Jacques Offenbach's final opera, Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), was his first serious work, and because of the composer's death before the premiere, questions abound about Offenbach's intentions for the "final" version. Bartlett Sher, the director of the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Hoffmann, uses the enigmatic nature of the piece and its composer as his inspiration for the staging. The plot involves great German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann and his failed love affairs; the writer (played by tenor Joseph Calleja) journeys through time and memory to revisit each woman and examine what went wrong, aided and abetted by his mysterious companion Nicklausse (Kate Lindsey). As much an allegory for the role of the artist as an outsider as it is a tale of love found and lost, Les Contes d'Hoffmann is a haunting and magical piece. And with the addition of the lovely and accomplished Anna Netrebko as one of Hoffman's former paramours, you have quite an afternoon. The Metropolitan Opera broadcasts its Saturday, December 19, matinee performance of Les Contes d'Hoffmann at noon central standard time in the auditorium of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org). Tickets are $15 to $22.
Sat., Dec. 19, 2009

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