The Tales of Hoffmann | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Tales of Hoffmann 

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THE TALES OF HOFFMANN

The protagonist of Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, the most serious and autobiographical of the Parisian composer's operas, was loosely modeled on a dissolute mid-19th-century German artist and story spinner. Hoffmann is desperately searching for his romantic ideal, and along the way he's seduced and abandoned by three women who embody various feminine wiles. Only then does he realize that what matters is his own creative genius and its transformative power. This notion of the artist as a lone Promethean hero was, of course, a reaction to the Industrial Revolution's insistence on drab conformity, and Offenbach, with an ironic eye on political undercurrents, came up with an ingenious score that's witty, sardonic, and idiomatic. Most productions of the opera manage at least to convey its haunting lyricism, though few succeed in exposing the ineffable sorrow under the glittery merriment. I don't expect this semistaged reprise by the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists in collaboration with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to be emotionally profound or ideologically astute; neither the singers nor the acting coach (Mark Verzatt) have enough experience for that. But it's likely to be a solid, musically sound performance that highlights the justly famous numbers. The principals--all apprentices at the center--are tenor James Cornelison (in the title role), sopranos Robin Blitch (Olympia), Alicia Berneche (Antonia), and Elena Kolganova (Giulietta/Stella). Arthur Fagen, who made his Lyric Opera debut last season with the well-received production of The Ghosts of Versailles, conducts. Friday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 7 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 742-4763.

TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.

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