The English National Opera’s new production of Jacques Offenbach’s the Tales of Hoffman is now showing at the London Coliseum.
Based upon the fantastical tales of the German Romantic writer E T A Hoffmann, the opera tells the story of the poet as he drunkenly recalls the three loves of his life: Olympia, a mechanical doll; Antonia, a sick young singer; and Giulietta, a Venetian whore who stole his reflection and his soul.
The opera was Offenbach’s last work and was left partly unfinished, making how different productions choose to interpret the piece a topic of hot debate.
But according to Rupert Christiansen, reviewing the production for the Daily Telegraph, director Richard Jones has risen to the challenge on this occasion, leading to a performance which “offered rich rewards along the way”.
Mr Christiansen also praised a number of performances by the cast, including Barry Banks, who plays the title role.
“Hoffmann is less the fallen romantic hero than a feckless drunk and pothead, impersonated and sung with tremendous verve and focused tone by Barry Banks,” said the critic.
“Nicklausse, his companion on his adventures, is a level-headed Just William (the convincing Christine Rice), his enemies a series of Princes of Darkness, incarnated with appropriate melodramatic relish by Clive Bayley.”
Another highlight of the production is the set design, which sees the opera set “in a dingy rooming house in a period vaguely evocative of the Weimar Republic”.
“Razor-sharp cameos from Simon Butteriss, crisp enunciation of an excellent translation by Tim Hopkins, light-touched conducting by Antony Walker and superb singing from Francine Merry’s chorus contribute to the high overall quality of the production,” added Mr Christiansen.
The new production opened on Friday (February 10th) and runs until March 10th. Tickets are available through the English National Opera’s website and priced from £22.