Offenbach's Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) is between a prologue and epilogue. Three separate tales relate to Hoffmann's overarching choice between love for a woman, and love for the Muse. Hoffmann's Muse waits alone in a tavern, knowing that this night he will choose between love for her, and love for the opera singer, Stella. When h...
Offenbach's Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) is between a prologue and epilogue. Three separate tales relate to Hoffmann's overarching choice between love for a woman, and love for the Muse. Hoffmann's Muse waits alone in a tavern, knowing that this night he will choose between love for her, and love for the opera singer, Stella. When he finally arrives, Hoffmann is morose, confused by the taunts of his rival, Councilor Lindorf. When the students in the tavern tease Hoffmann about his romantic affliction, he begins to relate the stories of his past loves... The inventor, Spalanzani, is holding a party, at which he will show off his beautiful creation, Olympia the mechanical doll. Hoffman is the first guest to arrive, and falls directly in love with the stiff Olympia. Coppélius, a mad scientist, sells him glasses through which he perceives Olympia to be human, and they dance and spin through the evening, Hoffmann oblivious to the clicks and whirs of her mechanism.
Spalanzani has purchased Olympia's eyes from Coppélius, but the scientist returns in a fury, having discovered that Spalanzani's payment is worthless. Coming upon the whirling couple, he pushes Hoffmann aside, smashing his magic glasses, and tears Olympia to pieces. Antonia, Hoffmann's second love, is less metallic, but equally unattainable, and is whisked away from him by her father. She is not to be allowed to sing, for all the beauty of her voice, as her heart is too weak. She sings secretly to Hoffmann, making herself feeble. But the evil Dr. Miracle sneaks into the house, tempting Antonia with his music, so that she sings to his playing, wilder and wilder, until she falls down at Hoffmann's feet, dead.
In the final tale, a confident Hoffmann finds himself in a wrangle with the devilish Dappertutto. He has fallen in love with the courtesan Giulietta, who has stolen his reflection from him, bribed with a diamond by Dappertutto. Trapped in his unwonted infatuation for Giulietta, Hoffmann tries to track her down, killing his friend in desperation. Grasping the key to her room that he has taken from his friend, he opens the door - only to find it empty, and Giuletta leaving with yet another of her admirers. Hoffmann ends his storytelling, wanting to forget such misery. But Stella when she arrives is little comfort, responding to his bitterness by leaving with Lindorf. Hoffmann has no more resistance left, and belongs to the Muse at last.