Join Mike Cascia for a lecture and a screening of the opera Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach.
Les Contes d’Hoffmann is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann. The opera was first-performed at the Opera Comique on February 10, 1881.
Plot: The opera begins with a Prologue at a tavern in Nuremberg. The Muse appears and reveals to the audience her purpose is to make Hoffmann forsake all other loves, so he can be devoted to her: The Muse of Poetry. She takes the appearance of Hoffmann's closest male friend, Nicklausse. Hoffmann enters and Nicklausse persuades Hoffmann to tell the students at the tavern about his great loves.
Hoffmann then begins his three tales of love. In Paris (Act 1) at Spalanzani’s house, Hoffmann recounts how he was tricked into falling in love with Olympia, a life-sized mechanical doll who fell apart as they danced at a party. In Venice (Act 2) at a palazzo, Hoffmann attends a party given by Giulietta, a courtesan, to whom he is very attracted. Dappertutto, a collector of human spirits, bribes Giulietta with diamonds to steal Hoffmann’s spirit, which she does, leaving Hoffmann without a reflection. Finally, in Munich (Act 3) at Crespel’s house, Hoffmann has fallen in love with Crespel’s daughter, Antonia, a singer. Hoffmann learns that singing is physically destroying Antonia’s life and he makes her promise to give up singing. The sinister Dr. Miracle conjures of the image of Antonia’s dead opera singer mother. Under her influence, Antonia sings herself to death. Hoffmann is again devastated.
In the Epilogue scene back at Luther’s Tavern, Hoffmann’s Muse pleads with him to dedicate himself to his art, which he does and the opera ends.