By Maria Gregoriou
A poet, we are led to believe, has a tortured soul and is infatuated by someone, who often becomes their muse. But when considering love, what they generally agree on is just the love of being in love that is hailed king.
Dilemmas, ideas and human emotion will come to the surface tomorrow night in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos with a screening of the opera The Tales of Hoffmann by French composer Jacques Offenbach performed live at the Metropolitan Opera.
The opera is based on three short stories by German Romantic author and composer ETA Hoffmann.
The scene is set in a tavern in a German town and Hoffmann is in love with Stella, the star singer of the opera but he is not the only one, rich counselor Lidorf also wants to win her heart. The two rivals exchange insults and this leaves Hoffmann thinking on his previous loves, and here his story-telling come to life as he talks about the three great loves of his life so far.
Each act then takes on the form of a different love story in which Hoffmann is the leading man.
The leading lady of the first story is Olympia, a mechanical doll that the inventor Spalanzani has made, something that Hoffmann fails to understand, believing that she is the inventor’s daughter, and hence, falls in love with her.
Coppelisu, Spalanzani’s former partner, sells Hoffmann a pair of magic glasses through which he alone perceives Olympia as human.
The doll is set to entertain and a crowd of observers are captivated by the performance, which is interrupted several times in order for the doll’s mechanism to be recharged.
As Hoffmann is wearing his glasses, he is oblivious to the mechanics behind the dancing, is enchanted, declares his love and dances with the doll.
Things do not end well as the two inventors quarrel and during the commotion Hoffmann’s glasses are broken, Coppelius tears the doll apart and the guests mock Hoffman for falling in love with a machine.
In the second love story Hoffman and Antonia are lovers but Antonia has a weak heart and loves to sing (two attributes she has in inherited from her dead mother.)
The girl’s father takes her away so she may not be around Hoffman and stop singing as it may cost her her life.
Then the doctor, who also treated her mother, shows up, enhances her with notions of her mother wanting her to sing. Antonia can’t resist and sings, becomes feverish and dies.
The last love story stars Hoffmann and the Venetian courtesan Guilietta.
Although Hoffmann has been warned to stay away from her charms, she seduces him and steals his reflection. Again things do not end well, Hoffmann finds himself in a duel with Guilietta’s current lover, who he kills.
After being victorious, Hoffmann goes to obtain his prize and sees her leaving with someone else.
Hoffmann finishes his tales and says all he wants to do is forget and gets drunk so when Stella arrives at the tavern after one of her performances she leaves with the other man who has been pining after her heart.
The opera ends with a friend telling Hoffmann to find consolation in his creative genius.
The role of the tortured poet is taken on by tenor Vittorio Grigolo, who has been praised by the New York Times as giving a performance which ‘soars with high notes that are strong and clear.’
The Tales of Hoffmann
Screening of the performance with the tenor Vittorio Grigolo from the MET. January 31. Rialto theatre, Limassol. K-Cineplex Strovolos, Nicosia and Kings Avenue Mall, paphos. 7.55pm. €18/13. With Greek and English subtitles. Tel: 77-777745