Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo stars as the tortured poet unlucky in love in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann on Great Performances at the Met Sunday, May 10 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings; In New York, THIRTEEN will air the opera at 12:30 p.m.). The production is by Broadway director Bartlett Sher. Soprano Deborah Voigt hosts the broadcast.
Thomas Hampson adds a new role to his extensive repertory as the Four Villains who interfere with Hoffmann’s courtship of four women: the mechanical doll Olympia, sung by American soprano Erin Morley in her role debut; the consumptive artist Antonia and the self-absorbed diva Stella, both portrayed by Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava; and the Venetian courtesan Giulietta, sung by English mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.
American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey takes the trouser role of Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s faithful muse, and Canadian conductor Yves Abel leads the cast.
After becoming the toast of Paris with his witty operettas, Jacques Offenbach set out to create a more serious work. He chose as his source a successful play based on the stories of visionary German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Three of these tales—at once profound, eerie, and funny—were unified in the play by a narrative frame that made Hoffmann the protagonist of his own tales. Each episode recounts a catastrophic love affair: first with a girl who turns out to be an automated doll, then with a sickly young singer, and finally with a Venetian courtesan. In the prologue and epilogue, the hero is involved with an opera singer who seems like a combination of these three previous loves. Throughout the opera, Hoffmann is dogged by a diabolical nemesis and accompanied by his faithful friend Nicklausse, whose true identity is only revealed after bitter experience. Failure in love eventually fuels his future artistic success. Offenbach died before the premiere, leaving posterity without an authorized version of the score.
In reviewing this production, The New York Times noted that Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffmann “soars” with “high notes [that] are strong and clear… Erin Morley was a remarkable Olympia, bringing rounded tone, dynamic variety and dramatic flair” to the role. Hibla Gerzmava sang Antonia “with a soprano that was soft-grained yet penetrating… The elegant mezzo Kate Lindsey was Hoffmann’s friend Nicklausse, her voice silvery with a hint of cream…” Conductor Yves Abel “led a graceful, agile orchestral performance.”
Les Contes d’Hoffmann was originally seen live in movie theaters on January 31, 2015, as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 2,000 movie theaters and performing arts centers in over 70 countries around the world. The Live in HD series has reached a record-breaking 17 million viewers since its inception in 2006.
Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.
Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®. Major funding for the Met Opera presentation is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. This Great Performances presentation is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, The Agnes Varis Trust, and public television viewers.
For the Met, Matthew Diamond directs the telecast. Jay David Saks is Music Producer, 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.
About WNET and the Met Print
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About the Met
Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company’s repertory. The Met’s 2014-15 season features five new productions shown Live in HD, including Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, conducted by James Levine and directed by Richard Eyre; Lehár’s The Merry Widow, conducted by Andrew Davis and directed by Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman; Rossini’s La Donna del Lago, conducted by Michele Mariotti and directed by Paul Curran; Tchaikovsky’s one-act opera Iolanta presented in a double bill with a new staging of Bartók’s one-act Bluebeard’s Castle, conducted by Valery Gergiev and directed by Mariusz Treliński; and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, led by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi and directed by David McVicar.
Building on its 84-year-old radio broadcast history—heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network—the Met uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to reach audiences around the world. The Met: Live in HD, the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series of live performance transmissions to movie theaters around the world, returns for its ninth season in 2014-15 with ten live transmissions. Met Opera on Demand, a subscription service, makes selections from the company’s extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public online in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. Metropolitan Opera Radio on Sirius XM broadcasts live performances from the Met stage three times a week during the opera season and the Met offers free live audio streaming of performances on its website once a week during the opera season.