Preview the Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, conducted by Met Music Director James Levine and directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, premieres on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances at the Met series. Joseph Calleja sings the title role, joined by Anna Netrebko as both Antonia and Stella, Kathleen Kim as Olympia, Ekaterina Gubanova as Giulietta, and Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse/The Muse. Alan Held sings all four villain roles. In a recent review, The New York Times called the Met’s new Hoffmann “a musically gratifying and visually theatrical staging,” and notes “there are many subtleties to Mr. Sher’s new staging of the work…public and private spaces overlap in this production. Other scenic touches… provide continuity among the acts.” Les Contes d’Hoffmann airs on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances at the Met in primetime on PBS on Wednesday, March 24 at 9 p.m. (check local listings).

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Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

Sher, whose Great Performances at the Met debut production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia was an audience favorite, created the new staging for Offenbach’s final masterpiece, which he calls “a magical journey in which the title character works out different manifestations of his psyche…The opera is often approached in terms of the crazy imagination of Hoffmann,” Sher says, referring to the early German romantic polymath whose stories are used for the opera’s episodic plot. “I’m more interested in why Offenbach, who had been a very popular operetta composer, was seeking to write a serious work to gain acceptance. Why, so late in his career, did he feel this need to be accepted? That led me to consider Offenbach’s sense of being Jewish and an outsider. Whatever group he was in, he always appears as an outsider who never feels like he belongs, never feels like he’s connected.” The ambiguities and split identities of the characters figure in Sher’s vision of the piece.

Offenbach died before a definitive score for Les Contes d’Hoffmann was established, though he left many sketches of possible additions and replacements which have led to different performing versions over the years. This production uses the same version that was used in the Met’s most recent revival, in 1999-2000, with the Olympia act first, followed by the Antonia act, then Giulietta placed third. Maestro Levine says of the musical version, “The music is so inspired, and I think we have made effective choices in the absence of an authentic, fully realized original version.” Great Performances at the Met: Les Contes d’Hoffmann is the fifth of 10 productions airing this season during the 2009-2010 series. The performance is sung in French with English surtitles. Set designer Michael Yeargan and costume designer Catherine Zuber, both Tony Award-winners who worked with Sher on his acclaimed Great Performances at the Met production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, are also on the production team for the new Les Contes d’Hoffmann. James F. Ingalls joins them as the lighting designer, and the choreography is by Dou Dou Huang.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home-builder®. Major support for the telecast was also provided by the Annenberg Foundation.

For the Met, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.