Hoffmann in Hamburg

The 2021 recording of Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann from the Staatsoper Hamburg is fairly straightforward but it’s visually interesting and musically excellent.  I don’t think Daniele Finzi Pascas’ production has a “concept” as such.  It’s still about three imaginary women who make up Hoffmann’s dream woman and he still ultimately rejects even her in favour of Art.  Each of the five acts is given as different and distinctive look and feel though the use of mirrors and aerial doubles is a recurrent theme.  It’s worth noting up front that Olga Peretyatko sings all four ladies.

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Spectacular Die frau ohne Schatten from the Mariinsky

Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten is a problematic work on many levels.  Hofmannsthal’s complicated and heavily symbolic libretto places considerable demands on both audience and director.  There are ideas about women, marriage and child bearing in the libretto that sit very uncomfortably with modern audiences.  It’s also a beast to cast requiring not just a truly Helden tenor and soprano but a second soprano of almost equal heft who can handle some fairly tricky coloratura.  It’s also long and requires a large orchestra.  In some ways it’s surprising that it gets performed as often as it does although when done well it’s a piece of quite extraordinary beauty and power.

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