Luther's tavern in Berlin
The Muse of Music and Poetry sets the stage for the opera by explaining
that she will protect Hoffmann, by taking on the disguise of Nicklaus.
Lindorf intercepts a love note addressed to the poet Hoffmann
by Stella, a famous opera singer, and declares that the poet will
not keep the proposed rendezvous.
enters the tavern during an intermission at the nearby opera house,
and everyone there asks him for a song. He begins a song about
a hunchbacked jester, but suddenly becomes distracted and speaks
of the beauty of a woman. He is chided for being in love, but
Hoffmann denies that he is in love, having had three unfortunate
experiences. He sets about describing them.
I: Spalanzani's laboratory in Paris
Spalanzani has collaborated with the magician Coppelius (an incarnation
of Lindorf) to create Olympia, a mechanical doll that looks almost
human. Hoffmann has fallen in love with her from afar. He confides
his love to his friend Nicklaus, who responds with a song of a
mechanical doll that fell in love with a mechanical bird. Hoffmann
misses the implied warning.
entertains his guests by presenting Olympia to sing. Hoffmann,
more in love with her than ever, invites Olympia to dance. Coppelius,
furious with Spalanzani because he paid for Olympia with a worthless
check, smashes the doll to pieces. Only now does Hoffmann discover
that he has been in love with a mechanical doll.
II: A room in Crespel's house, London
Hoffmann is now in love with Antonia, a musician and the daughter
of Crespel. Antonia sings about her departed lover, Hoffmann,
and nearly faints. Crespel reminds her that she is ill and must
never again compromise her health by singing.
Hoffmann arrives, he and Antonia express their love for each other.
Miracle (another incarnation of Lindorf) evokes the ghost of Antonia's
mother, who inspires the girl to sing. Unable to resist her dead
mother's wish, Antonia sings and collapses, dying in her father's
III: The gallery of Giulietta's palace in Venice
Nicklaus and Giulietta, a courtesan, are heard singing the famous
barcarolle extolling the beauty of the night and the power of
love. Hoffmann finds the tune melancholy and offers a happier
one. He falls in love with Giulietta, unaware she is under the
power of a magician, Dapertutto (yet another embodiment of Lindorf).
Hoffmann allows Giulietta to capture his reflection (his soul)
in a mirror, which she gives to Dappertutto. Schlemil, also in
love with her, begins to quarrel with Hoffmann and in the ensuing
duel Schlemil is killed. Hoffmann discovers that he cannot hope
to win Giulietta's love as she has now thrown herself into the
arms of another admirer, Pittichinaccio.
Luther's tavern in Berlin
Hoffmann ends his stories, Nicklaus suggests that the three women
are in reality one, the opera singer Stella, and proposes a toast
to her. Hoffmann responds angrily.
arrives and Hoffmann, in a drunken rage, berates her and then
collapses into a drunken stupor. As everyone departs, Lindorf
leaves with Stella.
Nicklaus changes back to the Muse and consoles him. Although Hoffmann
has lost his earthly loves, he is now forever linked with his
one true love, his Muse! As the opera closes with the final ensemble,
Hoffmann realizes that only through the loss of great love can
one find renewed strength of purpose.
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