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J.Offenbach 'Los cuentos de Hoffmann'

Aquiles Machado (t) [pictured]
K. Goeldner (m)
M. Poblador (s)
Maria Bayo (s)
V. Kutzarova (s)
K. Gorny (b)

Dirección escénica : Gian Carlo del Monaco.
Dirección Musical: Alain Guingal.
OBAO at Palacio Euskalduna, Bilbao

Opus Arte DVD OA 0968 D



A hasty welcome for this DVD, which will open the doors for English speaking opera lovers to a remarkable Basque initiative.

The Tales of Hoffmann is a problematic opera whose productions have been markedly various. One of the most enduringly successful, available now on DVD, is a 1951 film based on Beecham's renowned recording, with dancer Norma Shearer as the Olympia !

I have never before been so impressed as by this production from Bilbao, a coastal city in northern Spain where I had the pleasure of lecturing in an International Music Week in honour of Luis de Pablo.

del Monaco unifies the work in Luther's tavern and gives full scope to the Freudian possibilities explained by Maria Bayo, with an anti-romantic take on the unhappy poetic fantasist, E T A Hoffmann, "a sickly child with a crippled leg", who was raised by his uncle and grandmother and found refuge from an odd life by writing bizarre tales which have been compared to those of Kafka, as tenor Aquiles Machado tells us.

The all too brief "extras" are indispensible, especially that from the ABAO president, who tells how his company, which has "no theatre nor orchestra" and is run by a staff of 11, sells 60% of the seats to some 7000 season ticket loyalists before the annual programmes are announced.

Highly recommended. A full review from our vocal specialist will follow.

Peter Grahame Woolf

P.S. We have taken the opportunity to re-sample the Paris Opera version which we reviewed in 2002, and have no hesitation in confirming our firm preference for the Bilbao production starring Aquiles Machado.