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Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse with Paul Groves as Hoffmann in the background [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Santa Fe Opera]
15 Aug 2010

Tales of Hoffmann at Santa Fe

The performances of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann at Santa Fe Opera this summer are based on Michael Kaye’s edition of the score.

Jacques Offenbach: Tales of Hoffmann

Stella / Olympia: Erin Wall; Antonia / Giulietta: Erin Wall; Nicklausse: Kate Lindsey; Voice of Antonia's Mother: Jill Grove; Hoffmann: Paul Groves; Spalanzani: Mark Schowalter; Lindorf / Coppelius: Wayne Tigges; Dr. Miracle / Dapertutto: Wayne Tigges; Andres / Cochenille: David Cangelosi; Frantz / Pittichinaccio: David Cangelosi; Crespel / Luther: Harold Wilson. Conductor: Stephen Lord. Director: Christopher Alden. Scenic Designer: Allen Moyer. Costume Designer: Constance Hoffman. Lighting Designer: Pat Collins.

Above: Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse with Paul Groves as Hoffmann in the background [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Santa Fe Opera]


Since the composer died on October 5, 1880, some four months before the premiere of his opera, the score was assembled by Ernest Guiraud who paid more attention to the needs and desires of theater presenters than to the presumed wishes of the dead composer.

In 1976, French conductor Antonio DeAlmeida, the leading expert in modern Offenbach studies, discovered more than 1,250 pages of the opera’s earliest manuscripts at the home of the composer’s relatives. The new pages were mostly music for voice and piano dating from a period when Offenbach was composing the title role for a baritone. Based on his extensive knowledge of Offenbach’s life and works, DeAlmeida was able to authenticate them. Since musicologist Michael Kaye assisted him on the preparation of his thematic catalogue of all of Offenbach’s compositions, both he and Kaye had unlimited access to many sources of the composer’s work.

DeAlmeida arranged for Kaye to meet the heirs of Jacques Offenbach, who permitted him to have copies of all of the Tales of Hoffmann manuscripts in their possession. In 1986, three hundred and fifty previously unknown, fully orchestrated pages came to light. Kaye received permission to publish them for the first time and started compiling a performing edition that would be as close to Offenbach’s intentions as possible. He wanted it to be a faithful reflection of the composer’s achievements as realized in his posthumous masterpiece. Kaye’s goal was to reunite all the pages of the various manuscripts that were found in public and private collections and produce one definitive edition.

There have been several phases of Kaye’s Tales of Hoffmann Publication Project. There are provisional scores for opera companies. The original dialogues have been located. Guiraud’s recitatives have been made compatible with the recovered Offenbach music and the original dramaturgy. That, of course, has generated various performing versions with dialogues and recitatives. There have also been additional discoveries, including the authentic final scene of the Giulietta Act. One of these discoveries was that the role of Giulietta, often given to mezzo-sopranos, contained high C’s, D’s and E-flats, which could only be sung by a soprano. Another find contained music for Stella to sing in the last act. These and other changes were brought to life in the new edition performed on August third.

On August 3, the Kaye edition of The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach was presented at Santa Fe Opera. The imaginative production by Christopher Alden with scenery by Allen Moyer and attractive costumes by Constance Hoffmann underscored the dream element of the original E.T.A. Hoffmann stories. Hoffmann was portrayed by the dependable Paul Groves who colored his robust voice to fit each situation. Unfortunately, the soprano who sang his love interests, Erin Wall, had noticeable difficulty negotiating her coloratura.

Kate Lindsey interpreted the extensive role of The Muse/Nicklausse with a clear, rich, lyric mezzo sound. Her ‘Violin Aria’ was particularly affecting. Wayne Tigges was an evil villain who sang with incisive dark tonal colors. As the servants, David Cangelosi proved to be fascinating as both acrobat and vocalist. Surprisingly, leading mezzo Jill Groves sat in the beer hall for ages before she finally sang the lines of Antonia’s Mother. All the smaller parts were well sung and the orchestra, expansively conducted by Stephen Lord, underscored the enduring delight of the French composer’s music. It was a truly fascinating evening.

Maria Nockin

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