|Hoffmann (Grigolo), struggling with writing and the human condition. Photo (c) Met Opera|
Even with an impressive cast, Yves Abel and the Met orchestra were the undisputed stars of the evening. They played Offenbach's score with drive, with attention to detail, and with plenty of darkness and tension (and I do love darkness and tension.) The opening prelude and chorus were taken more rapidly than they often are, and I liked the sense of menace thus imparted. Throughout the evening (both evenings,) attention to orchestral texture helped the dramatic continuity and dramatic impact of a narrative that is episodic, sometimes abstract, and reliant to an unusual degree on dramatic types.
Each of the idealized women whom Hoffmann (in some way) loves displayed different strengths. Erin Morley, a house favorite, sang the role of Olympia with absolute security, and apparently absolute confidence. Morley didn't use much vocal color in communicating, but although her song appeared more like that of an automaton than sometimes, her actions appeared so far less. And this choice--Morley's own, I suspect, since I don't remember it from previous iterations--was one I found intriguing and satisfactorily unsettling. An Olympia whose actions parody flirtation is not only a more comprehensible object of desire for Hoffmann, but a more trenchant commentary on the society which sits amused by the spectacle. As Antonia, whose true tragedy seems to be that she never truly asserts her independent will, Hibla Gerzmava was pleasingly rich-voiced. Her diction and characterization were a bit vague, but the role of an allegedly impassioned artist who is so easily swayed is a thankless one. As the enigmatic Giulietta, Christine Rice was both voluptuous and heedless; this portrayal was both a vocal and dramatic one. Rice's phrasing was pleasingly nuanced, creating a convincing portrait of a woman desperately maneuvering to retain and exercise a very limited type of power.