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Hamburg State Opera: season begins with “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”

Jacques Offenbach’s “Hoffmanns Erzählungen” as read by director Daniele Fenzi-Basca was first shown at the Hamburg Opera. As a festival of poetry, colour, imagination and humour.

HAMBURG – After a year filled with doubts about the pandemic, the Hamburg Opera put a sign of hope at the start of the 2021/22 season: on Saturday Jacques Offenbach celebrated “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” (“Hoffmann Stories”) as the director read that Danielle Fenzi-Basca’s premiere . As a festival of poetry, colour, fantasy and discreet absurd humor, the performance was greeted with cheers from the audience.

The work’s title character in five works is modeled after the romantic poet Eta Hoffmann. However, in Offenbach’s “Fantastic Opera” Offenbach is starkly exposed, dedicated to alcohol and its fascination. He doesn’t even realize that his fans cheering for him are making fun of him. Thus reality and fantasy flow inextricably into his stories.

Finzi Pasca sums up this hilarious, elegantly grounded chaos in feather-light images. Doppelgangers float across the stage, singer Antonia has butterfly wings, and Olympia doll, standing on a huge jukebox, spins on its own axis. Soprano Olga Beretiako shines in the role of talented as well as in the roles of the other three venerable ones, whom she also embodied. Tenor Benjamin Bernheim succeeds in creating a very different and moving picture for the role of Hoffmann. The many roles are excellently cast, the choir masters the challenges of spatial distances with ease, and the state orchestra orchestra led by Kent Nagano, with its subtle and flexible playing, despite all the melodic bliss, always leaves room for serious, deep moments in Offenbach’s score. dpa

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