Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine was a huge hit in Paris, London and New York when it premiered in 1865. I’m not sure why. It has all of the things that make Meyerbeer seem very dated and not as much of the good stuff as Les Huguenots, or even Dinorah. It’s ostensibly about Vasco de Gama but that’s just a peg to pin a love triangle and a bunch of exoticism on. Are we actually supposed to believe that the Portugese wanted to find a way around the Cape to find out what was there? It would have been a lot easier to get hold of a copy of Herodotus. It’s also long. Even with cuts it runs well over three hours in the version recorded at San Francisco Opera in 1988.
Robert Carsen’s production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann does a very decent job of presenting this rather muddled and overly long piece. He sets it in and around a production of Don Giovanni in which Hoffmann’s current infatuation, Stella, is singing Donna Anna. There are several quite clever DG references scattered around. By and large it works and is one of the better “theatre in theatre” treatments that I’ve seen.