The Tales of Hoffmann

Approximate Running Time: Three hours, with 2 intermissions

In French with English captions

What's Going On?

The story begins during the intermission of Don Giovanni. The poet Hoffmann is waiting in the lobby bar for Stella, a diva singing in the show. The Muse of Poetry joins the crowd, disguised as Hoffmann's friend Nicklausse. Hoffmann begins to entertain the crowd with one of his songs, but he becomes distracted and sings about the perfect woman. Soon he begins to talk about his past loves: Olympia, Antonia, and Giulietta...

In the first story, Hoffmann falls in love with Olympia, who he thinks is the daughter of his teacher Spalanzani. Actually, Olympia is a singing doll created by Coppélius and Spalanzani. The mad scientist Coppélius sells Hoffmann a pair of rose-colored glasses that make Hoffmann see Olympia as human. Spalanzani and Coppélius haggle over the doll, the latter claiming that he owns her eyes. During the quarrel, Olympia is destroyed by Coppélius. A horrified Hoffmann discovers that the girl he loved was never real.

In the second story, Hoffmann courts Antonia, a fragile girl sheltered from the world by her father Crespel. Antonia falls under the influence of the evil Dr. Miracle. Gifted with a beautiful voice, Antonia has been warned to avoid singing, as it could damage her already frail health, and Hoffmann implores her to run away with him. When Hoffmann leaves the room, Miracle makes the portrait of Antonia's dead mother seemingly come to life and implore the girl to sing. Antonia sings until she collapses and dies. Crespel finds her. When Hoffmann enters, Crespel blames the poet for her death.

After Antonia's death, Hoffmann meets Giulietta, a courtesan in Venice. Nicklausse warns Hoffmann against her, but Hoffmann ignores his friend. The sorcerer Dapertutto, who controls Giulietta, commands her to relieve Hoffmann of his reflection just as she had taken her lover Schlemil's shadow from him. Giulietta tells Hoffmann that she will give him her heart in exchange for his reflection. Hoffmann agrees but then regrets his decision. In order to win the key to Giulietta's room and regain his reflection, Hoffmann fights a duel with Schlemil and kills him. Giulietta sails off with Dapertutto.

Hoffmann finishes his stories. Stella arrives to find Hoffmann in a drunken state, and she decides to leave with his rival, Councilor Lindorf. Nicklausse, now the Muse, claims the poet, telling him that the ashes of his heart will rekindle his genius.


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