– Presents –
Les Contes d'Hoffmann Special thanks to:
Special thanks to our education community partners:
Overture As CEO of Edmonton Opera I want to thank you for participating in this, our first opera education program.
First, I want to say what a great opera city we have here. We are a professional opera company backed by some of the greatest volunteers and corporate and civic leaders I have ever seen. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to be working with people, both staff and volunteers, who love opera and are willing to support it. Edmonton Opera is the oldest and largest professional, year-round opera company in the Prairie Provinces, one of 17 opera companies in Canada and the fourth largest in terms of budget and artistic output. It is also one of five flagship arts organizations in Edmonton.
I believe music — especially opera, can add a great richness to life. My first exposure to music came as a little girl sitting under the piano listening to my grandmother play and sing operatic arias. I remember loving music and taking piano lessons. I guess I persisted with those scales long enough because I have from time to time throughout my life taught piano and of course that served as good grounding for what was to become a career.
Your Edmonton Opera will be celebrating a 50th birthday soon and that is a real statement about the kind of long term support Edmonton and area has for us and as well for many of the other arts and cultural organizations in this great city.
As for opera, it was love at first sight and sound. As a young person in former Yugoslavia, a student could attend opera for the equivalent of 25 cents. For me it was all magic, as I was instantly taken by this rich art form that actually brings together several other wonderful art forms such as… music, voice, sets, costumes, drama, love stories, lavish productions.
So welcome to the wonderful world of opera. Enjoy and learn.
Now you too will have a similar educational and experiential journey by being part of Edmonton Opera’s education program and Your Guide to Opera. We have created a thorough curriculum, practical and engaging teaching aids and yes, the opportunity for all to attend the dress rehearsal of an Edmonton Opera performance.
Sandra Gajic CEO | Edmonton Opera
This leads me naturally enough to tell you a bit about your hometown opera company.
Contents Message from Director | 4 Characters | 4 Synopsis (English & French Translation)| 5 The Story Behind the Story | 8 The Three Facets of Stella | 8 Artist Spotlight: Joel Ivany | 9 Composer | 11 Librettist & Story Creator | 12 Glossary | 13 Activity 1: Quest for True Love | 14 Activity 2: Nationalism & Identity | 16 Activity 3: Improv Reader's Theatre |17 Activity 4: Poster Creation | 18 Activity 5: Facebook Character Development | 19 Activity 6: Opera Notes | 19
Nothing beats the excitement of live opera! For more information on how your class can attend a dress rehearsal at special student pricing, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us online at:
A special thanks to volunteer editor, Stephan Bonfield â€” writer of the Les Contes d'Hoffmann Synopsis and Listening Guide, and RenĂŠ Ladsous for the French translation.
New to opera? Be sure to check out our Educator's Guide, Your Guide to Opera, available for free download online. It is designed to supplement this guide and offers an overview of the history of opera, activities for your class, and useful information about attending our dress rehearsals. 3
Education Dress Rehearsal
Hoffmann – a poet (tenor)
Jan. 30 @ 11 am
Olympia – a mechanical doll (soprano) Antonia – Crespel’s daughter (soprano)
Giulietta – a courtesan (soprano) Stella – a prima donna (soprano) Nicklausse – a friend of Hoffmann (mezzo-soprano)
Hoffmann Opera 101
The Muse – (mezzo-soprano) A Ghost – Antonia’s mother (mezzo-soprano) Counsellor Lindorf – (bass-baritone) Coppélius – a maker of eyes (bass-baritone)
Jan. 23 @ 7 pm
Dr. Miracle – (bass-baritone)
Art Gallery of Alberta Ledcor Theatre
Captain Dapertutto – a magician (bass baritone) Spalanzani – a physician (tenor) Crespel – a violin maker, Antonia’s father (bass) Andrès – Stella’s servant (tenor) Cochenille – Spalanzani’s servant (tenor)
Join us for a thought provoking discussion surrounding Les Contes d'Hoffmann. With special guests from the fields of literature, and set & costume designer of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Camellia Koo.
Frantz Crespel’s servant – (tenor) Pitichinaccio – Giulietta’s servant (tenor)
Admission is complimentary, but please RSVP at email@example.com
grandly revealed. When Olympia is activated, she sings the famous Doll’s Song (“Les oiseaux dans la charmille”). Hoffmann and Olympia have an awkward interaction which leads to Hoffmann's glasses falling from his face and breaking. An angry Coppélius returns, having discovered he has been fleeced by Spalanzani of his money, and tears Olympia apart. Hoffmann, humiliated by the spectators who are laughing at him, realizes that he was in love with an automaton.
Written by Stephan Bonfield PROLOGUE A travelling circus in the early 1900s, between the circus tents The curtain reveals a drunk Hoffmann. He continues to drink while the ghosts of Wine and Beer tempt him further. The prima donna Stella, an opera singer performing in the circus, has sent a letter and a key to Hoffmann. However Councillor Lindorf intercepts the courier because he wants Stella for himself. Lindorf becomes the first of several incarnations of evil personae who will persistently block Hoffmann's attempts at love throughout the opera. Meanwhile, workers (roustabouts) enter, ready to be fed and exhort Hoffmann to sing a clever song. He entertains them with the legend of Kleinzach the dwarf (“Il était une fois à la cour d'Eisenach”), a faintly self-mocking portrait. When Hoffmann gets carried away in mid-song with a vision of ideal love, he is ridiculed by Lindorf, and the two men trade insults. Lindorf gets Hoffmann to sing about his life's three great loves. Hoffmann praises his ideal woman, Stella, and then sings his tales.
ACT II Antonia, based on “Rath Krespel”: Main Circus Ring An older Hoffmann has found his true love, Antonia, and has sought her out for some time. Antonia, one of the leading singers of the circus, sings, much as her mother did when she was alive, but her father forbids her to sing, begging her to stop. Antonia has a mysterious illness that threatens her life. Antonia longs for Hoffmann to return (“Elle a fui, la tourterelle”), but Crespel, her father, forbids her to see Hoffmann. Crespel considers Hoffmann dangerous because he induces Antonia to sing and therefore presents a danger to her life. Before Crespel leaves, he tells Frantz, a clown, to stay with his daughter and not to let anyone see her. But Frantz is hard of hearing and misunderstands him (“Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre”). After Crespel leaves, Hoffmann surreptitiously enters and is reunited with Antonia (“C'est une chanson d'amour”). Crespel returns, and soon after the quack Dr. Miracle arrives. As this act's villain, Dr. Miracle claims he will heal Antonia, thereby permitting her to sing. Crespel tries to get rid of him and his phony medicine. Hoffmann overhears that Antonia may die if she sings, and asks her to give up her career. Antonia reluctantly accepts. However once she is alone, Dr. Miracle re-enters Antonia's room and persuades her to follow her mother's glorious career path, condemning Hoffmann's insensitivity to her ambitions. Miracle conjures a vision of Antonia's dead mother who inspires Antonia to sing. Crespel and Hoffmann arrive just as she dies. Crespel flies into a murderous rage, blaming Hoffmann for his daughter's death and leaving Hoffmann completely broken and turning to alcohol.
ACT I Olympia, based on a portion of “Der Sandmann”(The Sandman): The Freak Show Tent Spalanzani, an inventor and showman, has created a wind-up life-like mechanical doll named Olympia. He hopes the doll will be a big attraction in order to recover the money he lost when his bank folded. He writes Coppélius a bad cheque for 500 ducats to pay him for Olympia's eyes, and sends him away. A young Hoffmann and Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s best friend, arrive, ready to work. Hoffmann believes Olympia to be Spalanzani's daughter and falls in love with her at first sight (“Allons! Courage et confiance… Ah! vivre deux!”). Nicklausse tries to warn Hoffmann by singing a story to him of a life-like doll, but Hoffmann is too taken with Olympia to heed Nicklausse’s cautionary song (“Une poupée aux yeux d'émail”). Coppélius, the villain for this act, sells Hoffmann magic glasses and when Hoffmann puts them on, Olympia appears as a real flesh-and-blood woman. Spectators arrive at the freak show tent, and Olympia is
ACT III Giulietta, based loosely on “Die Abenteuer der Silvester-Nacht” (A New Year's Eve Adventure): late at night, the Hoochie Koochie Tent To set the scene, the act begins with the famous barcarolle, Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour. Hoffmann has now given up all hope of love (“Amis, l'amour tendre et rêveur”). However, Giulietta is working hard to seduce Hoffmann under the orders of the conman Dapertutto, in exchange for a diamond. Dapertutto coaxes her to steal Hoffmann's reflection from a mirror (“Scintille, diamant”), in effect substituting for Giulietta his eternal soul's reflection for the transiently attractive glint of the diamond. Hoffmann cannot resist Giulietta (“O Dieu! De quelle ivresse”) and gives her his reflection. Schlemil, who has already been victimized by Dapertutto's ruse when he gave Giulietta his shadow, challenges Hoffmann to a duel over the affections of the dancer. Hoffmann kills him in a knife fight. As per her agreement with Dapertutto, Giulietta abandons Hoffmann immediately to the sinister delight of Dapertutto. The act ends with Giulietta leaving with Dapertutto as Hoffmann crumples in further despair and once again grabs for the alcohol bottle.
traduit par René Ladsous PROLOGUE Un cirque ambulant au début des années 1900; entre les chapiteaux Le rideau se lève et révèle Hoffmann en état d'ébriété. Il boit tandis qu’en arrière-plan les fantômes du vin et de la bière continuent à le tenter. La prima dona, Stella, une chanteuse d’opéra qui se produit dans le cirque, lui a envoyé une lettre et une clé. Mais le conseiller Lindorf intercepte le courrier dans l'espoir d'avoir Stella pour lui-même. Lindorf devient la première de plusieurs incarnations du mal qui bloqueront toutes les tentatives amoureuses d’Hoffmann durant l’opéra. Des hommes à tout faire arrivent, prêts à manger, et incitent Hoffmann à leur chanter une chanson joyeuse. Il les amuse avec la légende de Kleinzach le nain (« Il était une fois à la cour d’Eisenach »), un portrait plus ou moins auto dérisoire. Lorsqu’à mi-chemin dans sa chanson Hoffmann se laisse emporter par une vision de l’amour parfait, Lindorf le ridiculise et les deux hommes s’insultent. Lindorf persuade Hoffmann de mettre en chanson les trois grands amours de sa vie. Hoffmann loue son idéal de la femme, Stella, puis chante ses contes.
EPILOGUE Stella: Between the circus tents once again Hoffmann is now more drunk than before and renounces love. He understands that Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta are, in fact, three facets of Stella representing different facets of the singer. Nicklausse reveals that she is Hoffmann's inspiration and encourages him to love her as his Muse. Hoffmann sings “O Dieu! De quelle ivresse” once again, this time affirming that it is the Muse/alcohol whom he loves, and not the previous women he has known. Stella enters, impatient at Hoffmann who seems to have stood her up, and, finding him drunk yet again, leaves with Councillor Lindorf. Hoffmann is left with nothing but new-found inspiration.
ACTE I Olympia, inspiré en partie de « Der Sandmann » (le marchand de sable) : La tente des phénomènes Spalanzani, un inventeur et homme de spectacle, a construit une poupée mécanique grandeur nature appelé Olympia. Il espère en faire une grande attraction qui lui permettra de récupérer l'argent qu'il a perdu quand sa banque a fait faillite. Il remet à Coppélius un chèque sans fonds de 500 ducats, en paiement des yeux d'Olympia et le renvoie. Plus jeunes, Hoffman et Nicklausse, son meilleur ami, arrivent prêts à se mettre au travail. Hoffmann croit qu’Olympia est la fille de Spalanzani et tombe immédiatement amoureux d’elle (« Allons! Courage et confiance… Ah! Vivre deux! »). Nicklausse s’efforce de le mettre en garde en chantant l’histoire d’une poupée grandeur nature mais Hoffmann est trop envouté par Olympia pour prêter attention à ses conseils (« Une poupée aux yeux d’émail »). Coppélius, le vilain dans cet acte, vend des lunettes magiques à Hoffmann que celui-ci porte et Olympia semble être une femme
ACT III Giulietta, vaguement inspiré de Die Abenteuer der Silvester-Nacht (Une aventure de la Nouvelle année) : Tard le soir, la tente de Hoochie Koochie L’acte commence avec la célèbre barcarolle « Belle nuit, Ô nuit d’amour », en guise de toile de fond. Hoffmann a abandonné tout espoir d’aimer (« Amis, l’amour tendre et rêveur »). Giulietta néanmoins s’efforce de séduire Hoffmann, en réponse aux incitations de l’escroc Dapertutto et en échange d'un diamant. Dapertutto la persuade de voler la réflexion d’Hoffmann dans un miroir (« Scintille, diamant »), de fait substituant l’éternelle réflexion de son âme au profit pour Giulietta de l’attraction éphémère de l’éclat du diamant. Incapable de résister, Hoffmann offre sa réflexion à Giulietta (« O Dieu! De quelle ivresse »). Schlemil, qui a déjà été victime des ruses de Dapertutto en faisant cadeau de son ombre à Giulietta, met Hoffman au défi de se battre en duel pour les faveurs de la danseuse. Hoffman le tue au cours d’un combat au couteau. Tel qu’entendu avec Dapertutto, Giulietta abandonne immédiatement Hoffmann, au grand plaisir de Dapertutto. L’acte se termine avec Giulietta s’en allant avec Dapertutto, tandis qu’Hoffmann s’effondre de désespoir et une fois de plus s'abandonne à l'alcool.
en chair et en os. Les spectateurs entrent dans la tente et Olympia est présentée en grande pompe. Lorsqu’Olympia est mise en marche, elle chante l’air célèbre, « Les oiseaux dans la charmille ». L’interaction entre Hoffmann et Olympia est maladroite; ses lunettes tombent et se brisent. Coppélius revient, il a découvert que Spalanzani l’a trompé et lui a volé son argent; en colère il démolit Olympia. Humilié par les spectateurs qui se moquent de lui, Hoffmann réalise qu’il était amoureux d’un automate. ACTE II Antonia, inspiré de « Rath Krespel » : La piste du cirque Hoffman plus âgé a découvert l’amour de sa vie, Antonia, et la recherche depuis quelques temps. Antonia, une des principales chanteuses du cirque, chante aussi bien que sa mère quand celle-ci était encore vivante, mais son père lui interdit de chanter et la supplie d’arrêter. Antonia souffre d’une mystérieuse maladie qui met sa vie en danger. Antonia languit le retour d’Hoffmann (« Elle a fui, la tourterelle »), mais Crespel, son père, lui interdit de le revoir. Il considère Hoffmann dangereux parce qu’il incite Antonia à chanter et, par conséquent, met sa vie en danger. Avant de partir, Crespel demande à Frantz, un clown, de rester avec sa fille et de ne laisser personne la voir. Mais Frantz est dur d’oreille et le comprend mal (« Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre »). Crespel parti, Hoffmann entre subrepticement et retrouve Antonia (« C’est une chanson d’amour »). Crespel revient et peu après arrive le charlatan Dr. Miracle. Le vilain dans cet acte, Dr. Miracle prétend guérir Antonia et ce faisant l’autoriser à chanter. Crespel s’efforce de se débarrasser de lui et de sa fausse médecine. Hoffmann a surpris la conversation qu’Antonia pourrait mourir si elle chante et lui demande d’abandonner sa carrière. Antonia accepte avec beaucoup de réticence. Une fois seule, cependant, le Dr. Miracle entre dans sa chambre et la convainc de suivre la glorieuse carrière de sa mère, reprochant à Hoffmann d’être insensible à ses ambitions. Miracle conjure une vision de feu la mère d'Antonia qui l'inspire à chanter. Crespel et Hoffmann reviennent et la trouve mourante. Crespel entre dans une colère meurtrière, accusant Hoffmann d’être responsable de la mort de sa fille et, désemparé, celui-ci se retourne vers l’alcool.
ÉPILOGUE Stella : Une fois encore entre les chapiteaux du cirque Plus ivre que jamais, Hoffmann renonce à l’amour. Il a compris que Olympia, Antonia et Giulietta représentent en fait trois facettes de la chanteuse Stella. Nicklausse lui révèle qu’elle est son inspiration et l'encourage à l'aimer comme sa Muse. Hoffmann chante « O Dieu! De quelle ivresse » de nouveau, affirmant cette fois que c’est la Muse/ alcool qu’il aime et non les femmes qu’il a connues auparavant. Stella entre, impatiente à l’égard d’Hoffmann qui semble l’avoir oubliée et, le trouvant encore une fois saoul, elle s’en va avec le conseiller Lindorf. Hoffmann reste seul avec son inspiration nouvellement découverte.
The Story Behind the Story
3 Facets of Stella
ffenbach was very well known for his composition of comic operas and operettas, but longed to create a successful serious opera. In 1877 he began work on an opera based on the play, Les Contes Fantastiques d’Hoffmann, by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. This play was a dramatization of the stories by writer E. T. A. Hoffmann who was very popular in France at the time. The piece portrayed E. T. A. Hoffmann as the main protagonist, Hoffmann, and the fanciful loves of his life were based on his own short stories. Three of his stories were the inspiration for an act including “Der Sandmann” (1816 “The Sandman”) for Act I Olympia, “Rath Krespel” (1817 “Councillor Krespel”) for Act II Antonia, and “Das verlorene Spiegelbild” (“The Lost Reflection”) for Act III Giulietta.
lympia, Giulietta, and Antonia- the three loves of Hoffmann who are in fact one person: Stella. Each represents a different side of Hoffmann’s love, Stella, and to each Offenbach has dedicated one act. While Offenbach intended for the three roles (the role of Stella is merely a silent appearance, no singing required) to be performed by one singer, it is considered one of the biggest challenges in the lyric-coloratura repertoire. Each role requires different skills, and this is why it is commonly performed with the use of three singers. The role of Olympia requires a coloratura soprano, while Antonia entails a lyric soprano. Giulietta is normally sung by a mezzo-soprano. Nonetheless, there are a few extraordinary performances where one soprano has done the three roles including Australian Joan Sutherland in the 1971 recording with l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and recently American Georgia Jarman with her English National Opera debut in 2012.
Unfortunately, Offenbach suffered from gout and his health continued to deteriorate as he attempted to finish the opera. He passed away October 5, 1880 before completing the piece. At this point, Offenbach had completed most of the opera with a piano vocal score. Friend and composer Ernest Guiraud, along with help from Offenbach’s son Auguste, finished the orchestration and Les Contes d’Hoffmann premiered February 10, 1881 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. Due to Offenbach’s passing with the work in an unfinished state, many different editions have since been written where the acts and music vary from the composer’s original intentions. In more recent years, discoveries of the composer’s manuscripts have resulted in versions of the opera more closely tied to his original aims. Les Contes d’Hoffmann was immediately liked at the original staging of the opera in 1881. It faced a setback in popularity however, after a disastrous fire broke as the curtain was rising at the Ringtheatre in Vienna December 8, 1881. It was perceived as bad luck for nearly twenty years, but regained acceptance in the 20th century. Today Les Contes d’Hoffmann continues to be performed throughout the world and is among the 35 most performed operas (according to Opera Base Statistics).
Artist Spotlight: Joel Ivany
In what ways does setting this opera on a turn-of-the-century circus enhance the characters and storyline? Everyone wants to run off and join the circus. There is something magical about the circus. It has the clowns, the acrobatics, the animals and the food. We go to be amazed as our eyes open wide as plates in anticipation. This opera, to me, is a wild circus. The music is gripping and the characters are odd and fantastical. Many of the singers in this opera switch costumes to play several different roles within the one opera. It’s all to entertain. As well this setting gives the opera a bit more of a grounding and skeleton to the piece. It holds it together much like the poles holding up a big tent.
irector Joel Ivany and Costume & Scenic Designer Camellia Koo worked together closely to devise a unique concept set on a turn-of-thecentury circus. This opera is filled with many fanciful characters who are emphasized in this unconventional take on the opera.
Have you always been interested in opera? No. I had always been interested in music. During high school I led two lives. I sang in choirs and played the piano, tuba and guitar. I also played rugby, football, basketball and hockey. It wasn’t until after university that I became more interested in opera.
Take a look at our interview with Director Joel Ivany to hear about his inspiration for this season’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” and learn what it takes to be a Director.
What made you first decide to pursue a career in directing? I love stories. I love the idea of seeing something outside of our everyday lives and falling into their world. I also love people. Theatre was a wonderful mesh of both of these passions. I began as a performer in plays and musicals, but then found myself hanging around other scenes that I wasn’t in. I was interested in everyone’s parts. Directing is the best way to be involved in the whole story from the beginning right until the end. It’s much more exciting for me. When I start to read a book, I start with the cover, read the first line of the first chapter, and then (depending on how good the book is) finish with the last line of the last chapter and close the book.
What inspired you to create this new concept for Edmonton Opera’s production? There is a wonderful book called (surprisingly) The Circus, 1870-1950. It’s basically a picture book. The designer of Edmonton’s new Hoffmann, Camellia Koo and I used this book as a starting point. We then spent quite a bit of time looking through historical documents relating to circuses and the inner life of the circus performers. The more photos we saw, the more we would say to each other, “This looks like Antonia.” Or “There’s Pitinacchio!” We basically cast the show from these hundreds and hundreds of research photos. From there, one element was present throughout the many photographs and that was the canvas tent. Our narrative slowly came together throughout various different phases. Camellia would build model boxes of the Jubilee Auditorium and we’d see what it looks like and then make changes. One idea would inevitably lead to another and suddenly we had a circus!
I directed a production of the musical Cabaret in University and was hooked. I haven’t looked back since.
Throughout the whole process, I’m in constant communication with my designers as well as the amazing technical and artistic staff at Edmonton Opera. This production is about the entire team getting together to make something special. There are literally hundreds of people involved and to be aiming in the same direction is important.
S TE N N N NN A CO M MA
O H HO
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What is your directing process from getting hired to opening night? I start by getting my team together. I work with wonderful artists and I secure them as soon as I can. For The Tales of Hoffmann we have a set and costume designer and also a lighting designer. After the team is ready, I start listening to the music and making notes. I leave it for a few days and then do the same thing all over again. Once we begin rehearsals, I let the singers take over. Edmonton hires the best singers around, which makes my job easier. I focus the choices that the singers make and together we strive towards opening night, pacing ourselves to peak at the appropriate time.
What do you think are the most important skills needed for being a Director? You have to be willing to adapt to different situations. Things change and grow. You have to be ready to let some things go that are perhaps important in order for something better to happen. As well, the ability to communicate accurately in as few words as possible is another important skill. Opera is a big puzzle and we have the best people around working at solving the puzzle. I believe that once singers allow themselves to creatively play with their characters it leads to impulses that take the piece where it needs to go. It’s like a train. It always starts a little slow, then it chugs along before it hits full steam ahead. What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a career in the arts? See as much art as you can. Go to museums (for an hour), see plays, listen to rock music, classical music, jazz. Watch different movies and well written television programs. Travel to new places and meet interesting people. It all affects how we approach what we’re passionate about and ultimately enriches it.
Composer Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880)
acques Offenbach was born in Cologne, Germany on June 20, 1819. His father was a composer and cantor, and involved his children in music at an early age. Offenbach showed musical talents from a young age and at only fourteen he entered the Paris Conservatory. Unfortunately, he did not find his studies fulfilling and he was enrolled for only a year. Offenbach remained musically inclined and soon did quite well as a cellist and conductor. He wrote pieces of comic nature, which were staged in several small theatres throughout Paris.
Offenbach’s work greatly influenced writers of musical theatre and the operetta genre including composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist W. S. Gilbert who are known for their popular Savoy operas The Mikado (1885) and The Pirates of Penzance (1879), among others. Composers Claude Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande, 1902) and Georges Bizet (Carmen, 1875) were also great admirers of Offenbach’s lighter comic works. From operetta’s to his final more serious work Les Contes d’Hoffmann it is clear that Offenbach established himself as a talented composer capable of composing in a variety of musical styles.
Offenbach’s small-scale works became very popular and he soon began writing fulllength operettas. His first operetta, Orphée aux Enfers (or Orpheus in the Underworld), became wildly popular and still frequently performed today. During his 40s, Offenbach wrote many more operettas that were often politically satirical and sexually risqué. He was granted French citizenship and the Légion d’Honneur by Napoleon III on behalf of the Second French Empire. With the start of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 Offenbach’s work lost popularity in Paris, but he remained successful outside of France. In Offenbach’s final years he strove to write a “serious” opera, one that would establish him as a reputable composer. He was inspired by the play Les Contes Fantastiques d’Hoffmann by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré that he saw years earlier and began composing a piano vocal score. Sadly, Offenbach suffered from acute gout and although determined to complete the opera, he died before its premiere. His friend and composer Ernest Guiraud finished the orchestration along with Offenbach’s son Auguste for its premiere February 10, 1881 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.
Based on stories by
Jules Barbier (1825–1901)
E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822)
aul Jules Barbier was born March 8, 1825. He was a French writer, poet and librettist. A few of his most well-known opera libretti include Gounod’s Faust and Roméo et Juliette, and Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, on which he collaborated with French librettist Michel Carré. Much of his work was based on existing literary pieces, including Les Contes d’Hoffmann.
he libretto for Les Contes d’Hoffmann was based on the short stories by Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann, otherwise known as E. T. A. Hoffmann. Hoffmann is the main protagonist in the opera, surrounded by fantastic love stories in each act.
E. T. A. Hoffmann was an influential German writer of the 19th century key to the development of German Romanticism, and the genres of fantasy and horror. His works influenced renowned authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Alfred Hitchcock.
The opera libretto of Les Contes d’Hoffmann was adapted from a prior play written by Barbier and Carré called Les Contes Fantastiques d’Hoffmann. Offenbach worked closely with Barbier to create the libretto for this opera, which portrayed the poet E. T. A. Hoffmann as the protagonist of his own fanciful love stories.
He was also a composer, music critic, jurist and artist. He is known for writing The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, upon which Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet The Nutcracker is based.
Glossary Arias: Meaning “air” in Italian. Arias are solos that accompany the orchestra, which allow a character to express their feelings and demonstrate their vocal talents. Automaton: a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being. Barcarolle: one of the most renowned arias in Les Contes d'Hoffmann sung by the courtesan Giulietta at the start of Act III. This piece was originally written by Offenbach for the opera Die Rheinnizen, but was inserted into Hoffmann by Ernest Guirarud when he completed the score after Offenbach's death.
Contralto: A type of female voice that is the lowest pitched. Their voice is deep and well-rounded. Usually played by the maid, mother or grandmother. Ensemble: A musical number sung by two or more people of different ranges. For example, duets, trios, quartets, quintets and sextets. Jacques Offenbach: composer of Les Contes d’Hoffmann and well known for his nearly 50 operettas. He has several popular pieces that continue to be performed regularly including Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Orphée aux Enfers.
Playwright: Someone who writes plays. Prima donna: an Italian term meaning “first lady”, it was used to distinguish the leading female singer in an opera company. Soprano: Highest pitched female voice. Usually the female lead singer is written as this type of voice. There are 3 types: coloratura, dramatic, and lyric. Tenor: A type of male voice that is the highest pitched. It is often the leading role and they typically fall in love with Sopranos.
Librettist: Chooses a story, writes or adapts the words. Baritone: A type of male voice that is lower than the tenor, but higher than the bass. Usually played by father figures or middle-aged children. Bass: A type of male voice that is the lowest pitched. It is often played by wise and older characters. Chorus: A large group of singers, often 40 or more, who appear on stage in a crowd scene. Sometimes the chorus comments on action or contrasts solos. Composer: Writes the music.
Mezzo Soprano: a type of female voice that is lower than the soprano and higher than the contralto. Often played by the character of the young boy, a complex or evil character.
Opéra-Comique: a Parisian opera company created under the reign of Louis XIV in 1714. It is one of the oldest theatres in France where many notable French opera’s have premiered including Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, Bizet’s Carmen, and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, among others.
Turn-of-the-century: the transition from one century to the next. Typically this term refers to the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, mainly the period of 18901914.
Act i Questions What is the purpose of the Glasses? What does the saying, ‘seeing with rose-colored glasses’ mean? Why is this especially important in the context of this scene?
Quest for True Love Written by Stephan Bonfield
Discuss the idea that when we meet someone with whom we fall in love, we may perceive a difference in their appearance and personality that does not match reality.
Curriculum Connections ELA Grades 5-9
Do we see in another what we want to see or what is really there? Does a relationship survive because partners learn to see what is really there in their partner, or does the illusion persist, or can it be a bit of both? Comment.
2.2 Respond to Texts 2.3 Understand Forms, Elements, and Techniques 1.2 Extend Awareness
To convey important messages about the illusion/reality of love, why is it essential to the story to use a mechanical doll? Of what is the doll symbolic?
2.2 Understand and Appreciate Textual Forms, Elements and Techniques
Why is the tearing apart of Olympia necessary to the story with regard to Hoffmann, and should we feel sympathetic toward him?
Student Objectives Students will explore their understanding of the characters, plot and themes and share their perspectives and interpretations. Answer the questions following excerpts from the Hoffmann synopsis and compare ideas with those of others in the class or within small groups. Please refer to the appropriate part of the synopsis to assist in answering the questions.
Find other instances of love between artificial life forms and human being in literature and science fiction and discuss the outcomes of those stories. Act ii Questions Why do you think Hoffmann, a poet, would be attracted to Antonia? It is obvious that Antonia's mysterious illness is a literary exaggeration. However, can too much emotion potentially take someone's life? Is the artistically sensitive personality more easily subject to physical illness? How about the non-artistically sensitive personality? How are they emotionally vulnerable to illness?
Activity Progloque Questions What does the Kleinzach song mean? It is quite self-deprecating and a thinly disguised portrait of Hoffmann. What does this tell you about how Hoffmann sees himself? Do you think he is a successful writer, based on this song?
Do you think Hoffmann loves Antonia too much? Is it possible to love too much? If so, what are the consequences for the lover and the beloved?
Is there an ideal man/woman for everyone? What does the name ‘Stella’ mean and how does this establish our understanding of Hoffmann’s idealism?
In spite of Hoffmann's caring attitude toward Antonia's life and health, he is unable to prevent her death. Why? Say why this is important to the story. This is heartbreaking for Hoffmann — does this happen in real life, whereby someone’s best intentions still cannot prevent the loss of someone close to them?
Does Hoffmann’s self-image potentially affect his chances with Stella?
General Questions For Discussion It is especially clever that Offenbach creates a series of recurrent characters such as a heroine for each act, and a villain, who are meant to be sung by the same person throughout the opera, a very tough musical task! Discuss how using the same person, recurring in different scenes of someone's life, helps to underscore the central message of the opera. Do recurrent characters pop up in real life? If so, how might we react to them?
Act iii Questions What is a courtesan? What are their personalities usually like? It is interesting that a soul (the immaterial) is being traded for a diamond (the material). Comment on how others you have known or read about, seem to do this in real life. What does ‘Dappertutto’ mean? How does the character’s name match his actions?
Consider how the opera ends and comment on the outcome of Hoffmann’s interest in Stella.
Why is the seduction important as a dramatic device? What is the composer saying about one of the potential pitfalls of interaction between men and women? Do you agree with how women have been portrayed in this scene and thus far in this opera? Does Dappertutto want Giulietta or does he simply want to ruin Hoffmann? Regardless, why is the inevitable ruination of Hoffmann so important to the story? Why can’t Hoffmann resist Giulietta? We can tell he is using her to obtain his reflection, but why can’t Hoffmann see that? What does this tell us about the nature of love in some instances? Epilogue Questions Is Hoffmann just rationalizing his disappointment at losing Stella by pledging his love to Nicklausse, who turns out to be his true inspiration? Hoffmann sought out different aspects of Stella in three different women. Do you think that people do that when they look for a boyfriend/girlfriend? Do they go from relationship to relationship seeking the perfect partner via attraction to different aspects of their ‘ideal mate’? Is this realistic? What important truths do we learn from the three failed loves in Hoffmann's tales? Do you think that Art can sustain someone in life, and become, in fact, a lifelong fulfilling relationship?
the poor relationship between Britain and the U.S.A. After independence, the U.S.A remained unstable and during the American Civil War Britain supported the South. When the North won, many were upset with Britain for supporting the South and wanted to take over its colonies in Canada. Colonies would less likely be overtaken by the U.S.A if a common country was formed.
Nationalism & Identity Curriculum Connections Social Studies Grades 7-7.1 Towards Confederation ELA Grades 7â€“9-4.3 Present and Share
Three conferences took place in the years preceding Confederation: The Charlottetown Conference, The Quebec Conference, and the London Conference. At the last conference it was agreed by the colonies that New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and The Province of Canada would join together and they drafted The British North American Act. In this Act these colonies decided the rules and regulations of the new country. On March 29, 1867 the British Government approved the Act and the country of Canada was created on July 1, 1867 including the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. Over the next 125 years, the other 6 provinces and 3 territories would join to make up Canada as we know it today.
Student Objectives Students will begin exploring events forging the creation of Canada and different factors that influenced Confederation. It is important to understand the affect on different cultures, including the First Nations people. Read the following information and discover more online at the National Library of Canadaâ€™s Confederation for Kids website: <http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/kids/index-e.html>. Following a discussion of factors leading to Confederation, students will research a modern day perspective for different groups in Canada and participate in a debate.
The decisions leading to Confederation were made by the European colonies, and did not take into account the views of the First Nations populations. Even though they have lived in Canada for thousands of years, European settlements had taken over the land and treaties made by politicians moved First Nations populations onto reserves and tried to assimilate them into the customs and traditions of the Europeans. Women were also not allowed to be involved in negotiations or express their views for Confederation. It was not until 1918 that women gained the right to vote in federal elections and in 1919 the right to be elected. Although in the 1890s this way of thought was not questioned, today we understand the importance of respecting different ways of life and the diverse views of all people in Canada.
Offenbach composed throughout the mid-19th century France at a time very crucial to Canadian history. At this time important events were occurring that led to the formation of our nation in 1867. Aboriginal Nations have lived in Canada for thousands of years and in the 1500s Europeans began exploring North America. They discovered Canada was full of rich resources and settlements from Europe, especially British and French, began arriving. Often times there were difficult relations between First Nations, the British and French. In 1775 colonies in what you now know as the U.S.A began a war to gain independence from British control. As a result, Britain had lots most of its land and the remaining parts were known as British North America. This land would become Canada, over 100 years later. Political, economic and military problems in the 1860s caused the British colonies to move towards Confederation. It was difficult for the English and French sides of the Province of Canada to cooperate. Both groups had different identities and views on how things should be done. Joining with other colonies they hoped would solve these issues. Although Canada was rich in resources, goods were difficult to sell because markets were few. Joining colonies together would create a larger market for enable the colonies to sell more easily. Another key factor influencing Confederation was 16
Activity Imagine Canada as a group of regions and interest groups. Your classroom will host the 2013 Conference for Confederation and be divided into small groups. Each small group will be assigned to represent one of the following: a prairie province, a maritime province, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, a territory, First Nations group, new immigrants group, women’s rights group, environmentalists group, or any other groups that your class chooses to include. Using resources online, books, and magazines each group will research together and be responsible for providing their perspective at the Conference. Groups will use their research to defend their perspective in the debate and why they would want to join or be independent from Canada. Consider your group or region’s needs, rights, strengths, values and what type of government they would be if they could form their own country.
Reader's Theatre Curriculum Connections Drama Grades 4–9
Develop role-playing skills and specific storytelling skills
Grades 10–12 Develop the ability to play a character from the character’s point of view
Allow each group to share their view. What type of government would your class create? Is coming to an agreement easy? How would power be distributed? What level of government or group would be in control over health care, taxes, military, resources, education, infrastructure, etc.?
4.3 Present and Share
5.2 Work within a group
Student Objectives Students will demonstrate their understanding of the plot through performing a Reader’s Theatre of Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Allow students to read the Les Contes d’Hoffmann synopsis. As a class discuss the plot, characters, dilemmas, and resolution in the opera. Activity Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a part of the synopsis. Within each group designate characters and one narrator. Allow students time to practice their scene. Students will need to create their character's dialogue based on the assigned synopsis. After they have prepared, the narrator for the group will read their section as the other students act out the story. Groups will perform their part following the sequential order of Les Contes d’Hoffmann. If you have props or costumes incorporate them too!
Questions for discussion How does a country’s history affect its culture and people? In what ways does our national identity affect music, literature and art? What values do you think are important for maintaining a multicultural, bilingual and diverse culture? How do these characteristics affect our identity as a nation?
Activity 4: Poster Creation Curriculum Connections Art
Component 7: Composition, Component 10: Expression
Drawing and Composition
Drawing and Composition
Activity When creating a poster for an opera there are many things to consider. It is important to keep in mind the Directorâ€™s vision for the production and allow ample time for research through different resources such as online, literature, listening to the music, and watching other productions. When creating an image to represent an opera you must consider the time period, setting, themes, characters, and plot. Our designer must also keep in mind our audience that we are trying to appeal to and what types of mediumâ€™s we will use to reach them. After researching, it is important to sketch and brainstorm your ideas. It can be helpful to make a collage or mood board of different visuals and ideas that you would like to incorporate into the final image. Other important factors include the hierarchy of information (what is the most important information and how will you show that importance â€“ size of type, colour, location, etc), typography, colour (contrast, significance of colour), composition (placement, size and shape), and form among others. How would you illustrate Les Contes d'Hoffmann? Is your image a literal or symbolic portrayal? Using the Synopsis, Message from the Director, and The Story Behind the Story create a poster using what you feel represents Hoffmann the strongest. Edmonton Opera loves hearing from students! Send student posters to firstname.lastname@example.org and they may be posted on our website!
Facebook Character Development
2.2 Respond to Texts
Music Grades 1-9
1.2 Clarify and Extend
Music Grades 10-12
Theoretical/Practical and Interpretation and Synthesis
2.1.2 Understand and Interpret Content
2.2 Respond to Texts, 3.4 Share and Review
1.1 Discover possibilities, 2.3 Respond to a Variety
Activity Students will explore and develop different characters in Les Contes d'Hoffmann by creating a Facebook profile. Discuss the characters as a class, talking about their importance and roles. Group students into small groups and assign one of the following characters: Hoffmann, Nicklause, Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta, or Stella.
of Print and Nonprint Texts
Activity Students are encouraged to record their opinions during intermission and postshow using Opera Notes. This publication includes a synopsis, and cast information for students to take home!
Encourage students to develop a profile for their assigned character including: interests, education, work, philosophy, arts, sports, likes, and other activities.
Edmonton Opera will have complementary printed copies available for students attending the dress rehearsal.
Write three status updates that your character would write based on the storyline and events in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Allow students to share their character insight amongst small groups followed by a classroom discussion. Questions for Discussion What groups is your character involved in? What types of friends do they have?
See you at
What types of goals does your character have? Do they face any obstacles in achieving these goals?
Were you able to relate to your character? Can you understand why your character made the decisions that they did? Offenbach’s Les Contes d'Hoffmann first premiered in 1881; do you think the characters are still relevant today?