[Met Performance] CID:137650
Les Contes d'Hoffmann {64} Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois: 04/26/1944.

(Review)


Chicago, Illinois
April 26, 1944


LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN {64}
Jacques Offenbach-Jules Barbier

Hoffmann................Raoul Jobin
Olympia.................Josephine Antoine
Giulietta...............Lily Djanel
Antonia.................Eleanor Steber
Stella..................Nina Youskevitch
Lindorf.................George Cehanovsky
Coppélius...............Ezio Pinza
Dappertutto.............Martial Singher
Dr. Miracle.............Ezio Pinza
Nicklausse..............Irra Petina
Muse....................Lily Djanel
Andrès..................Lodovico Oliviero
Cochenille..............Lodovico Oliviero
Pitichinaccio...........Alessio De Paolis
Frantz..................Alessio De Paolis
Luther..................Gerhard Pechner
Nathanael...............John Dudley
Hermann.................John Baker
Spalanzani..............Alessio De Paolis
Schlemil................John Gurney
Crespel.................Nicola Moscona
Mother's Voice..........Margaret Harshaw
Dance...................Michael Arshansky

Conductor...............Thomas Beecham

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mary Percy Schenck
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff

Review of Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune

The Met Makes Its 'Hoffmann' Truly Fantastic

Fortunately the Metropolitan billed "The Tales of Hoffmann" as a fantastic opera, so anything could and did happen. Good things and things not quite so good. Ezio Pinza of the magnificent basso cantante got here at last, and hounded the susceptible Hoffmann as two of the magicians who make his love life miserable. Martial Singher made a striking debut as the third of the wrecking crew, singing Dapertutto in a suave and beautiful baritone, touching the role with the sinister elegance of style that can make "Hoffmann" glitter like a rapier, And Josephine Antoine sang Olympia, substituting for Patrice Munsel - and thereby hangs a paragraph.

Miss Munsel has a sore throat, but no one knew quite how sore until Miss Antoine had climbed aboard the Century for New York. They snatched her off at Toledo, put her in coach and started her back to Chicago. It was a smoking car, but almost no one smoked in deference to a prima donna's throat. There was no food, but the conductor gave her his sandwich. And she had no costumes with her; so when she got back to Chicago she was hurried to the opera house, where one of our costumes was fitted to her about 2 o'clock in the morning. And last night Miss Antoine sang the doll daintily, capably, with the mechanical works. Even the orchestra applauded its gratitude.

With all this to the good, what was not so good? Chiefly the matter of production style, a bit heavy handed in our ugly settings, which at that are no worse than the Metropolitan's. It was rather nearer grand opera than opera bouffe and it leaned toward full throated ensemble rather than the high spirited sparkle of Offenbach's score. Somewhere between the fireflies of the Prolog and the brimstone of Pinza's Dr. Miracle, between the grotesques and the putty nosed comedians with fright wigs, there lurked an elusive lightness of mood never quite captured. Singher was the only one in the Venetian scene who understood its glancing brilliance.

Yet, like most productions of "Hoffmann," it was a popular show. Raoul Jobin sang the title role with that beautiful tenor so ringingly true to pitch, and Irra Petina was a debonair Nicklausse with an admirable waistline. Eleanor Steber of the beautiful lyric soprano sang Antonia, but I could admire Lily Djanel's Giulietta no more than her Carmen. It had an acrid overtone that spoiled the Barcarolle.

The stage was crowded with characterizations, from John Gurney's Schlemil, which has a touch of Tibbett, to Alessio De Paolis' skill in triplicate and Lodovico Oliviero's engaging stutterer who loves to wind up the doll. It was a busy evening, often melodious, sometimes funny, occasionally distinguished. Beecham's conducting had the gauzy touch for the waltz, but it could not mold "Hoffmann" into a model of elegance and style.



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