Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Les Contes d'Hoffmann at Carib 5 tomorrow

Published:Friday | January 30, 2015 | 1:00 AM
ContributedErin Morley as Olympia (left) and Vittorio Grigolo in the title role of Offenbach’s ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’.
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Les Contes d'Hoffmann will be Live in HD at Carib 5 tomorrow, Saturday, January 31, at 12:55 p.m.

Jacques Offenbach is best known for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s-1870s and his uncompleted opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann, (The Tales of Hoffmann). The German-born French composer, cellist and impresario was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss Jr and Arthur Sullivan.

Born in Cologne, the son of a synagogue cantor, Offenbach showed early musical talent, and, at 14 years old, he was accepted as a student at the Paris Conservatoire. However, he left after a year because he was bored by academic study.

Between 1835 and 1855, he earned income as a cellist, achieving international fame from this skill as well as his prowess as a conductor. His ambition was to compose comic pieces for the musical theatre, and when the Opera-Comique company of Paris refused to stage his works, Offenbach leased a small theatre in the Champs-Elysees in 1855.

There he presented his own small-scale pieces, many of which became popular.

In 1858, Offenbach produced his first full-length operetta, Orphee aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld), which was exceptionally well-received and has remained one of his most played works. During the 1860s, he produced at least 18 full-length operettas, as well as more one-act pieces.

Offenbach's death

In his latter years, Offenbach toiled to finish Les Contes d'Hoffmann, but died before the premiere of the opera, which now forms the standard repertory in versions completed or edited by other musicians. He had substantially completed the vocal score and made a start on the orchestration.

Ernest Guiraud, a family friend, and Offenbach's son, Auguste, then only 18 years old, completed the orchestration, making significant changes as well as the substantial cuts demanded by the Opera-Comique.

Les Contes d'Hoffmann premiered at the Opera-Comique in 1881. Guiraud added recitatives for the Vienna premiere, in December 1881, and other versions were made later.

When Offenbach died in Paris in 1880 at the age of 61, The Times wrote: "The crowd of distinguished men that accompanied him on his last journey amid the general sympathy of the public shows that the late composer was reckoned among the masters of his art."

The next Live transmission will be February 14. It is a double bill featuring Tchaikovsky's Iolanta and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle.

Tickets are on sale for the 2014-2015 season at participating cinema box offices and via the web at www.palaceamusement.com, with a Palace Card.