Michael Barrett as Spalanzani, Andriana Chuchman as Olympia (in glass case) and Steven Cole as Cochenille The Tales of Hoffmann

Though the weather may not feel like it, Spring is in the air and the Canadian Opera Company blossoms back on stage with The Tales of Hoffmann for the first time since 1988. It is interesting to note that the composer Jacques Offenbach died before this opera was completed. Each company’s adaptation allows the viewer to determine whether they feel the production would have been true to Offenbach.

The eponymous Hoffman is a poet who frequently drowns his sorrows at the tavern while pining after his lover. On this particular drunken occasion, he pours his heart out and tells the tales of three of his loves. Each subsequent act transports the audience through Europe and explores Hoffman’s relationships with three very different, yet thematically similar women.

Of the women, the most compelling performance came from Andriana Chuchman in the role of Olympia. Her voice was the opposite of her character: alive and soulful. Her notes stood out amongst all others, were powerful, controlled and carried throughout the opera house with confidence.

The Tales of Hoffman is a long performance and Russell Thomas in the title role found his footing as the show progressed. A most entertaining performance by Steven Cole in four roles as Andrès/Cochenille/Frantz/Pitichinaccio who helps keep the mood light even through such dark tales.

After a slow start in the prologue, perhaps adapting to the staging that later on becomes a point in the pro column, strong voices as well as divine costuming and make-up create an engaging performance, however the lighting design left much to be desired as two spotlights reflecting off the mirror in the third act unnecessarily obstructed the view of the stage.

Upon leaving the grand house, one muses as to the connections that can be made to our modern lives. Is it an early cautionary tale of excessive alcohol consumption? Though we may not necessarily see ourselves as poets, we oftentimes paint ourselves as heroes in our own stories and as such do our passions cloud our judgments for love?

Find your own conclusions at The Tales of Hoffman, which runs for an additional 8 performance at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 14, 18, 21, 27, May 3, 6, 8 and 14, 2012.

For tickets visit coc.ca.

About The Author

Sarah Chan
Writer

Sarah Chan never wants to own a car. Steadiest on her own two feet, it is her preferred method of travel to explore the streets of the city where she lives and works. She grew up as a tomboy, listening to 680 News and with a mother who could not cook. Via strange magic, she is now hardly ever found wearing pants (opting for dresses and skirts, not public indecency), lives for the performing arts and is eating – always eating. Sarah often takes her walking talents, her love of street style, art galleries, opera and her insatiable appetite around the world. A constant sufferer of cabin fever and wanderlust, for which the only cure is hopping on board an airplane. Sarah is very particular with customs agents around the world where they are allowed to stamp her passport. Favourite place in TO: A moment of rare silence at the crosswalk at Wellington and Spadina.

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