Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann" has always been one of the elusive, challenging staples of the French opera repertoire. Wednesday night the Washington Civic Opera took it on in Lisner Auditorium with results that caried no more than they often do when the world's major companies try it.
Against imaginative sets by Robert Troll, a company of respectable voices put across the major points of the score. As Troll's second-act set surpassed the others in design and appropriate color, so did several voices out of the large cast. With Helga Bullock as Giulietta, the second act was as fortunate in sound as appearance.
Bullock has the sound, the nuance, and the bearing of a distinguished artist, and her presence was a powerful factor in every way.
Another singer was also outstanding: Adelle Nicholson, singing not only Nicklausse but also Antonia's mother, was stagewise to a high degree. In the latter part, she sang with fine resonant style and voice. She needs only to put the ultimate controls on her voice to be a valued member of any company.
In the title role, John Sandor was a strong, if not even, vocalist. His top voice is secure and large, easily riding the larger passages. But there are too many spots where the sound varies widely in quality. Alfred Anderson took on the four evil spirits of Lindorf, Coppelius, Dapertutto and Dr. miracle with highly uneven results, making the most of his final scene in the last character, but here, as often in other places, he showed the lack of strong stage direction.
Mary Jane Bane was the Olympia and Jane Stephens the Antonia. David Ritchie sang Cochenille, Andres and Pitichinaccio, and William Rhodes a fine father. Michael Ryan was made to look ridiculous in the second act.