The soprano Diana Damrau and the bass-baritone Nicolas Testé were scheduled to begin a six-performance run last Saturday of Los Angeles Opera’s production of Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann,” conducted by Plácido Domingo.
Then bronchitis entered the scene. It sidelined Testé, who was to perform the four villains interfering in Hoffmann’s love affairs. Wayne Tigges sang the parts of the four villains from the orchestra pit Saturday while Testé acted and lip-synced on stage.
Testé is still ailing and will miss Thursday evening’s performance, though he is expected to return for the Sunday matinee and the rest of the run. Christopher Koelsch, L.A. Opera’s president, said a nationwide search secured American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn to sub for Teste, on stage and in costume, on Thursday.
Horn performed Colline in L.A. Opera’s 2007 production of Puccini’s “La Bohème.”
“One of the challenges is that ‘Hoffmann’ isn’t performed that often,” Koelsch said. “Since Offenbach died before completing the opera, there have been three or four competing versions. There’s no definitive version, and it’s a very long part.”
Koelsch added that, like Tigges, Van Horn has never sung the L.A. Opera version put together by musicologist Michael Kaye and director Marta Domingo.
“There are 12 pages of music that Van Horn doesn’t know,” Koelsch said. “But he’s a super-polished artist who should have no trouble learning them before Thursday evening,” Koelsch said.
That polish will add to the mix of spontaneity and playfulness that German soprano Damrau and star Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo, who plays Hoffmann, bring to the opera.
Damrau also has been fighting bronchitis the last few months, so she will not portray all four of the opera’s heroines, as originally planned. She will play two.
“The worst night at an opera is when everything feels rote,” Koelsch said. “It’s been a nail-biter of a week, but there’s going to be an exquisite tension on the stage, and that results in a heightened attention that travels across the footlights into the audience.”
L.A. Opera’s ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6 and April 15; 2 p.m. April 2 and 9
Tickets: $24 and up
Information: (213) 972-8001 or LAOpera.org
Running time: 3 hours, 35 minutes (with two intermissions)
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