"Nobody could accuse director Angelo Gobbato of conservatism in his approach to Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann; he brings more than a few quirky touches to an operatic work characterised by eccentricity and whimsy..."
"There are some extraordinary happenings during Anglo Gobbato's barrier-breaking production. Chief among them is the "invisible" orchestra and conductor..."
"Dark costumes, dark lighting, dark subject: romance is hollow, love is impermanent and fickle, lust and deception rule.
What is a good tenor to do but beat his heart to a sweaty pulp with musical accompaniment? Of course he must rely on his muse, his friend and anchor, to point him back to poetry and the metaphysical..."
"A night at the opera, always a treat and always an air of expectation. Who will be there? Will the production live up to expectation? A plethora of questions. Amidst the recent explosion of worthy productions on Cape Town’s stages, the opera still has a very special place and as any lover of opera will agree, long may it continue. Cape Town Opera and UCT Opera School’s new staging of The Tales of Hoffmann, does not escape any of the usual hype and apart from one or two minor personal preferences, I and my partner had the best of times...!"
"South African operatic legend Angelo Gobbato directs a new production of Offenbach’s crowning achievement. German romantic writer, ETA Hoffmann, entertains his friends with tales of his failed love affairs with three women. The Tales of Hoffmann has proved to be Offenbach’s most popular stage work..."
"The mood board for the production shows a female head swathed in medical bandages, a 3D computer graphic of a woman’s body, and rows of large glass tanks resting on metal tables, each holding a pig’s torso and glowing a mysterious chemical green. And then there’s a languorous woman, her sleek brown skin glowing with silver dust and her eyes infinitely cool. Is this opera or James Bond...?"
"You might have heard the melodious Barcarolle on the soundtracks from Titanic, Life is Beautiful or even Elvis Presley’s version in GI Blues.
After 100 years, the music of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann still lives on.
It was last heard by Capetonian audiences in 1998, but the Cape Town Opera (CTO) is bringing it back to the Artscape Theatre next week..."
First two performances already fully booked!
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE PRODUCTION
The mood board for the production shows a female head swathed in medical bandages, a 3D computer graphic of a woman’s body, and rows of large glass tanks resting on metal tables, each holding a pig’s torso and glowing a mysterious chemical green. And then there’s a languorous woman, her sleek brown skin glowing with silver dust and her eyes infinitely cool. Is this opera or James Bond?
Michael Mitchell, set designer for Cape Town Opera, was involved in the CTO’s last production of The Tales of Hoffman way back in 1998 when most of the current cast were in primary school. That production was set in a mental hospital. This time he is planning something rather different.
Mitchell explains his inspiration for the upcoming production as “the remaking of people the way we’d like to see ourselves”. “It’s not so much Rocky Horror as Nip/Tuck”, he says. The obvious reference is the character of Olympia - the ‘perfect’ woman, and one of Hoffman’s first loves in the story. In Offenbach’s original Olympia turns out to be a robot. In the hands of Mitchell and director Angelo Gobbato, Olympia has become the victim of one too many plastic surgery operations. But the emphasis on ‘remaking’ is also a reference to the reformation of Hoffman by his muse, who determines to shake him of his writer’s block by taking him on a journey through his past lives and loves.
Neither Mitchell not the production’s director, Angelo Gobbato, are keen to give too much away so excited are they by the design of this production, but hints they let fall include images as diverse as ‘street hoodlums’ and ‘laboratory’, ‘nightclub’ and ‘Miss Havisham’, ‘magic’ and ‘lap dance’… Mitchell and Gobbato have clearly been researching in some unusual places!
The colours for the production tend towards the sci-fi: coppers, silvers, blacks and greens, and the inclination is less towards gothic gruesomeness than medical (and psychological) manipulation. With that in mind it makes sense that the orchestra is on stage for this production: all the ‘devices’ of manipulation being made apparent to the viewer as the Muse tunes the strings of Hoffman’s inspiration.
The result is neatly self-referential. The Tales of Hoffman is widely known to be an unfinished work, and one constantly under revision, so what better reference than its protagonist and his loves being reviewed, revisited, remade? And in the end the Muse achieves her aim, inspiring Hoffman to slough off his old life and begin again with a new outlook, a new vigour, a new eagerness to complete his work. As James Bond would say: you only live twice.
Presented by Cape Town Opera in collaboration with the UCT Opera School, The Tales of Hoffman will be performed at the Artscape Theatre on 24, 27, 28 and 29 November at 7.30pm and on Sunday 25 November at 6pm. Parental Guidance is advised. Tickets cost R 100 to R 175, with the Sunday performance running at a special discounted price of R 50. Tickets are available through Computicket or Dial-a-Seat.
"Albert Horne is Chorus Master and Music Assistant for Cape Town Opera, and regularly appears as conductor and accompanist in South Africa and Europe. A graduate of the University of Cape Town and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, he has conducted the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera during a national tour of the UK, Orchestre Pasdeloup at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Malmö Opera Orchestra at Malmö Opera in Sweden, the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Centre in Israel, as well as the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra in South Africa..."