The IU Opera Theatre’s production of Jacques Offenbach’s "The Tales of Hoffmann" is a musical and visual feast. On Saturday, Imre Pallo led a musical and assured performance that both moved the drama along and at the same time left plenty of room for the music. Offenbach’s score offers plenty of opportunities for the orchestra to shine. I especially enjoyed the work of flutist Janelie Janovich, oboist Holly Somers and harpist Megan Stout.
From the initial scene of Hoffmann with the rowdy students in the tavern through the decadence of Giulietta’s boudoir, Vincent Liotta’s work and the actors’ skill shown as each character in the chorus, along with the leads, was an engaged and personable figure. The theatrical lighting of Allen White and Michael Schwandt, especially in the tavern scenes made the characters look like figures in a period painting and the use of spot lights to focus our attention on particular characters was almost a drama in itself.
Quincy Roberts had the dual role of the much put upon tavern owner Luther and later the sympathetically lorn father of a doomed singer. Chris Carducci and Bryon Grohman were the energetic leaders of the students who torment him.
Guest tenor Michael Hayes played the demanding central part of the poet Hoffmann with steady skill and a strong voice. Hyounsoo Sohn as Hoffmann’s muse was both amusing and delightful in her trouser role as a young student. In Saturday’s cast Christopher Burchett played all four of Hoffmann’s nemesises with good singing and some pretty maniacal laughs. Neil Darling handled the parts of a bribable servant, a mechanical assistant, a deaf servant and a vicious dwarf with good humor.
In "Tales of Hoffmann" the libretto has the real poet Hoffmann as the main character in three of his stories. Hoffmann tells the tavern chorus of of three of his loves. Kelly Holst sang the part of the robot doll Olympia and delighted the audience with her comic but accurate mechanical flights of coloratura. Chandra Eggert was moving as the love who simply sings herself to death. Laura Vlasak Nolen presided as Giulietta the courtesan who is Hoffmann’s most humiliating failure.
"The Tales of Hoffmann" is a long, but varied and satisfying evening of musical theatre.
The IU Opera Theatre’s production plays this Friday and Saturday nights.