Today's Classical Music Video

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Tales of Hoffmann by Powell and Pressburger

Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann is a perennial favourite in opera houses around the world. But the film version produced in 1951 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger remains a classic version. Few live performances could begin to rival the imaginative sets and costumes in this film and the unique combination of drama, dance and music. It remains, to be sure, a production only possible on film. In the doll scene, for example, no coloratura soprano could possibly sing her difficult aria while dancing like a great ballerina. In the film version the soprano is Dorothy Bond and the dancer is Moira Shearer. Sir Thomas Beecham is the conductor with the Royal Philharmonic.

Powell-Pressburger - usually operating under the name "The Archers" - was an extraordinary team of filmmakers which still hasn't received the recognition it deserves. Among their finest films were The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and Stairway to Heaven.

- Paul E. Robinson



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