Offenbach’s incomplete tale about the doomed, fanciful affairs of drunk artist, Hoffman, is a profound statement on the dilemma of all artists — whether to pour all your energy into a relationship and ignore your art, which is no less demanding, or to place your muse first. The theme resonates to this very day.
In this latest production at the LA Opera, the almost 4-hour performance started with some real drama when the legendary Domingo explained at the onset that both the bass-baritone, Nicolas Testé and star soprano, Diana Damrau (a real-life couple) were struggling with bronchitis and would be unable to perform all designated parts. Testé would lip-synch to tenor, Wayne Tiggs in the pit, and Damrau would limit herself to the roles of Antonia and Stella.
All this turned out to be nothing to worry about because Teste managed to fuse himself with Tiggs and Damrau delivered without a hitch — especially as Antonia. And where does one begin when it comes to tenor, Vittorio Grigolo as the titular Hoffmann? His was a robust performance, marked by physicality as he swaggered and danced and hopped around, and all the while, mesmerizing with his vocal range. Mezzo-soprano, So Young Park as the mechanical doll Olympia elicited one of the evening’s most applauded performances and Kate Aldrich as the sultry Giulietta was a consummate vixen. Kate Lindsey, as the Muse who must incarnate as Nicklausse to bring Hoffman to his senses, and to conclude that heartbreaks are all well and good eventually because they provide pathos for art, was a funny, powerful aide to Grigolo’s Hoffman. The stage was moodily lit with rich, chiaroscuro touches and the design was excitingly lavish.
— Ghalib Dhalla.