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Offenbach - The Tales of Hoffmann / Domingo, Sutherland, Bacquier, Bonynge
Jacques Offenbach, Andre Charlet, Richard Bonynge
Offenbach - The Tales of Hoffmann / Domingo, Sutherland, Bacquier, Bonynge
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #2

This is the first of many recordings that attempts to return this opera--which the composer left unfinished at his death--to something more in line with what he envisioned. While it may work in the theater, it seems fitful...  more »


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This is the first of many recordings that attempts to return this opera--which the composer left unfinished at his death--to something more in line with what he envisioned. While it may work in the theater, it seems fitful on record, particularly with spoken dialogue. The cast, with Plácido Domingo in the title role and Joan Sutherland playing all three heroines in the flashbacks, has long made this recording a first-choice Hoffmann among some critics. But Domingo lacks the ideal vocal elegance, and having three different personalities as the heroines can be much more interesting. This recording does have some famous French character singers in its favor--Hugues Cuénod and Gabriel Bacquier--but this may be mostly for Sutherland fans. --David Patrick Stearns

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CD Reviews

Definitive recording of Offenbach's masterpiece
bellavoce | USA | 01/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Domingo, Sutherland, Bacquier and Tourangeau star in this lively and very French recording of "Hoffmann". Richard Bonynge, the conductor, follows what he considered at the time to be the most "Offenbach-ish" version of the opera, one in which a little new music is added, other music is cleaned up, other music left alone and the recitatives cut out all together. The cast is entirely French except for Domingo and Sutherland, so it is a delightful experience to hear Frenchies speak French in true Opera-Comique style.Domingo as Hoffmann leaves nothing to be desired. He was quite young when this recording was made, and has no trouble at all with the high tessitura of the part. He sings here as I have rarely heard him sing before and with such careful attention to the music and his role that he makes Hoffmann come alive -- something I have not witnessed any other Hoffmann to do.Sutherland, singing the four heroines, tackles an extremely difficult part with her trademark agility. Nothing seems too difficult for her: her coloratura passages as Olympia shimmer and sparkle in the midst of their preciseness, and she sings Giulietta, the courtesan, with powerful conviction.However, I believe it is in the "Antonia" act that she sings the best. The quality of the music in this act is far above the others, for some reason, and Sutherland takes advantage of this at every moment. Every note is a polished jewel; intengrity, musicality and convicted singing blend beautifully and effortlessly. She *becomes* Antonia, and sings the highly complex passages as if it were no more difficult than rolling out of bed.Gabriel Bacquier as the four villians, and Hugette Tourangeau as Nicklausse/The Muse are perfectly casted in their roles. Tourangeau was especially good. Her creamy, dark mezzo voice is easy to fall in love with.There is no weak link in this CD. The chorus is excellent, the minor characters fresh and exciting...the list goes on and on. This album is most definitely worth your time and money."
A classic that doesn't disappoint...
Andre | Twin Cities, MN | 11/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Especially with Maestro Bonynge's willingness to delve into the history books and records, and sort through the years of abuse Offenbach's only opera went through(all the others...Orphée aux Enfers, La Périchole and the like were operettas). The reason for all the mixup, and the need to find the REAL Contes d'Hoffmann was due to the fact that the composer wasn't there to see his precious opera performed(he died a few months before opening night). In fact, he was only able to create an orchestrated version of the prologue and first act, and a piano score to the rest of the opera, that was later carefully developed according to Offenbach's dream. However, due to many cuts and edits of stage directors and people's tastes-of-the-day, but mainly the director of the Opéra-Comique, Carvalho, the entire score was worked over to form other people's wants. Not the views of poor Offenbach who couldn't defend his opera.Enough of my babbling though, the half-inch libretto/booklet will tell you all about Offenbach's life, this work, and Bonynge's work with it. And not to mention it's in German, French, and English. So is the libretto. As for the recording itself, it's considered a classic. And rightfully so, because Bonynge has made wise decisions with the score, whether big or small, to create the most pleasing and entertaining version of the opera, while correcting some of the long-adhered amendments people had made along the way. The main reason I was attracted to this recording was my love of Dame Joan Sutherland though. I knew that this was an opera that absolutely showcased a soprano and all her abilities... drama, coloratura, and ultimately a beautiful voice. And who better at the time to choose than La Stupenda? She certainly doesn't disappoint her devoted fans such as I. A breathtaking voice, at the height of Sutherland's prime attacks each of the roles and makes them all, separate, tragic individuals. This is the compounding point to having one soprano sing all the's quite a feat. The maestro puts it best when he says, "It is imperative that the four soprano roles be played by the same singer -- Olympia, Giulietta, and Antonia are all facets of the Hoffmann's unattainable beloved Stella. Similarly Lindorf, Coppélius, Dapertutto and Miracle must be given to one singer -- these are all manifestations of evil in different forms." I couldn't agree more.All the other performers do such a great job in their roles, especially Gabriel Bacquier. He's vengeful, nasty, and downright sinister... I enjoyed his playing of the four villains very much. Huguette Tourangeau does a wonderful job playing La Muse and Nicklausse as well. Almost all the rest of the supporting cast is French as well, and makes for a truly French performance, except... for the man playing Hoffmann himself, Placido Domingo. I'm sorry, but just as with the great Pavarotti, the Italian just butchers the French. But besides the repugnant diction, Domingo IS Hoffman. Tragically fated by the stars be a forelorn and unlucky lover. And this comes from a person who really doesn't like Domingo at all. I actually found myself liking him here.And of course, Bonynge doesn't disappoint as a conductor. There are operas that he's conducted where people think he just didn't quite get it right. But here, other people agree with me, that he conducts excellently. Overall, the best out there at the time it was created.The best competition to this version is the new Nagano version with restorations galore. Yet still more clues are being unearthed, and there is probably more repairing of the score to be done. And this version uses four different ladies, which takes away some of the uniqueness and greatness of this opera. I think it's best to wait around for another version that hopefully will encompass all of Offenbach's intentions for the opera(I'm hoping it will be with Bonynge and maybe Sumi Jo as the four ladies). For now though, this is in my opinion the best version available, with a great cast all singing their best.Excuse my lengthiness, but I hope I've been enlightening. Enjoy."
Bonynge reconstructs Offenbach's swan song.
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This recording is Bonynge's attempt at a reconstruction of Offenbach's uncompleted swan song. While recent discoveries have rendered this edition obsolete, it remains a truly beautiful recording. I personally prefer 1 soprano as the 4 heroines to mirror the baritone as the 4 villains (why have one without the structural & psychological strength of the other?) Sutherland is at the top of her form here. I have always loved the breathless abandon she brings to the 'Antonia' act trio. Most amazing is her dialogue delivery, for those who insist she cannot act. Domingo is likewise exellent, there is true passion in his readings and his voice had that youthful luster. Bacquier is stunning in his 4 characterizations, all different and beautifully rendered. The dialogue was excellently coached and rips along at a breakneck pace. I much prefer this to the endlessly dull recitatives of the Choudens edition. I have heard many Hoffman's over the years, including the recent and more accurate reconstructions, but this recording remains my favorite. (However, I also recommend the recent recording with Alagana.)"