The Tales of Hoffmann at Lyric Opera



If you ever want to see The Tales of Hoffman at Lyric Opera, you should probably catch the as-good-as-it-gets production onstage there this month. It’s been nearly 30 years since the last one, and with a new general director determined to make opera relevant to broader audiences, it’ll be surprising if they do this fusty extravaganza again anytime soon.

It’s not all composer Jacques Offenbach’s fault—he died in 1880 before finishing it, and any production is a patchwork version of what he might have intended. That said, tenor Matthew Polenzani, a Wilmette native and alumnus of Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center, is terrific as the chronically love-drunk Hoffmann. When he’s paired with mezzo-soprano and current Ryan Center member Emily Fons, in the trouser role of his companion (and his muse), corny turns sublime. Other peaks include rousing tavern anthems by the men’s chorus, the enchantingly choreographed mechanical woman (sung by soprano Anna Christy), a superfluous onstage locomotive, and a languorous mass dry-hump performed to one of opera’s most familiar tunes. Emmanuel Villaume conducts; there are eight more performances, through October 29.

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