Bru Zane Classical Radio broadcasts on Sunday 11 February at 9 p.m. Les Contes d’Hoffmann [The Tales of Hoffmann] (1881), opéra fantastique in three acts, a prologue and an epilogue, by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880).

Text by Jules Barbier
First premiered on 10 February 1881 at the Opéra-Comique, Paris 

Kent Nagano conductor

Hoffmann Roberto Alagna
Lindorf / Coppélius / Dapertutto / Dr Miracle José van Dam
Olympia Nathalie Dessay
Giulietta Sumi Jo
Antonia Leontina Vaduva
Stella Juanita Lascarro
Nicklausse / La Muse Catherine Dubosc
Spalanzani Michel Sénéchal
Crespel Gabriel Bacquier
Schlemil Ludovic Tézier
Andrès / Cochenille /Pitichinaccio / Frantz Gilles Ragon
Luther Jean-Marie Frémeau

Offenbach, who was of German Jewish origins and the son of a cantor in a Cologne synagogue, initially wanted to pursue a career as a virtuoso cellist. The gifted young man was soon sent to the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied under Vaslin for a year before leaving. He subsisted by playing in the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique for two years, while regularly attending various salons. Several pieces written for his instrument date from this difficult period (including a Military Concerto) as well as several romances. His growing interest in the stage met with a less than favourable reaction at this point in his career, despite his repeated attempts. He consoled himself by composing incidental music for the Comédie-Française, where he was musical director from 1850 to 1855. It was at this date that he decided to form his own theatre—Les Bouffes-Parisiens—situated not far from the Great Exhibition: its opening was an immediate success. During his lifetime, Offenbach composed more than one hundred important works which enjoyed varying degrees of success, many of which were and still are numbered among the great classics of opéra comique and opéra bouffe, a genre which he made respectable. His more noteworthy operas include Orphée aux enfers (1858), La Belle Hélène (1864), La Vie parisienne (1866), La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867), Les Brigands (1869), La Périchole (1874), La Fille du tambour-major (1879) and, most importantly, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, the fantastical work which was his posthumous masterpiece.