The Garden Revives Hoffman

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The Garden revives Huffman

John Schlesinger's 1980 production of Offenbach's Tales of Huffman has given me more constant pleasure over the years than most Royal Opera stagings, with a host of memorable characterisations from a wide variety of singers, who have invariably been infected by Offenbach's wonderful score in Schlesinger's wonderful conception.

On 22 January I was in high spirits before the lights were dimmed, anticipating a glorious evening. What happened was a high octane opera in second gear. The first bars of the Overture were lacking in sparkle and this pervaded the whole opera. True, the vibrant Rolando Villâzon brought some excitement to the title role, but tended to overdo his passions, as well as his apparent inability to hold his drink.

Willard White never really achieved the sinister evil qualities of the four villains, although he sang with his customary reliance. Happily, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt took full advantage of his four cameos, especially varied in the three servant roles.

Ekaterina Siurina brought a truly mechanical vocal expertise to Olympia and also managed some witty asides. …