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The Real Tales of Hoffmann

Origin, History, and Restoration of an Operatic Masterpiece

Vincent Giroud and Michael Kaye - Foreword by Plácido Domingo

Of all operas in the standard repertory, none has had a more complicated genesis and textual history than Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. Based on a highly successful 1851 play inspired by the short stories by the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann, the work occupied the last decade of Offenbach’s life. When he died in October 1880, the work was being rehearsed at the Opéra-Comique. At once cut and rearranged, the work was performed from the start in versions that ignored the composer’s final intentions. Only a few decades ago, when previously unavailable manuscripts came to light, it became possible to reconstitute the score in its real form. Vincent Giroud and Michael Kaye’s The Real 'Tales of Hoffmann' tells the full story for the first time in English.

After discussing how the work of Hoffmann became known and influential in France, the book includes little-known sources for the opera, especially the complete Barbier and Carré play, in French and English. It describes the genesis of the opera. The annotated libretto is published in full, with the variants, for the two versions of the opera: with spoken dialogue or recitatives. Essays explain what was done to the opera after Offenbach’s death, from the 1881 Opéra-Comique production to more recent restoration attempts. There is also a survey of
Les contes d’Hoffmann in performance from the 1970s to the present, and supplementary information, including discography, filmography, and videography.

The Real 'Tales of Hoffmann' is intended to appeal to anyone interested in the work, specialists or non-specialists. Audiences, musicologists and students of French opera and opéra-comique will find it of particular interest, as will opera houses, conductors, singers, directors, and dramaturgs involved in performances of the opera.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 584Size: 8 1/2 x 11
978-1-4422-6083-2 • Hardback • May 2017 • $130.00 • (£85.00)
978-1-4422-6084-9 • Paperback • May 2017 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4422-6085-6 • eBook • May 2017 • $74.99 • (£49.95) (coming soon)
Vincent Giroud is professor at the University of Franche-Comté, Besançon (France), former curator of modern books and manuscripts, Beinecke Library, Yale University, author of French Opera: A Short History, Nicolas Nabokov: A Life in Freedom and Music, and contributor to the Oxford Handbook of Opera and the Oxford Handbook of Faust in Music.

Michael Kaye, eminent American musicologist, author of The Unknown Puccini, translator of Giacomo Puccini Catalogue of the Works, editor of works by numerous composers performed and recorded by major artists and orchestras, lecturer, educator, radio commentator, producer and opera administrator, annotator for major recordings, former member of the musical and artistic staffs of opera companies in the United States and Europe, including the Metropolitan Opera.
List of Abbreviations
Foreword by Plácido Domingo
Part 1 – Essays
  1. The Awareness and Influence of E.T.A. Hoffmann in France Before Les contes d’Hoffmann, Vincent Giroud
  2. The Librettists of Les contes d’Hoffmann, Vincent Giroud
  3. “Hallucinations in the Tavern”: Barbier’s Scenario of the Play, Michael Kaye
  4. The Barbier and Carré Play and its Reception, Michael Kaye
  5. The Birth of the Opera, Michael Kaye
The Revision for the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin
Hector Salomon: Le rêve d’Hoffmann (1875–1881)
The Unrealized Opéra-féerie Version of Les contes d’Hoffmann
  1. Les contes d’Hoffmann, From Play to Opera Libretto, Charlie Richards
  2. Barbier as Versifier, Vincent Giroud
  3. Hoffmann after Offenbach, Michael Kaye
Summary of Performances at the Opéra-Comique Prior to 1911 and the First Performances of the Opera in Other Countries
The Brussels Version of the Opera (1887)
The Surprising Tale of Raoul Gunsbourg’s Version of the Opera for Monte-Carlo (1904)
Albert Carré’s revival of Les contes d’Hoffmann at the Opéra-Comique (1911)
  1. Les Contes d’Hoffmann on the Stage: From Felsentein to the Present, George Loomis
  2. “Elle est sur la scène”: Arriving at and Choosing a Version, Vincent Giroud and Michael Kaye

Part 2 – The Play and the Libretto
  1. Les contes d’Hoffmann: The Complete 1851 Barbier and Carré Play, Edited by Michael Kaye, English translation by Vincent Giroud
  2. The Libretto of Les contes d’Hoffmann, Edited and translated by Michael Kaye
  3. Literary Annotations for the Play and the Opera,Michael Kaye and Charlie Richards

A. Comparative Table of Venues in the Opera in Early Sources
B. Descriptions of E. T. A. Hoffmann by Adolphe François Loève-Veimars (1799–1854)
English translation by Vincent Giroud
C. Little-Known Response to E.T.A. Hoffmann Prior to the Barbier and Carré Play
Michael Kaye
Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848): “Le violon de Crémone d’Hoffmann”
Juliette Godillon: A Forgotten French Composer Inspired by E.T.A Hoffmann
D. A Weimar-Era Example of the Opera’s Popularization: „Laß’ dir nix von Hoffmann erzählen“ (1929), Michael Kaye

Select Discography, Videography, and Filmography, Charlie Richards
The Real ‘Tales of Hoffmann’ is a commendable collaboration of the opera historian par excellence, Vincent Giroud and Michael Kaye, who is something of a genius—a tireless researcher, an original thinker, a musicological historian unencumbered with prefabricated aesthetic prejudices—who has given the world rare, often revisionary, always profoundly valuable insights into the mind of Jacques Offenbach and the circuitous creation (also re-creation over time) of Les contes d’Hoffmann. They have earned unbridled admiration and gratitude from all who seek broadened horizons regarding the universal presentation of conventional, also unconventional, music and theater.
Martin Bernheimer, Pulitzer Prize winning critic and New York correspondent for the Financial Times and Opera Magazine., New York correspondent for the Financial Times, editorial board member of Opera Magazine, and Pulitzer Prize-winning former music critic of the Los Angeles Times

This scrupulously historical reconstitution of the origins and destiny of Les contes d’Hoffmann, perhaps the most misunderstood work in the operatic repertory, and certainly one of my favorite operas, will be a revelation to musicians and to everyone who has ever fallen under the spell of Offenbach’s immortal masterpiece.
Neil Shicoff, internationally renowned star-tenor and one of the 20th century’s foremost interpreters of Hoffmann

The authors of The Real 'Tales of Hoffmann' have performed an invaluable service to all opera theaters, audiences, and scholars by presenting in one volume so much information about Offenbach’s masterpiece and important source material that is not readily available. Stage directors, designers, dramaturgs, conductors, and singers will also find the advice on choosing a version particularly illuminating.
Ronny Dietrich, Dramaturg and Director of Publications of the Salzburg Festival (2012–2016)