Geneva mixes art, sex and death in Hoffmann opera

Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:43am EDT
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By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - A new production of the Tales of Hoffmann at Geneva's Grand Theater creates a mix of art, sex and death in an unusually nightmarish and nihilistic reading of Jacques Offenbach's opera.

Conservative opera audiences are often scandalized by modern productions featuring sex on stage, complaining that directors are forcing their own personal vision on the work.

But judging by the applause and cheering at Sunday's premiere, French director Olivier Py showed that sex and nudity can work if they are true to the spirit of the opera.

"Art, sex and death -- this is where all great works have to end up. But this necessarily banal trilogy is painted in unique colors in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann," Py wrote in a program note.

A strong cast, foremost among them the Belgian tenor Marc Laho in the title role, also fueled the audience's enthusiasm.

Hoffmann is the third piece in the Devil's Trilogy -- a mini-festival mounted by Geneva of operas featuring the devil.

Earlier this month Py, the director of the Odeon theater in Paris, staged new productions of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischuetz and Hector Berlioz's Damnation of Faust for Geneva.

SERIOUS OPERA   Continued...

<p>Artistes perform in a new production of the Tales of Hoffmann at Geneva's Grand Theatre in an undated photo. REUTERS/Isabelle Meister/GTG/Handout</p>