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Soused Songs of Sorrow 

Love has no closing time

Jacques Offenbach's one grand opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, proves that great writers are made — or at least found — in the bar. The titular Hoffmann is the German Romantic writer, E.T.A. Hoffmann, currently floating himself on a sea of booze in a Nuremburg tavern, recounting the great loves of his life, each of whom has escaped him. But in each instance, his companion Nicklausse is there to save him from himself and his misdirected passion. The challenge of staging Hoffmann is that all of his would-be paramours are performed by the same soprano, who must navigate four different characters and their vocal requirements; the reward is the "Barcarolle," Offenbach's delicate and pretty aria, which haunts the corners of your mind long after the performance is over. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis opens its season with The Tales of Hoffmann at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-961-0644 or www.experienceopera.org). Tickets are $25 to $110.
Sat., May 24; Fri., May 30; Thu., June 5; Wed., June 11; Sun., June 15; Tue., June 17; Sat., June 21; Wed., June 25; Sat., June 28, 2008

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