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Watch: Why Les Contes d'Hoffmann is 'the perfect vehicle for cinema’

How director John Schlesinger's background in film influenced his hyper-detailed production of Offenbach's opera.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

16 November 2016 at 9.22am | 6 Comments

‘I tried to really go back to how John staged it the first time’, says Revival Director Dan Dooner of John Schlesinger’s classic Royal Opera staging of Offenbach's opera Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).

‘Because John was a film director, he had a light touch,’ explains Movement Director Elenor Fazan. ‘He was concerned with the characters.’

Fazan worked alongside Schlesinger, the director of films Midnight Cowboy and Sunday Bloody Sunday, when he made his Royal Opera debut with Les Contes d’Hoffmann in 1980. Now more than 30 years on, The Royal Opera invited Fazan back to help to re-stage the production as part of the 2016/17 Season.

‘It's fantastic because she knows it like the back of her hand,’ says American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey. 'She has such an eye and such a history.’

‘Today she gave me the same note that she gave me in 1980’, admits Mark Allington, an actor who performed in the original run of Hoffmann. ‘She doesn’t miss a thing!’

Fazan reveals the dedication to detail that the director had, going to the lengths of giving each and every member of the Chorus a specific character and backstory to play. He also encouraged performers to consider the motivation behind each of their movements onstage.

‘Because the production is so gorgeous to look at, it is the perfect vehicle for cinema,’ suggests mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.

'Directing a production like this is such a huge job,’ agrees Lindsey, praising the work of Revival Director Dooner. 'He has really understood what Schlesinger intended.'

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Georgine responded on 16 November 2016 at 1:27pm Reply

    3:2 -Paris:London, Hoffmann, both seen life and in cinema, both productions from the 1980ies, but if not Grigòlo /Lindsey would have performed so excellent, there would have been only heavy baggage

  2. Georgine responded on 16 November 2016 at 1:45pm Reply

    3:2 - Paris:London, both seen life and now in cinema. Both productions from the 1980ies!! Why not?
    Carsen-Jordan- blackbass Tagliavini (the4 villains): Offenbach-sound and rythm ***
    Schlesinger-Pido- bariton Hampson, and heavy ballast on stage, lack of "psycho" and poor french-style-sound **.
    Phantastic Grigòlo and wonderful Lindsay, 2 bright stars in the rest of twilight.

  3. Maren Deninger responded on 16 November 2016 at 1:46pm Reply

    Saw "Tales of Hoffmann" yesterday in Mannheim, Germany: Thank you for such a phantastic performance. Regietheater in its best sense as it should be, i.e. each part thoroughly and with many details characterised. As to the four villains for instance, the evil unveiled in four different impressive shades. I loved the wonderful voices of all singers and their acting, the beautiful costumes, but I was most fascinated by the literally breathtaking performance of Thomas Hampson, specially as Dapertutto and Dr. Miracle. I have tickets for the ROH live on Nov. 18 and 24, and am very much looking forward to. Thank you for reviving this "oldfashioned" thrilling production and for the announced Dvd, it surely will sell well.

  4. Stevie responded on 3 December 2016 at 9:34pm Reply

    A question for Rose. It was announced before the performance, at the Cinema I attended, that the production would be released on DVD & Blu-ray in 2017. Can you confirm, Thanks, Steve

    • Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer) responded on 5 December 2016 at 2:29pm

      Hi Stevie,
      Thanks for your question. That's right, we're hoping the DVD will be released at the start of next summer. Watch this space for more!
      All best,

  5. Stevie responded on 17 September 2017 at 7:18pm Reply

    Thanks Rose, I got myself the Blu-ray.

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