Offenbach - Les contes d’Hoffmann
Lausanne Pro Arte Chorus; Du Brassus Chorus; Suisse Romande Chorus and Orchestra / Richard Bonynge
Decca 417 363-2DH2 Buy now
(143’ · ADD · T/t)
Plácido Domingo ten Hoffmann; Dame Joan Sutherland sop Olympia, Giulietta, Antonia, Stella; Gabriel Bacquier bar Lindorf, Coppélius, Dapertutto, Dr Miracle; Huguette Tourangeau mez La Muse, Nicklausse; Jacques Charon ten Spalanzani; Hugues Cuénod ten Andrès, Cochenille, Pitichinaccio, Frantz; André Neury bar Schlemil; Paul Plishka bass Crespel; Margarita Lilowa mez Voice of Antonia’s Mother; Roland Jacques bar Luther
This is a wonderfully refreshing set. The story emerges crystal-clear, even the black ending to the Giulietta scene in Venice, which in Bonynge’s text restores the original idea of the heroine dying from a draught of poison, while the dwarf Pitichinaccio shrieks in delight. One also has to applaud his rather more controversial decision to put the Giulietta scene in the middle and leave the dramatically weighty Antonia scene till last. That also makes the role of Stella the more significant, giving extra point to the decision to have the same singer take all four heroine roles. With Dame Joan available it was a natural decision, and though in spoken dialogue she’s less comfortable in the Giulietta scene than the rest, the contrasting portraits in each scene are all very convincing, with the voice brilliant in the Doll scene, warmly sensuous in the Giulietta scene and powerfully dramatic as well as tender in the Antonia scene. Gabriel Bacquier gives sharply intense performances, firm and dark vocally, in the four villain roles, Hugues Cuénod contributes delightful vignettes in the four comprimario tenor roles, while Domingo establishes at the very start the distinctive bite in his portrait of Hoffmann; a powerful and a perceptive interpretation. The recording is vivid, and the listener is treated to some first-class playing from the Suisse Romande Orchestra.