Last Chance: Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the KOB

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Tomorrow is the final revival performance of the Komische Oper Berlin’s superb and inventive production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann. The principal drawback is that the work is performed in German, as per the company’s longstanding tradition (which has been challenged in recent years by a spunky new intendant, Barrie Kosky). But if you can get used to the idea of hearing Offenbach auf Deutsch, you will more than be rewarded by Thilo Reinhardt’s elegant production, featuring some very fine singing (if not acting) in this revival.  Timothy Richard, the house’s lyric tenor, is in better voice than I’ve heard him over the past few seasons and he nails Hoffmann’s rapturous and ardor-filled outpourings with exciting, swelling phrasings, supported by vocal heft and control. Theresa Kronthaler is sensational and captivating as the Muse in her expanded role (the house uses Fritz Oeser’s highly dubious “critical” edition that regrettably renders the Giullietta episode incomprehensible, but fleshes out the Muse’s role in a much more satisfying way – let’s face it, there are tradeoffs with all the various editions of Offenbach’s great, unfinished work…). And Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester, a former ensemble-member, sings the four villains with delectably demonic relish. I was also glad to hear the KOB orchestra sound so propulsive and dynamic under the quirky baton of Nicholas Milton. 

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