this operafs score. There are a lot of versions, we experience various kinds of performances in the respective opera houses.

This opera is not only unfinished but also strange. We can hardly understand the base message of this opera. This opera has three quite different stories. You can enjoy three quite different kinds of operas in one opera. And, of course, the music composed by Offenbach is wonderful, for example, the famous gBarcarolle of Hoffman,h and the aria gSong of Kleinzach.h In addition, Olympiafs aria, just like a puppet, is an important scene for Coloratura Soprano.





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