First heard in 1881, Offenbach’s perpetually tuneful tour de force remains as fantastical and inventive today as the stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann that inspired it. Infatuated with the bewitching Stella, Hoffmann relates how he has continually been frustrated by his evil rivals in love. But are his tales real or simply the product of too much wine on an over-poetic temperament? Were his inamorata really in turn smashed to pieces, poisoned and killed through singing? And is Lindorf yet another incarnation of the devilish nemesis who is out to trap him yet again? Making an exciting turn towards new territory, Richard Hickox conducts John Schlesinger’s 1980 production of Offenbach’s only opera. It returns to The Royal Opera’s repertory with the young tenor Rolando Villazon making his Company and role debut as Hoffmann, and Willard W. White plays all four taunting villains. The impressive complement of singers playing Hoffmann’s various loves includes Jennifer Larmore (Giulietta) and Elena Kelessidi (Antonia) making welcome returns to Covent Garden in role debuts, Ruxandra Donose as Hoffmann’s Muse and Nicklausse, and Ekaterina Siurina in her Royal Opera debut as Olympia.

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