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In the prologue we momentarily hear some Mozart, a snatch of Leporello's opening complaint as he keeps weary watch while Don Giovanni enjoys an assignation. The Stella of Hoffmann's desire is the toast of the beer-cellar company, and the rival Lindorf is there to lead the encomium. I have no idea how Aquiles Machado might feature as a lawyer, but his Hoffmann certainly has enough of the original's characteristics to pass convincing muster. There is little chance that his Muse, who doubles as his top-hatted student friend Nicklausse (Katharine Goeldner), can keep him on the rails, and Hoffmann reels into the company much as he intends to continue [watch and listen -- DVD 1 chapter 7, 19:25-21:01].

Milagros Poblador as Olympia. DVD screenshot © 2006 Opus Arte/ABAO
Milagros Poblador as Olympia. DVD screenshot © 2006 Opus Arte/ABAO

A prime interest in the work is to see how many singers are marshalled for the heroine, and how many play the villain. Here Konstantin Gorny is the all-pervasive villain of the three stories, but there is a trio of enchantresses to delude poor Hoffmann. The first of them is Milagros Poblador as Olympia, who struts and trills to perfection [watch and listen -- DVD 1 chapter 17, 52:45-54:38]. Though as a doll she has literally to be wound up to keep going, Hoffmann falls for her and is only convinced of the reality when her creator's competitor hacks her to pieces. If Offenbach employs for Olympia his most seductive operetta mode, it is manifestly to demonstrate its artificiality.

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Copyright © 13 June 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK


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