The Tales of Hoffmann
“Glou, glou, glou …” The spirits of beer and wine float through Luther’s cellar. The Muse decides to lure the poet Hoffmann away from thoughts of love this evening, so that he can devote himself entirely to art. From now on she accompanies him in the form of his friend Niklaus.
City Councillor Lindorf, who is in love with the singer Stella, recognises a rival in Hoffmann. He bribes the messenger Andres to give him a letter that Stella has written to Hoffmann, sending him the key to her room, where she will be waiting for him after her appearance as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Lindorf decides to prevent this tryst from happening.
Hoffmann joins the students in the wine cellar and presents his drinking companions with the story of “Klein Zack”. In the middle of telling the story, his thoughts wander back to Stella.
In Lindorf, the poet seems to see his permanent adversary, the one who is to blame for all his unhappy experiences of love. Hoffmann tells of the three women he once loved …
“I have made her beautiful …” The physicist Spalanzani has created the mechanical doll Olympia, whom he presents as his daughter. Hoffmann, who is studying with Spalanzani, is fascinated by Olympia. The optician Coppelius, who has helped to control the eyes of the doll, allows Hoffmann to look through some magic glasses, whereupon Hoffmann believes Olympia to be a living creature and falls in love with her. Spalanzani promises Coppelius money to make him relinquish all claims to any part in the creation of the doll.
Guests arrive at a party in Spalanzani’s house – the inventor wants to introduce his creation Olympia to society. Her appearance and beautiful singing voice are greatly admired. Hoffmann dances with Olympia, who turns faster and faster until her partner falls down.
Coppelius has found out that Spalanzani has issued him with a false bill of exchange, and he destroys the doll. Only then does Hoffmann realise that he has fallen in love with an inanimate object.
“Elle a fui, la tourterelle …” Hoffmann is engaged to the young singer Antonia. Her father Crespel wants to prevent their relationship and has escaped with Antonia. He has made her promise never to sing again, since he fears that singing will kill her; this is what once happened to her mother, a famous singer.
Hoffmann and Niklaus have at last found where Antonia is staying. Full of happiness at being together again after such a long separation, Antonia and Hoffmann sing of their love. But Antonia suffers an attack of exhaustion.
Doctor Miracle arrives at the house to sell Crespel some medicine to cure Antonia. Crespel believes the doctor is responsible for the death of his wife and throws him out. Hoffmann has overheard them talking and asks Antonia not to sing any more in order to spare her life. She promises to do so.
Doctor Miracle appears again and urges Antonia not to give up her career as a singer. When he conjures up the voice of her dead mother, Antonia gives in and joins in the song, eventually falling dead to the ground. Hoffmann, Crespel and Niklaus can do nothing more for her.
“Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour …” is the song heard all over Venice. Hoffmann has apparently lost all faith in love and sings in praise of pleasure and fun. However, his desire for the courtesan Giulietta arouses the jealousy of her current favourite Schlemihl. Hoffmann has no idea that Giulietta hands over the shadows and reflections of her lovers to Captain Dapertutto – this is what has already happened to Schlemihl. Dapertutto persuades Giulietta to procure Hoffmann’s reflection for him Giulietta challenges the poet to prove his love. He kills Schlemihl in a duel in order to gain possession of the key to Giulietta’s room. In return for her love, she demands Hoffman’s reflection. The outraged Hoffmann tries to stab Giulietta but strikes the misshapen Pitichinaccio instead. Surprisingly, Giulietta weeps over him as her true love. Hoffmann and Niklaus make their escape.
“And so ends the last of my three loves …” When Hoffmann has finished his tales, the performance of Don Giovanni is also over. Stella enters the wine cellar, but Hoffmann is too drunk to speak to her. Stella leaves with Lindorf. Aided by the Muse, Hoffmann turns away from life and dedicates himself to art.