Spirited attempt by Opera Ireland

 

Tales of Hoffmann - OffenbachOpera Ireland's new production of Tales of Hoffmann at the Gaiety Theatre is a spirited attempt to recapture the integrity of Offenbach's original concept.

Composition and production were unfinished at the composer's death and the traditional version evolved gradually. Opera Ireland is using Fritz Oeser's 1977 score.

Five acts replace the standard four; characters and narrative are in their proper relationships; cut music is restored; posthumous additions are identified. (This production retains some additions).

Opera Ireland has not gone as far as English National Opera which, using Michael Kaye's edition, has restored the four heroine roles as a tour de force for one soprano. Nevertheless, this production is quite an eye-opener.

The symbiosis between Louis Desire's simple, yet striking, designs and Joel Lauwer's lively and focused direction creates symbolic gestures and events which leave space for the imagination in this fantastic tale.

Good pacing and lead are offered by Claude Schnizler's conducting, by the RTE Concert Orchestra's playing, and by fresh-toned singing from the Opera Ireland chorus. Thus, there is a strong context for a good line-up of principals.

In the premiere on Saturday night, the male roles were aptly dominated by Jean Pierre Furlan, as a forceful yet hopelessly idealistic Hoffmann, and by Laurence Albert's Mephistophelian vocal and stage presence as Coppelius, Miracle et al.

The main female players were also good. Marianne Rorholm (Nicklausse) acted well and had the right, discreet presence, inconsistencies in pitching and tone notwithstanding.

Ana Camelia Stefanescu (Olympia), Regina Nathan (Antonia) and Mary Ann McCormick (Giulietta) were the stars they should be, vocally and dramatically.

All the other singers did well. In all, an opera and a production well worth seeing.

Performances on April 20th, 22nd, 24th and 26th at 7.30 p.m. To book, phone 01 677 1717.