"Both visually and musically, Madison Opera’s production of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann is an absolute triumph — perhaps the finest achievement yet under Kathryn Smith’s reign as general director. It is a long and a difficult opera to cope with. Offenbach died before he could put his score into definitive shape. There are loose ends, and music not written by Offenbach himself has been added to revised editions, including the spurious “diamond” aria and the sextet in the Venice act. Since a Prologue and an Epilogue are set in Luther’s tavern (here, a 1920s bar), director Kristine McIntyre had the clever idea of presenting each of the full acts as performances on a stage-within-the-stage, with the onstage audience serving as bar patrons. The direction was aided by a set [designed by Erhard Rom], an extremely clever and versatile multi-piece construction... Costumes, lighting, the full visual panoply are admirably handled, but director McIntyre is the magician who makes it all come together with seamless flow and clever ideas. As always, conductor John DeMain leads this excellent production with unalloyed devotion to the work." -John W. Barker, Madison Isthmus
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