[Met Performance] CID:330405
Les Contes d'Hoffmann {217} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/4/1998.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 4, 1998


LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN {217}
Jacques Offenbach-Jules Barbier

Hoffmann................Richard Leech
Olympia.................Natalie Dessay
Giulietta...............Jennifer Larmore
Antonia.................Patricia Racette
Stella..................Patricia Racette
Lindorf.................James Morris
Coppélius...............James Morris
Dappertutto.............James Morris
Dr. Miracle.............James Morris
Nicklausse..............Susanne Mentzer
Muse....................Susanne Mentzer
Andrès..................Pierre Lefèbvre
Cochenille..............Pierre Lefèbvre
Pitichinaccio...........Pierre Lefèbvre
Frantz..................Pierre Lefèbvre
Luther..................Hao Jiang Tian
Nathanael...............Bernard Fitch
Hermann.................Stephen Powell
Spalanzani..............Bernard Fitch
Schlemil................Stephen Powell
Crespel.................Hao Jiang Tian
Mother's Voice..........Stephanie Blythe

Conductor...............Simone Young

Production..............Otto Schenk
Stage Director..........Lesley Koenig
Set designer............Günther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume designer........Gaby Frey
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera (UK)

The news of the Metropolitan Opera in the first weeks of the new year was the astonishing Olympia of Natalie Dessay in "Les Contes d'Hoffmann." The audience included assorted voice connoisseurs of the type that have the 1907 cylinders and sneer at the decay of singing in all the years since - and in the intermission they were without exception sputteringly speechless. In the last 50 years, and this is not said lightly, there is nobody to whom one could possibly compare Dessay as she sang on February 4. One makes reference not only to the interpolated top notes, to the precision of the coloratura and the richness of the melodic phrasing, but also to the firm authority possible perhaps only from somebody less than five feet tall, and to the hilarious quasi-mechanical gestures of the doll that has, somewhat to her own surprise, achieved humanity.

A performance of that quality in the first act is inevitably unfair to the rest of the production, which cannot possibly rise to such a level. Susanne Mentzer's Muse/Nicklausse doubling was given dramatic centrality by an aria previously unknown to me, which made her a co-conspirator with Lindorf in keeping Hoffmann from wasting his substance on girls. She was in every way elegant, as she always is. Patricia Racette was a fine, soft Antonia, James Morris an assured devil who rose to the modified pitch and the occasion in "Scintille, diamante," and Richard Leech a much cleaner Hoffmann than I would have expected. Jennifer Larmore, however, was a disappointing Giulietta, totally without sex appeal, and Pierre Lefebvre was messy as Cochenille and nasal as Frantz. The edition put together by the conductor, Simone Young, and producer, Lesley Koenig, runs a little long and leaves the audience totally confused in the Venetian scene, and Young could have pushed it along a little more vigorously, especially in the Antonia scene. Koenig's restaging of the Olympia scene was especially brilliant. The crowd at Spalanzani's was neither modish nor mechanical: neighborhood people, a little drunk.



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