“Tales of Hoffmann”- an emotional journey but an experience like no other

by Adanna Austin

“Tales of Hoffmann!” The name alone makes you think of intrigue, excitement and mystery and that is one of the reasons that this particular Opera was chosen for the T&T Opera Festival 2016. The recently re-branded Picoplat Music Development Foundation presented its second annual, T&T Opera Festival 2016 from the 1st to 10th July 2016 at Queen’s Hall. It comprised several classical music events from opera, to master classes, the launch of a new cycle of songs from T&T composer Dominique LeGendre of ‘Jab Molassie’ fame and much more.

Graphics by Nicolas Spencer
Graphics by Nicolas Spencer

Dr. Helmer Hilwig who sits as the Director of the Board of Queen’s Hall and director of Tales of Hoffman, describes the signature opera as exhilirating and breathtaking. With only 14 days to pull the masterpiece together, he credits the work of June Nathaniel and Dr. Jeffrey Middleton who worked with him to bring the production to life. Dr. Hilwig sees the festival as an opportunity to showcase the myriad of talents of Trinbagonian singers of classical music; to highlight how much they have grown as singers and as a way to give back to the rich tapestry of our culture. He also sees it as an opportunity for the younger singers to get to work with more seasoned singers to gain exposure from their progress.

The Tales of Hoffmann by French Les Contes d’Hoffman reflects on his three loves. He was known for his summer hits which were light musicals and popular in France but he wanted to write a more complex musical piece which could be compared to the musical talents of Mozart.  The Opera was to be officially launched in 1881 but when he died in 1880, he had not yet finished its last acts. Undeterred by this, the managers of the Opera theatre brought in a new composer to finish the piece. Thus Hoffman has no official ending. The version performed at the T&T Opera Festival is unique and has not been performed anywhere else in the world according to Hilwig.

Helmer Hilwig (center), Natalia Dopwell (seated) and the cast of Tales of Hoffmann | Photo credit: Denith McNicols Photography
Helmer Hilwig (center), Natalia Dopwell (seated) and the cast of Tales of Hoffmann | Photo Credit: Robert Taylor

Working with Natalia Dopwell, June and Jeffrey, the Opera festival’s rendition of Hoffman is sure to be a favourite on the calendar of events. June Nathaniel echoed Hilwig’s sentiments about the emotional journey of Hoffman. She described the music in Hoffman as gorgeous with a combination of drama, comedy, fantasy and the expression of different kinds of love. June Nathaniel is the Resident Conductor and Musical Director and like Hilwig, she envisions a space for the classical music genre in the T&T. She expressed a wish to have a place where locals and visitors alike could experience the beauty of the music throughout the year. She believes that the arts has to cater for every type of voice and that we are missing a great opportunity to showcase many local talents.

This is the third year the festival has taken on this format where it is more open for public enjoyment with special emphasis on school children, so that more citizens are exposed to the genre and the talent that Trinidad has to offer. Ms. Nathaniel wants to dispel the belief that Opera is an art for the elite but instead wishes that more people would attend the event to see and hear what can be done and be inspired by Hoffman and his music. Live Dangerously and Come See, were her words of encouragement to patrons.

The Opera “Tales of Hoffmann continues on Friday 8th July and Sunday 10th July. CLICK HERE for more information

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