Thursday, April 1, 2010

REVIEW: Les Contes d'Hoffmann in The Metropolitan Opera HD Live

The magic of The Metropolitan Opera HD Live screening continues.

Photo: courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

The Wellcome Theatre at the Bethanie was less than half full on the 28th of March noontime and the organizers seem to attribute this to the Rugby Sevens. Though I thought that the target markets of these two events would have very little overlap, I can’t help but hope that it was true. I dread the day that this little piece of heaven would stop existing because the market is just not big enough. I don’t think Hong Kong people knows how lucky they are to have this in their city, while I have friends traveling to Hong Kong from Bangkok and Manila for the weekend just to be able to come to the screening.

The one thing that I was looking forward to in this screening of Jaques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann was the production. This new production was by the acclaimed director Bartlett Sher. My first encounter of his work was in April 2008. His revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” at the Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre blew me away. It was sleek and distilled, the clarity of vision was so effective in exploring the emotional core of the musical.

For this production, Sher has once again infused the experience with a clear voice. The dark and Kafka-like air was very helpful in blurring the line between reality and imagination. In this interpretation, the tales of Hoffman were tall, a hodgepodge of different “realities” merging with each other all stringed together by three constant forces, Hoffman, Niklausse/The Muse and Four Villains.

Part of the experience in watching a MET production is that it always has a starry cast. Names like Joseph Calleja and especially Anna Netrebko were enough reasons for me to attend. However, for this particular screening, it was the singers that I was not familiar with that enchanted me. HD-ready Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse/The Muse was enthrallingly androgynous. Her mezzo voice was warm and her acting was subtle. I actually have difficulty taking my eyes off her! Kathleen Kim as Olympia was frighteningly doll-like with her size and physique. Her showpiece aria was dispatched with great accuracy, impressive agility and endearing cuteness! She was so cute that the image of her and Hoffmann dancing together was a bit disturbing. It made Hoffmann looked like he was playing with a Barbie doll or he was dating a little girl. Disturbing it was and congratulations to Sher.

Though Joseph Calleja as Hoffman may not be much of an actor, the sheer stamina combined with secured singing in such a daunting formidable role was more than enough by any standards. Anna Netrebko’s Antonia was vocally full-bodied and heart-wrenching, while her Stella was captivating.

Once again, the biggest bonus in these MET screenings were the backstage interviews. For this screening, they had Deborah Voigt as the host. My personal favorites were Anna Netrebko’s funny antics while Bartlett Sher was being interviewed, the insights set designer Michael Yeargan and the costume designer Catherine Zuber shared and of course the diva-to-diva talk between Voigt and Netrebko. A funny and bizarre moment cropped up when Voigt started talking about her scarf and how the audience can also have one by going to the newly-renovated MET Shop or by shopping online, this had the audience laughing noisily.

I am so looking forward to the next screening which will be Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. It will have more stars than I can bear! For more information check out:

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