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(The Tales of Hoffmann)

By Jacques Offenbach

VIDEO: A) Temporarily withdrawn Video from the Metropolitan Opera under Charles Dutoit, stars Neil Shicoff, James Morris, and others; preferred choice over all the other VIDEOs when/if it's reissued. [G.R.]

B) Alfredo Kraus, Ruth Welting, Barbara Hendricks, Nicola Ghiuselev, Guingal conducting, 1988; Bel Canto Society #675; best VIDEO currently available. [G.R.]

C-1) Robert Rounseville, Moira Shearer [only on screen -- of course], Robert Helpman [only on screen], Sir Thomas Beecham conducting, with Frederick Ashton's choreography; a Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger production, 1951; Home Vision TAZ 060; performed in English, this film is long on inspired fantasy (some of Beecham's conducting sure doesn't hurt either), short on musical accuracy, though a less heavy-handed editing job than many similar films; Rounseville's accomplished music-making is superior to most of his off-screen colleagues. [G.R.]

C-2) Placido Domingo, Luciana Serra, Agnes Baltsa, Anne Evans, Pretre conducting; Covent Garden, 1981; (?)CVI(?) 2045 A much more solid musical presentation than C-1, more faithful to the score but less suitably "fantastic," more earthbound, in some of the conducting; performed in the original French, but, unfortunately, only the Laserdisc version (?PIO? 23440) has the subtitles. [G.R.]


AUDIO: A) ENTERPRISE: Raoul Jobin, Lucille Browning, Patrice Munsel, Jarmila Novotna, Lily Djanel, Mack Harrell, Ezio Pinza, Martial Singher, Beecham conducting ("live," Metropolitan Opera, 1944); Despite so-so sound and the usual inauthentic performing edition, Sir Thomas Beecham's unerring gift at conveying the aura of the supernatural in Offenbach's score with such unflagging energy and style places this broadcast in a class all its own; already setting the standard on disk for both Carmen and Faust, Sir Thomas's Hoffmann is a worthy entry in his triple crown for the French repertoire; features a star in practically every role and is one of those rare off-the-air recordings where almost all are heard to advantage -- a palpable sense of occasion; fair Mono [G.R.]

B) EMI: Neil Shicoff, Ann Murray, Jessye Norman, Jose Van Dam, Cambreling conducting; Also uses a somewhat controversial performing edition, but is probably closer to something Offenbach would have recoognized as his own than either of the editions used in A or C; Shicoff's interpretation of the title role is the only one, IMO, to surpass the ubiquitous Jobin; Shicoff's contribution is worth the entire set; superb Stereo [G.R]

C) CBS--LP label (on LP only): Raoul Jobin, Fanely Revoil, Renee Doria, Vena Bovy, Andre Pernet, Charles Soix, Cluytens conducting; A consistently more stylish and idiomatic performance than B, though with slightly less opulent voices performing a much less careful and conscientious edition--unfortunately, the traditional version for nearly a century; even so, consistency of involvement and of musical presentation in this renowned studio product is a byword among collectors; Mono [G.R.]

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