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Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann
Sunday, July 22, 2012 from 2:00 PM to 5:30 PM (PDT)
San Francisco, CA
It's the event of the season -- Mozart's Don Giovanni, starring the incomparable Stella, her long anticipated local debut, sold out weeks in advance. The overture has already begun - unfortunately, just out of earshot.
Like the many others who were unable to get last minute tickets for either love or money, we seem to be relegated to the bar next door, Luther's tavern, located with convenient access to the backstage dressing rooms. In fact, from an inner door, standing on tip-toe, you can even get a tantalizing glimpse of what's happening on stage. A favorite hangout for Hoffmann, a promising young poet, and undeniably a first rate story teller with a vivid imagination, though something of a lush. Would you believe it? He is in love again. And with the prima donna, no less -- the dazzling, the one and only Stella. Already their brief romance has apparently ended with a quarrel. Alas, this will not be the first time that his love life has gone off the rails. Is the rift beyond repair? Will she deign to see him after the performance? To cap it off, he and the Muse are barely on speaking terms, metaphorically, that is. Though disgruntled by his neglect, she is determined to win him back. But for the moment she is the furthest thing from his mind. Stella is all that matters.
As his friends gather round, and with a couple of agonizing hours still to go before Stella's final curtain call, he just might be persuaded to tell again his fantastical tales of three lost loves. What better way to pass the time? It just might be even more enthralling than the show going on next door.
When & Where
Pocket Opera presents professional performances of operatic works in intimate, intelligible productions at affordable prices.
Donald Pippin's approach to opera is to tell the story in the clearest manner possible. He once said that there is "a whole category of operas where, if you don't know the story on the way to the theatre, you won't know it on the way home, either." With Pocket Opera presentations it is really possible to know the plot of the opera on the way home. Pippin brings the story to life via his nationally recognized English versions of opera libretti, in which he translates the spirit of the work rather than word by word, with complete fidelity to the composer's musical intentions.
For some operas, Pippin provides a personal spoken introduction to the opera or its individual acts and scenes that offers a setting for and some explanation of the story. For others his English version of the libretto carries the entire story and drama; no narrative or introduction is needed.
Pocket Opera is a theatre of the mind and of the heart. Productions are staged with minimal costuming and without sets, using only the few practical props (a bench, a desk, a door, ...) that are essential to convey the story. A few operas, for which staging would add little or nothing to the interpretation of the story, are performed concert style. Through the use of Pippin's singable translations and narration, through accomplished vocalists and small chamber orchestra, Pocket Opera presents the essence of opera -- affordable, accessible opera of the highest musicality for contemporary audiences.
The Handel repertory is Pippin's one concession to original languages. In his words, "The arias are set pieces with no action, just generalized feelings of love, jealousy, and revenge. English doesn't enhance anything and it takes away musically. All the drama lies in the recitatives." These he dispenses with and substitutes his own narrative between Handel's arias and ensembles, sung in their original Italian.
Pocket Opera performances are accompanied by the Pocket Philharmonic, a chamber orchestra of eight to fifteen musicians, led by Donald Pippin from the piano.