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Great Performances at the Met | Les Contes d’Hoffmann

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Preview Vittorio Grigolo stars as the tortured poet unlucky in love in Offenbach’s opera.

Watch Sunday, May 10, 2015 at noon on WMHT TV.

Vittorio Grigolo stars in the title role of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, a poet whose attempts at romance are repeatedly thwarted, in a production by Broadway director Bartlett Sher.

Thomas Hampson adds a new role to his extensive repertory as the Four Villains who interfere with Hoffmann's courtship of four women: the mechanical doll Olympia, sung by American soprano Erin Morley in her role debut; the consumptive artist Antonia and the self-absorbed diva Stella, both portrayed by Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava; and the Venetian courtesan Giulietta, sung by English mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.

American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey takes the trouser role of Nicklausse, Hoffmann's faithful muse, and Canadian conductor Yves Abel leads the cast.

After becoming the toast of Paris with his witty operettas, Jacques Offenbach set out to create a more serious work. He chose as his source a successful play based on the stories of visionary German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Three of these tales—at once profound, eerie, and funny—were unified in the play by a narrative frame that made Hoffmann the protagonist of his own tales. Each episode recounts a catastrophic love affair: first with a girl who turns out to be an automated doll, then with a sickly young singer, and finally with a Venetian courtesan. In the prologue and epilogue, the hero is involved with an opera singer who seems like a combination of these three previous loves. Throughout the opera, Hoffmann is dogged by a diabolical nemesis and accompanied by his faithful friend Nicklausse, whose true identity is only revealed after bitter experience. Failure in love eventually fuels his future artistic success. Offenbach died before the premiere, leaving posterity without an authorized version of the score.

In reviewing this production, The New York Times noted that Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffmann "soars" with "high notes [that] are strong and clear... Erin Morley was a remarkable Olympia, bringing rounded tone, dynamic variety and dramatic flair" to the role. Hibla Gerzmava sang Antonia "with a soprano that was soft-grained yet penetrating... The elegant mezzo Kate Lindsey was Hoffmann's friend Nicklausse, her voice silvery with a hint of cream..." Conductor Yves Abel "led a graceful, agile orchestral performance.”

Soprano Deborah Voigt hosts the broadcast.