„The Tales of Hoffmann” from the Wroclaw Opera– in search of perfect love


A recording of Offenbach’s „The Tales of Hoffmann”, which was streamed live from the theatre on Saturday, is already available on the streaming platform of the Wroclaw Opera. The virtual audience had a unique opportunity to look at the work of the conductor, stage manager or musicians, as well as to follow the course of events from different takes or perspectives.

During the interludes, the camera shows what theatre looks like behind the scenes  –  it peeks into the make-up room and allows you to observe the changes in the set design. The Wroclaw Opera draws inspiration from the best, like the Met’s cinema live transmissions, in which Mariusz Kwiecień, the current artistic director of the theatre, has performed many times, are broadcast in a similar way. The event wouldn’t be complete without live interviews with Charles Castronovo and Ekaterina Siurina, the stars of the evening. Kwiecień, as the host of the broadcast, did a wonderful job, which was certainly made easier by his old acquaintance with the invited guests.

It turns out that for Charles Castronovo it was the first performance in the stage version of „the Tales of Hoffmann” (in 2018 he sang this part in a concert version of the opera at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden), and Ekaterina Siurina made her debut that day as Antonia (she sang the part of Olympia a few years ago). They will both return to Wroclaw next season to face Massenet’s „Manon”.

Offenbach’s „TheTales of Hoffmann” is above all music full of harmony and delicacy, with catchy tunes and arias topped by barcarole, the most well-known fragment of the opera. The orchestra, arranged in compliance with pandemic requirements, conducted by Bassem Akiki gave its best by bringing out many nuances, colours and shades from the score.

Charles Castronovo as Hoffmann in Offenbach’s „The Tales of Hoffmann”, Opera Wrocławska, photo:. J. K. Żurek

The libretto based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s short stories allows the director to give vent to his imagination. It’s full of threads and characters, and each of the three acts tells the story of Hoffmann’s unfulfilled love for another woman – Olympia, who turns out to be a mechanical doll, delicate Antonia, whose vocal talent costs her her life, and Venetian courtesan Giulietta. In fact, they represent three faces of the same woman – the empty, venal Stella.

The Wroclaw staging of „The Tales of Hoffmann” has been realized with great elan, which lets the viewer easily enter the fantasy world. The part of Hoffmann is very difficult and exhausting, but the American tenor Charles Castronovo gives an excellent vocal performance throughout the show and brilliantly nuances every phrase. His French diction is also admirable. Jerzy Butryn was also very good in his part of diabolical Lindorf and his subsequent reincarnations. In his subsequent incarnations, he gets in Hoffmann’s way, destroying the poet’s hopes for love. Among the male cast Aleksander Zuchowicz is the one who definitely stands out. He is genuinely funny in the humorously staged and full of allusions aria of Frantz in the second act, and he also successfully takes on the role of the crazy physicist Spallanzani, Olympia’s father.

Maria Rozynek-Banaszak was cast in the grand role of Olympia, and, like Butryn, it is her subsequent show broadcast by the Wroclaw Opera House this season. Olympia seduces the protagonist with her singing and dancing, but turns out to be only a brilliantly constructed humanlike machine. Flawless control of the body and pitch-perfect coloratura deceive us along with the main character.

Ekaterina Siurina as Antonia and Charles Castronovo as Hoffmann in Offenbach’s „The Tales of Hoffmann”, Opera Wrocławska, photo:. J. K. Żurek

In Hoffmann’s second story, we move from Spallanzani’s monumental  studio to Munich, where in a room with a silver piano we meet a sensitive and delicate Antonia. Dedicated to the young singer, the act is the most visually appealing – the mirrored decorations are dominated by a huge clock measuring the time remaining until her imminent death. Antonia’s costume and her pink wig are dashing as well and make her look like an unreal fairy-tale character surrounded by dark figures. Ekaterina Siurina sings with great passion, and moves the audience with the romantic aria „Elle a fui”, and later delights in a beautiful love duet with Hoffmann.

In Venice, Hoffmann falls in love with Giulietta (played by the alluring Eliza Kruszczyńska). The atmosphere of a Venetian festival created on the stage is saturated with sensuality, and Hoffmann’s next love turns out to be a courtesan, who steals the protagonist’s reflection at the devil Dappertutto’s suggestion.

Also, we mustn’t forget the energetic, graceful Aleksandra Opała as Hoffmann’s faithful friend Nicklausse.

During the pandemic, the Wroclaw Opera House sets the trend for other theatres in the country by offering audiences new high quality live-streaming shows, enriched by technological innovations and interesting materials from the backstage. Keep it up!

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