Bart Sher’s Tales of Hoffmann production is returning to the Met this week.
Here’s my essay on Offenbach’s fascinating, problematic masterpiece for the Met Playbill (starts on p. 35 [pdf format]):
Les Contes d’Hoffmann is a most unusual swan song. In its formal ambition
and psychological scope, the opera represents a striking makeover.
Jacques Offenbach hoped to reinvent himself as an artist, proving that he
was capable of more than the wickedly satirical but lightweight brand of lyrical
theater on which his reputation had been built. And Hoffmann did secure his
place in the operatic pantheon, although the truncated version through which it first became known made a jumble of Offenbach’s original vision.