For her LA debut, Diana Damrau was scheduled (announced with great fanfare) to undertake the roles of Hoffmann’s three loves. Events, however, proved otherwise…
Therefore, a great disappointment ensued, especially when the soprano who finally opted for Antonia, appeared in Act III, exceedingly present and convincing, deeply involved and persuasive. Confronted with this stunning Antonia, who takes stage completely, with that soaring, powerful voice, a voice with perfectly placed high notes, also capable of marvelous love-filled softness, solid in both its medium and low ranges, a voice which grabs you at first, then beguiles and captivates you–you think something–no, two things–are missing: an Olympia and a Giulietta…by Diana Damrau.!
The soprano’s semi-withdrawal allowed us, however (and it worked out very well), to hear two newly sought-after young artists–Liv Redpath (Olympia), with limpid, bright, floating top tones, and Kate Aldrich (Giulietta), gifted with a noble, refined voice. In the somewhat–let’s admit it–thankless (not to say rocky) role of Nicklausse, Kate Lindsey charms and convinces. Graceful, polished, ingratiating, for the moment, Vittorio, Grigolo’s Hoffmann lacks a certain vigor, a certain dramatic and vocal punch (Kleinzach) to completely satisfy. Along with Damrau, Nicolas Testé, the Villain, the Bad Guy, the Devil, also in his local debt, is the big winner (a really unsavory word to use in opera–but what’s the option? the victor?) in a frequently somewhat lackluster evening. Testé’s timbre, in turn biting, imposing, his unequivocal commanding presence, captivate and fascinate. Hearty applause at the final curtain, and well-deserved, for Christophe Mortagne, another excellent artist.
Marta Domingo, mistress-in-chief of the production, has worked with a set and costumes that are kitschy and even hideous, a rancid concoction by Giovanni Agostinucci. Why on earth “concretize” Antonia’s mother’s voice? A ghoulish chalky white sculpture which finally comes to life to sing–as one expected it would!– just as those awful ugly statues used to do at the village fairs of Saint-Brieuc, when we were young. The blocking of the actors, too often left to go with the flow, and the staging in general, at least have the great virtue of clearly relating a great story, without any digressions, without worrying about Freudianism, postmodernism, or any other fad and without being concerned with the thousand other versions of the work. The chorus and supporting players lead us on a smooth journey. On the podium, Plácido Domingo, academic and straight-forward, beats time and seems especially to be wondering where he is.
Photo by : © Ken Howard / LA Opera
Translated by Miriam Ellis