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Bicentenary of Offenbach's birth: NCPA remakes opera 'The Tales of Hoffmann'

2019/7/12 10:53:19   source:Xinhua

For many Chinese opera lovers, the composer Jacques Offenbach is undoubtedly admired yet underestimated with his works rarely staged across China.

The German-French operetta composer, who was born as the son of Jewish parents in the German city of Cologne on June 20, 1819, and passed away in Paris in 1880, is universally regarded as the founder of modern operetta (light opera).

Aside from the world-famous "Cancan" dance from his 1855 operetta "Orpheus in the Underworld," Offenbach captured the streets of Paris with the "Barcarolle" from his opera "Les Contes d'Hoffmann," or "The Tales of Hoffmann," which were also well known and successful beyond the borders to Africa, America and Asia.

Now, there is a chance to have a closer look at the masterful composer as the 200th anniversary of his birth has prompted the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) to remake one of his classic pieces.

The opera "The Tales of Hoffmann," which is Offenbach's final work, is staged at the NCPA Opera House from July 10 to July 14 in homage to the talented composer.

Revival comes up with 'dynamic' ensemble

The "opera fantastique" follows three episodes that depict the love life of the German poet E.T.A Hoffmann, who fell in love with three women. However, each romantic love story concluded with a tragic ending.

It is not its debut in the country. The NCPA presented the Chinese stage premiere of the opera six years ago.

This time around, the remake version observes an international creative team and a "very different and dynamic" cast, which "embraces distinct individuality and even more vitality," according to Wei Lanfen, the head of the Department of Drama Production at NCPA.

Chinese tenor Chen Yong, who is known for his passion for opera singing, and up-and-coming Austrian tenor Peter Sonn play the title role of the drunken poet Hoffmann alternately.

It is the third time Chen has performed this romantic role, which, as he put it, "helps him to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the whole story."

"I initially felt that there was a wall between the character and the viewers as they were not familiar with him. However, I gradually realized that the opera actually tells the stories, the life of normal people, about their emotions and experiences," Chen revealed at the press conference last month, adding, "That's why I try to involve more daily-life expressions."

However, challenges remain. "It is so difficult to deal with different relations and status with three women," said Chen, revealing that he lost four kilograms after a week of rehearsals.

Sentimental and emotional

Revival director Stephan Grögler believed that the opera would offer viewers some new insights to the arts as the protagonist shows great passion for poem and art, which helped him break through the dilemmas encountered in life.

Offenbach composed more than 100 operettas during his entire life, and "The Tales of Hoffmann" is his only opera seria, which was left unfinished upon his death in 1880.

The opera presents a different side of the romantic artist and the lead role Hoffmann to a certain extent represents his suffering as the work features more sentimental plotlines and emotional content.

It was created after he was exiled in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. He finally returned home to Paris at the end of 1871.

Besides the beautiful music, the stage design is another highlight, as numerous gear patterns form a heart.

Meanwhile, performers use a total of 289 costumes throughout the show.

Israeli maestro Pinchas Steinberg conducts the performances with globally famed theater director Francesca Zambello as the stage director.

The NCPA Orchestra and Chorus are also featured during the five-day showcase.

(Cover image by Jia Jieqiong)

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Sponsor:Information Office of Shandong Provincial People’s Government