The motto of the 2019/20 opera season is Searching… and the first premiere will be devoted to the search for something we all long for – love. Hoffmann, a poet, is also seeking his ideal love, and with every woman he falls in love with it becomes more and more elusive until he finally misses the one woman that would have been right for him. This is the story of the opera The Tales of Hoffmann by the French composer Jacques Offenbach, which is returning to the stage of the Janáček Theatre after nearly twenty years, with music prepared by Ondrej Olos. Two directors, Martin Kukučka and Lukáš Trpišovský, who are already an established duo in the Czech theatre scene under the acronym SKUTR, were invited to work on the piece. Their imaginative productions are regularly performed by both drama and opera ensembles. They introduced themselves to Brno’s theatregoers with distinctive productions of Těsnohlídek´s The Cunning Little Vixen and Radůz and Mahulena at National Theatre Brno’s drama theatre a few years ago, and now they will be cooperating with the opera ensemble for the first time. Soloists from National Theatre Brno’s Janáček Opera will star in the main roles alongside regular guests of the ensemble – Luciano Mastro and Mickael Spadaccinni play the role of the poet Hoffmann, while Ondrej Mráz and Jiří Sulženko are in the bass quadruple role Lindorf/Miracle/Dapertutto/Coppélius. Spectators can also look forward to the following ladies in the main female roles: Markéta Cukrová (Nicklausse/Muse), Slovak soprano Martina Masaryková (Olympia), Pavla Vykopalová (Antonia) and Daniela Straková-Šedrlová (Giulietta).
The Tales of Hoffmann is an opera which doesn’t just take us to the fantasy world of the poet and his bizarre imaginings, where reality and the fantastic blend into one – it is connected with the world of art, and the people within it. Hoffmann´s real idol is an opera singer, Stella. That is why the producers decided to set the story directly in the theatre and act out the plot in places which the spectators normally cannot see, behind the scenes at an opera performance.
There are several topics we would like to highlight. Above all, we had to find a framework within which the whole opera will take place. For us it is the pause between the acts in the opera Don Giovanni, where Stella sings. She is one of the actors in the love triangle that is the driving force of the opera. We find ourselves on the stage from the viewpoint of the backstage area, and the stage itself is divorced from reality in a certain way as it has a curtain on all sides. Both the stage and Hoffmann are somewhat cut off from reality right from the start. We also reflected the principle of a theatre within a theatre in the costumes. It is just like going to a theatre canteen for a break, where opera singers all made-up for Don Giovanni rub shoulders with the theatre technicians, spectators and members of the orchestra. Another theme is that of Stella as a woman with three faces. Hoffmann narrates the individual stories with the help of the reality which surrounds him. No-one changes outfits; the characters are still the “visitors at the theatre canteen behind the scenes”.