Jacques Offenbach died with his masterpiece not quite finished, and that has made The Tales of Hoffmann a predestined victim for adapters who have dropped some numbers, inserted others, altered the plot, fiddled with the casting, and changed the order of scenes. It has survived and kept its essential identity through many adaptations because its music is so witty and compelling, its imagination so vivid and varied, its story of the poet Hoffmann's unhappy loves so intriguing they can transcend such tinkering.
A critical performing edition prepared by musicologist Michael Kaye has made it possible to come close to Offenbach's original intentions after more than a century of misunderstanding, and major companies have begun to use that edition, but so far no universally satisfying production of it has reached video. An Opera de Lyon production, using Kaye's research but with a radically untraditional staging, has won wholehearted approval from some fans but unequivocal rejection from more.
As adaptations go, this 1951 film is the best compromise currently available on video and will always be a classic in its own right, even when a more faithful treatment becomes available. It drops some of Offenbach's music and includes some that is spurious, and it changes the plot (Hoffman's beloved Stella is made a dancer--Moira Shearer--not a singer). But at least it treats the story with affection, imagination, and technical expertise. The music presents only highlights of the score, but it is in the hands of a great conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham. The movie is essentially the work of the same team that produced The Red Shoes (directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger); it has the same kind of imaginative appeal and its technical resourcefulness is still exciting, still on the cutting edge despite its age. I expect eventually to add a more faithful Tales of Hoffmann to my video collection, but I will never stop enjoying this one. --Joe McLellan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Knowing that I would be seeing the opera live, I thought it best if I prepared for it by seeing this DVD. Glad I did. Moira Shearer's Doll Song alone was worth the price.Published 18 months ago by Marlene Cherun
Being very familiar with the opera, I found this combination of music and dance fascinating. Acting and singing of the singers is superb as is the dancing. Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2006 by alberto Behar
As a great lover of art, music and ballet, I have to say that this is my absolute favorite dance film - a true must-see, and must-own. Read morePublished on March 5 2004 by Danielle Bennignus
The same producers behind the magic of the 1949 film, "The Red Shoes" (about a ballerina doomed to dance to her death), bring you the colorful 1950's film adaptation of the... Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2003 by Rachel Garret
I've owned this as a vhs and view it often. Perhaps Powell and Pressburger's most beautiful film, the scenes with Ludmilla Tcherina are spellbinding - especially walking on the... Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2003 by manfromlamuncha
I want this on DVD, not VHS. That's when I will buy it. Pass the word along!Published on Aug. 26 2002 by Richard M. Teeter
an extraordinary perfomance
of this visualy and musically exceptionalOpera