There's a certain mystique about the early 20th century travelling circus, and director Joel Ivany decided this esthetic lent itself particularly well to Edmonton Opera's newest production, Les Contes d'Hoffmann. The last opera written by French composer Jacques Offenbach, the piece was based on short stories by E T A Hoffmann, who is also the opera's protagonist. The show features three acts, each of which explores one of Hoffmann's unrequited loves, bookended by a prologue and epilogue. Complicating each tableau is Hoffmann himself, who grows progressively drunker as the show continues, as well as a manipulative villain in each act who keeps Hoffmann away from each woman.
“Placing it in this time period and in the circus, it lends to that element of the fantastical,” states Teiya Kasahara, who plays Olympia, a mechanical doll and Hoffmann's first love that he encounters in the freak show tent.
“You see Hoffmann progress through love in each of the three stories,” says Ileana Montalbetti, who plays the role of Antonia. “It's new, kind of fascinating love with Teiya's character, and then ours is very pure, very innocent and real, and then because I die, his heart is broken and he kind of moves into this sexual love with Giulietta.”
Offenbach died before completing the opera, and consequently there are as many versions as there are productions.
“It can be taken so many different ways, whether it's all just playing out in his mind, or if these things really happen—that's when it really comes down to interpretation of your director and production,” states Montalbetti.
“My character is the only one that rejects him,” says Krisztina Szabo, who plays Giulettia. “I'm the only one who doesn't love him for real; I'm in it for the jewelry, not for real love. So she's kind of a bad girl, as well as the hoochie-koochie girl.”
With deeply metaphorical themes and a disjointed narrative, combined with its history of considerably different productions, Les Contes d'Hoffmann has always been a particularly evocative
“He's a poet with this muse,” states Montalbetti. “And the idea is if he sees everything through this veil of alcohol and hurt and heartbreak, the greater his art will be.”
Fri, Feb 1 (8 pm); Sun, Feb 3 (2 pm); Tue, Feb 5 & Thu, Feb 7 (7:30 pm)
Directed by Joel Ivany
Jubilee Auditorium, $20 – $175