Reviews

from the 2009 Berkeley Opera production of Stories by Hoffmann
(presented under the title The Tales of Hoffmann)


From San Francisco Classical Voice, 28 February 2009:
“Abounds in delightful wordplay and audacious rhymes”

Berkeley Opera’s performance of The Tales of Hoffmann, which opened Saturday at the Julia Morgan Center, is a resounding success.

Marley’s version makes convincing sense of the opera, and with its use of spoken dialogue is well adapted to the Julia Morgan space. He has returned to Offenbach’s original order of the three acts, and has eliminated music written by other composers. And the libretto abounds in delightful wordplay and audacious rhymes.


From the Contra Costa Times, 2 March 2009:
“A wittily illuminating update”

The Berkeley production benefits mightily from a wittily illuminating update …. Marley has endowed his, in a way that other English translations do not, with a pleasing supply of graceful rhyme that melds beautifully and lyrically into Offenbach’s music.


From San Francisco Classical Voice, 3 March 2009 (feature article):
“Delves into the deepest corners of the psyche”

The artistic team of stage director Phil Lowery, librettist Marley, and musical director Ernest Frederic Knell employ other elements to unify the three disparate acts. Hoffmann’s Muse, omitted in some versions of the opera, becomes Hoffmann’s sidekick Nicklaus during the fantasy acts and is sung here by Nora Lennox Martin. In the prologue, she explains to the audience that she has sent Hoffmann three dreams to help him see through his romantic illusions about the singer Stella, and reconnect with herself, his one true love, his muse. The staging also stays within the setting of the tavern where the prologue and epilogue take place, making use of smaller sets within the set rather than re-creating an entirely new scene for each act. The change emphasizes the drama within Hoffmann’s mind (while observing practical and budgetary constraints).


From the San Francisco Chronicle, 6 March 2009
“Lively and affecting”

The Berkeley Opera’s lively and affecting new production of Hoffmann touches those chords with deft precision. Treading a fine line between comedy and pathos, Wednesday’s performance at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts combined first-rate musical values with a clear dramatic and verbal focus to produce a nimble portrait of artistic self-justification.

The verbal element was the province of wordsmith David Scott Marley, whose English adaptation of the text — a revision of a script first mounted in 1999 — brought forward the combination of exuberance and longing at the heart of Hoffmann. … [A]s a faithful and accessible English translation of a familiar work, this Hoffmann is hard to beat. The words fit Offenbach’s melodies as they were meant to, with the expansive emotional outpourings rendered as precisely as the quick-witted comic numbers.