December’s Opera News dedicates most of its pages to Jacques Offenbach’s masterpiece, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, which is receiving a new production this month at the Met. First is the cover story on tenor Joseph Calleja, who takes on his first career role debut at the Met this month in the vocally- and psychologically-demanding part of the title character. Calleja, who just turned 31, has made headlines in the opera world since his debut a dozen years ago. In a review of his 2006 Met debut as the Duke in Rigoletto, Opera News wrote: “From his first notes, it was clear that we were in the presence of a star tenor. With its idiosyncratic fast vibrato, Calleja’s is a distinctive voice, but also quite beautiful. It has uncommon carrying power, almost as if Calleja had a megaphone in his throat. ... In his ability to send a lyric sound ringing throughout the house, though, as well as in his crystalline diction, Calleja was reminiscent of the young Luciano Pavarotti.” Features Editor Brian Kellow has a “high-speed conversation” with Calleja, while, in “Bartlett’s Quotations”, Barry Singer reports “Hoffmann” director Bartlett Sher’s observations on his second production at the Met, after his hugely successful 2006 Barbiere di Siviglia. In “Sound Bites”, Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll introduces young soprano Kathleen Kim – the “living doll” portraying the mechanical doll Olympia, whose charms entrance Hoffmann, in the Met’s new production. Writer Patrick Dillon examines the composer’s seldom-fulfilled intention to have a single soprano portray all four of Hoffmann’s loves: Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta, and Stella. Finally, a Hoffmann-related “Coda” column by Marjorie Sandor details “Sleepless Nights with E.T.A. Hoffmann”, the author whose life and works inspired Jacques Offenbach’s only grand opera.
Other Opera News articles include Scott Rose’s attempt to unlock the secrets of Richard Strauss’s most problematic heroine, Elektra; and a profile by Richard Christiansen of Chicago-based director Gary Griffin, who makes his operatic debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago this month with The Merry Widow. Subscribers to Opera News and Met patrons have exclusive access to internet-only features at www.operanews.com, which this month include a Contes d’Hoffmann audio sampler of key excerpts from the finest recordings of past and present, and a conversation with Bernard Labadie, music director of Les Violons du Roy, who discusses pacing the peaks and valleys of Handel’s Messiah, which he leads this month at Carnegie Hall.
The Metropolitan Opera Guild’s popular and growing series of public lectures – nearly doubled this season because of the Guild’s superb new Opera Learning Center – is slightly abbreviated in December because of the busy holiday season. But there are no fewer than six December lectures in the fascinating “Masterly Singing” series, which is aimed at young performers, showcasing opera’s most valuable assets (the directors, coaches, conductors, and singers of our stage), and there is a pre-performance lecture for the opening night of the Met’s new Contes d’Hoffmann.
For those of you in Colorado who took in Opera Colorado's own production of "Tales of Hoffman" these articles will also appeal to you.