Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Jacques Offenbach, Beverly Sills, Stuart Burrows|
Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann: Complete Opera (with full libretto and translation)
Flawed, but with its pleasures
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 05/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN
This is not the Best HOFFMAN you can get. That would probably be the Camberling, with Neil Shicoff (Not availble on this site, except in Highlight form.) or the first set conducted by Cluntyes with Jouban. This set may be a nice way to experience Hoffmann if you haven't heard the others, and there are aspects of the recording that are really quite excellent, but there are several major flaws.
The good news first: The Conducting is in the capable hands of Julius Rudel, who knows just what to do with the score. The London Symphony Orchestra plays excellently, and there is great choral work from the John Alldis Choir.
More good news: Beverly Sills is divine. She attempts all four heroines here, including the spoken role of Stella. As Olympia, she does not go for the dazzling, optional high notes Sutherland, Doria and Dessay reach on other recordings, but her comic performance of the "Doll Song" is enchanting. Sills was always at home with comedy (see her on the muppet show to see what I mean) and Olympia is definetly a highlight of the performance. She is also highly satisfactory as the other two heroines ,her voice effortlessly and expertly conveying the two different women. She is at her dramatic best as Guiletta, and her work in the Barcarolle and the love duet is ravishing. Antonia's aria is whistful and the love duet and trio are both excellent. For a soprano to handle all three heroines capably is rare. Grubernova had enough dramatic insight and vocal beauty to pull of the rudiments of each role, but I've never been a big fan of hers. Sutherland tried, gave out a fine Olympia and disappointed in the other roles. Sills may not be the greatest trio of heroines (Doria, Bouvay and Boué for Cluntyes get that honor), but she is easily the most successful of the three sopranos who have attempted all three roles.
As the four Villains, Norman Treigle is electrifying. His Dappertutto is hypotic, his Lindorf oozing smile, his Coppelius creepy, and his Miracle downright frightening. He is especaily good in the men's trio in the third act. Susanne Marsee handles the music of Nicklausse and the muse's dialogue well, but never really gets beyond "good," as such mezzos and Tourangeau, Murray and Reviol do. She does blend very well with Sills in the barcarolle.
And the bad news: As Hoffman, Stuart Burrows may sing well enough, but his acting leaves something to be desired. Okay, who am I kidding? This is probably his least satisfactory traversal on records. He doesn't even try to portray the tourtured genius Hoffmann is. Nowehere is the anguish of the poets soul or the passion that drives him to self-destruction. Surrounded by the talent voicing his loves, his nemeses and his companion, he cannot help but seem lost in the shuffle.
Nico Castel handels Franz effortlessly, but seems, for some reason, uncomfortable in the monosyllabic utterings of Andres and Pittichinaccio. He sings Spalanzani instead of Cochenille in the Olympia act, hamming it up horribly. He also is the only Spalanzani on records to be completely unfunny.
The always reliable Robert Lloyd delivers an excellent Crespel and Patricia Kern sings well as the Mother. Raimund Herincx could be better as Schemil, but is fine as Hermann. It's depressing when the only person giving a wholly successful performance in the tenor cleft is the Nathaneal/Cochenille, Bernard Dickerson who provides strong support (On the Covent Garden video of the Opera with Domingo, he sings Frantz to great effect) . The chorus work is well done as well. I give it 4/5 stars, a full point taken off for Burrows' acting and another fraction for Castel's hamming as Spalanzani"
My Favorite Hoffman, Hands Down
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 06/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On a Texaco Metropolitan Opera broadcast, a panelist of the opera quiz was asked what opera he would choose if he was stranded on a desert island. He selected THE TALES OF HOFFMAN since there are so many versions of the opera, as well as a mention of DON GIOVANNI., he would easily have more than one opera. Since Offenbach died before an official version was completed, there are a number of versions of the opera. This production, starring Beverly Sills as Stella and the major heroines: Olympia, Giulietta, and Antonia, under the direction of conductor Julius Rudel, is the standard version of the work. If I could only take one version of this opera on a desert island, this recording would definitely be my choice.I became familiar with this red cording when it was released on cassette by EMI. Hoffman, sung by tenor Stuart Burrows, is a down on his luck writer who is madly in love with the beautiful actress Stella. His love life is in shambles and he is an alcoholic to boot. He goes to a tavern to tell three tales, and the tales somehow reflect the pain he feels caused by his love for Stella. Burrows is a gifted tenor and he sings the role with both ease and dramatic gifts. Sills as the three heroines is perhaps at he bets and easily handles the challenges of the three roles. Julius Rudel keeps the score moving and is aided by the great London Symphony Orchestra and the equally great John Aldis Choir.Anyone who peruses through the various HOFFMAN offerings will notice a variety of editions. While this is not a critical edition, I do find it the version which flows the best. I also have a number of HOFFMAN recordings with Neil Shicoff, Francisco Araiza, and Placido Domingo in the title role. While each recording has its strengths, this is the one I enjoy most. The tempo is upbeat, the singing first rate, and the orchestra and chorus are excellent. Who could ask for more?"
First Class Guiraud Version of HOFFMANN.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/05/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I waited 30 years for this recording to arrive on CD. I held onto my old LP set for all those years and I still will but now it has been gracefully retired. What a tortured history this album has had. Made for ABC records back in 1972, as were most of Sills' most highly regarded recordings, it quickly disappeared along with ABC records (and Westminster which ABC had bought) into the vaults of MCA. Litigation over who owned the rights to these recordings dragged on for many years which is why MCA never released any of the old ABC recordings. MCA was then acquired by Universal Music which bought Polygram who distributed Deutsche Grammophon, Philips and Decca (London). That is why Deutsche Grammophon has released on Westminster a recording that was on ABC. If you're having trouble following this, you're not the only one. This is just one example of the type of corporate politics that goes on in the world of classical music recordings and I'll leave it at that.
One of the great things about this opera is that it makes for great theatre as well as great singing. There are other versions of TALES OF HOFFMANN to be had and certainly ones that are more in accordance with Offenbach's intentions. This one makes the most of the Ernest Guiraud version thanks to conductor Julius Rudel who strikes just the right balance between seriousness and gaiety. And then there's the singing. Sills and Norman Triegle are simply tremendous in their various roles performing all of them as Offenbach intended. Listen several times and you'll appreciate the differences they bring to the characters. Stuart Burrows, as pointed out elsewhere, may not be the ideal Hoffmann (Domingo gets my vote) but he sings clearly and beautifully and it's hard to argue with that in lieu of the many virtues this recording has. Thanks to DG/Universal for making it available for us to enjoy once again. A fine introduction to the art of Beverly Sills for people who don't know her and to Offenbach's HOFFMANN as well."